As the plants freeze and harvests slow, our daily duties in the garden become almost non-existent. This is the slowest time of year for us gardeners. Before we can relax, we have some work to do to protect our investment.

There are lots of ways to put your garden to bed for the winter. We have a compiled a sweet and simple list of ways to protect your garden throughout the freezing winter months. Here are five basic steps (accompanied with video) to help new gardeners salvage their vegetable gardens this winter:

1. Chop down those perennials!

To prepare your herbs and veggies for next season, cut all edible perennials to be roughly two inches above your soil level. Do this only after your vegetables and herbs are no longer producing usable leaves and have gone to seed. (Video guide).

2. Turn that soil, baby!

Turning soil helps to eliminate pest problems that don’t exist yet. By turning your soil, you are crushing, killing and surfacing insect eggs and grubs thus eliminating a problem you won’t have until next the following season. When spring comes around and your garden no longer suffers from an insect problem, trust me when I say, you are going to thank yourself. (Video guide).

3. Annual cleaning!

If you have planted any annuals and you know they are not going to come back next year: cut, chop, swing! Dispose of all annual plants that will not be returning in your garden next year and use them to compost. If you fail to do so, the plants will drain the soil of precious nutrients making it harder to plant next spring when it’s important. Once frozen or left for dead, they will become a more challenging obstacle to remove. (Video guide).

4. Plant cover crops!

Planting a cover crop is easier than it sounds. Oats, buckwheat and winter rye can be scattered over the garden and lightly covered with soil and water (if our Oregon rains haven’t quite reached you yet). The cover crop will then die during the first hard frost, but will stay on your garden to crowd out weeds for the remainder of the season. Once you turn your soil again in the spring, these cover crops will be mixed in to become a nutritional addition to your garden’s soil. (Video guide).

5. Compost time!

Compost every bit of plant material that you have (except for the diseased ones, of course). Composting your old annuals, what you turn up in the soil and the excrement of the perennials will make for a nourishing soil amendment next season. (Video guide).