13 Important Tips to Prep Your Raised Bed for Winter


As the growing season draws to a close, most people want to kick back and rest.

After all, who feels like tackling an end-of-season spent garden bed?

But, neglecting your raised beds in fall can lead to gardening woes come spring. Tending to your raised beds before winter sets enhances soil quality. And, it shields your garden from potential pest and disease issues.

So, let’s dive into the essential tips for prepping your raised bed for the colder months.

13 Important Tips to Ready Your Raised Bed for Fall & Winter

1. When to Start Prepping Your Raised Bed for Winter

As the first frost descends upon your garden, it’s time to kick off the winterizing process. However, some tasks, like harvesting your veggies, complete before a killing frost. 

2. Take Note of What You Planted Where

Fully planted raised garden bed

Take notes or photos of your plantings before the season ends. This isn’t about fond memories; it’s a practical step. 

Crops should be rotated every year or two. This helps keep pests, diseases, and nutrient imbalances at bay. And come spring, when you’re ready for new plantings, the last thing you want is to draw a blank about where crops were planted the previous year.

3. Harvest Ripe Veggies & Herbs Before Frost Hits

Harvest ripe vegetables and herbs before the first frost. But, there’s a bit of a catch here. 

Veggies like beans, tomatoes, or cucumbers, don’t tolerate freezing temperatures. These will need to be picked.

On the flip side, plants like Brussels sprouts, kale, and root veggies can wait a little longer. In fact, a light frost often brings out more robust flavors with some of these crops. For a list of good after-frost veggies, check out this post from Garden Therapy.

4. Pull Out All Spent Vegetable Plants

Spent vegetables in a small raised bed.

You don’t need to pull these veggies up by their roots. As long as the plant is disease free, you can cut the plant at soil level, leaving the roots in the soil. This method provides minimal disturbance to the soil. And eventually, those roots break down, adding structure and nutrients to the soil.

Be careful with fruiting plants like tomatoes. Their fruits can create a multitude of unexpected seedlings in the spring.

I can’t tell you how often I would find little tomato plants popping up here and there from the previous year’s crop. Although, you may think – what’s the harm? It’s a fresh batch of tomato plants! But you’ll end up spending more time pulling them out as weeds than you’ll spend enjoying them in your salad.

So, tidy up any fallen fruits.

And if some of your veggies have gone to seed, consider harvesting them for next year’s crop. 

5. Remove Stakes and Plant Supports From Your Raised Bed

Garden gnome sitting in a raised bed beside chives.

Once the spent plants are gone, it’s time to clean up and organize your gardening arsenal. 

Pull out any removable stakes, trellises, other plant supports, or decorations and store them safely away from the winter elements.

This goes for any gardening tools as well.

When spring rolls around you don’t want to be dealing with rusty, damaged equipment.

6. Remove Debris and Weeds

Don’t underestimate the importance of fall weeding. It’s just as crucial as during the growing season. 

Tidy up your raised beds, weeding thoroughly to prevent disease and avoid a weed explosion in the spring. Because weeds will happily lay down roots so they’re ready to bounce up when the weather warms.

For heavily infested beds, consider using black plastic or cardboard to smother weeds.

7. Amend the Soil in Your Raised Beds

Hands holding out rich soil.
Image by Joke vander Leij from Pixabay

There’s no need to empty your raised bed at season’s end, but you’ll want to amend the soil so it’s ready for spring.

Your raised bed’s soil has put in a lot of work during the growing season. Rains and wind can erode soil and wash away nutrients. And your garden bed may experience shrinkage as the season progressed.

Adding a layer of compost on top of the soil will replenish nutrients as it works its way down into the soil throughout the winter.

And if you had problems with drainage – either too much or too little, now’s the time to amend your soil. For clay-like or too-light soils, compost will help give the soil structure. Work in a sandier mix for soils that are too wet to help improve drainage.  

I’ve written a whole article on raised beds and drainage. You’ll find it helpful with your drainage questions. 

8. Add Mulch to Your Raised Bed

Spread mulch over your amended soil to keep nutrients from running away and to suppress those pesky winter weeds. Mulch moderates the soil’s temperature, keeping it cozy throughout the winter. Plus, it fends off the winter winds that blow away valuable soil and bring in unwanted seeds. 

9. Plant Cover Crops to Prepare Your Raised Beds for Winter

Planting cover crops can also help your soil’s structure and their benefit is twofold.

Below, the roots of a cover crop work into the soil where they provide aeration and help break up hard soils. While above, the foliage helps protect the soil from erosion and weeds. Come spring, you can work the foliage back into the soil for a boost of organic matter. 

But it’s important to choose a crop that’s suitable for your area and bed. Wrong cover crops will die during the winter, others may become weeds. 

Examples of winter cover crops include,

  • Winter Rye
  • Crimson Clover
  • Winter Peas

10. Check for Problem Boards and Other Fixes

Before winter takes full control, give your raised bed a little check-up. Look for shifting boards or any other necessary repairs. If you can, tackle those fixes right away, or lay out a plan on how you’ll address them come spring.

11. Plan Your Garden Bed Expansions

Raised bed expansion in progress.

Dreams of a bigger garden? Now’s the time to start planning. 

Choose your new raised bed spots wisely, considering factors like sunlight and drainage. Mark the chosen areas and keep them protected throughout winter with cardboard, soil, or plastic. This will help kill the grass and get the spots ready for spring.

12. Shelter Your Portable Raised Beds

If possible, move smaller elevated raised beds into a garage or shed to help protect them from the elements. If they must brave the winter weather, cover them with a tarp or other protector.

13. Covering the Soil

If you’re not going for the mulch or cover crop route, consider using a tarp or plastic sheet to cover your raised beds. It won’t provide the nutrient benefits, but it’ll still help keep erosion in check and weed seeds out. 


By following these 13 important tips, you’ll ensure your raised bed is well-prepared for winter, enabling it to thrive when the next gardening season arrives. 

And if you enjoyed this article on prepping your raised bed for winter, feel free to share it.

Angela

Hi! My name is Angela Carr. I started this site to share my love for plants and gardening. My aim is to provide my readers with easy tips and tricks on plant care, fun facts, and encouragement for the new plant owner or anyone questioning the colour of their thumb!

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