chicago winter garden

The chill of winter is in the air, and that means Chicago-area gardeners are doing all they can to winterize their crops and flowers. Below are some of the top tips for winterizing your Chicago garden and ensuring a fantastic spring and summer next year.

Lay Down Fresh Mulch

Ideally, you should lay down a fresh coating of mulch before the first frost, but in this case, late is better than never. Mulch is important for maintaining the temperature of your plant’s roots and soil, which ultimately helps them come back in the spring hardier and more resilient. Aim for about two inches in thickness of the mulch for better insulation. While snow is also an excellent insulator, Chicago-area residents cannot rely on a constant snow cover, so mulch is the best option.

Bring Less Resilient Plants Indoors

Many Chicagoans use container gardening to their advantage to help them avoid the pitfalls of the freezing cold winters. Make sure that you put any non-hardy plants in containers and bring them in before the first frost. If you are unable to bring them in, you can try loosely covering them with a tarp and using bricks to hold the tarp in place. Otherwise, bring whatever you can indoors and be mindful of light and watering requirements.

Cover Your Compost

Compost piles are living ecosystems, and if you want rich compost for your springtime garden you will want to do your best to protect your pile throughout the winter. The best rule of thumb is to cover the heap with straw to a depth of about two inches. This helps to insulate the compost and keep the naturally produced heat from escaping out into the freezing cold environment. Remove the straw after the last frost, and you are sure to find an amazingly rich compost that is ready to give your flowers and vegetables all the nutrition they need.

Switch What is in Your Greenhouse

If you are someone who loves to grow food and flowers year-round, there is plenty you can grow safely inside your greenhouse, even in the middle of December. Some options include root vegetables and greens, which perform exceptionally well during the winter months. Look for winter garden vegetables that are cold-hardy and have very short maturation periods for the best possible results. Some other options include carrots, lettuce, onions, and potatoes.

Determine Your Harvesting and Watering Schedule

There is not a lot of harvesting in USDA Hardiness Zone 5 in December, but some late bloomers may still be producing blooms or fruit – especially if there has not been a major frost or hard freeze. Some crops may even survive freezing but be sure that you wait until the ground has thawed to harvest them if this is the case. You won’t need to water much, either. There is not much sunlight during the winter months, and adding mulch helps to trap available moisture in the soil.

Winterizing your Chicago garden is all about protecting your plants from the elements and trapping as much heat and moisture in the soil as you can. Aside from this, any actual growing should be done indoors or in your greenhouse – at least until after the last frost.