How to Build Soil in the Winter

How To Build Soil in the Winter

The key to any successful garden is healthy, nutritious soil. Good soil provides an ideal landscape for plants, which will grow healthier and with fewer issues from pests and disease. Any fruit and vegetables you grow will also taste better.

While fall is the best time to build soil for the coming year, you might be surprised to learn that you can just as effectively build healthy soil in the winter with a technique known as sheet composting, or sheet mulching.

Sheet Mulching

Traditionally, gardeners would till their gardens in the fall to bury plants, mix in soil amendments and expose insects. However, this method disrupts natural water channels and exposes organic material in the soil to the air, leaving it vulnerable to erosion and speeding up decomposition. It’s actually better to leave the soil untouched, only digging if absolutely necessary by hand to remove weeds and debris.

Sheet mulching, or sheet composting, builds solid organically with layers of organic matter, is a lot easier than tilling, and can easily be done in a winter landscape. So how do you do it?

How To Achieve Effective Sheet Mulching/Composting

Sheet mulching/composting can be done a few different ways, but the basic rules are:

  1. Remove old plants by cutting the stems rather than pulling them out of the ground. This leaves the roots to break down in the soil. Plants you’ve removed can be added to next year’s compost pile.
  2. Choke out weeds and grass with a layer of cardboard, brown paper bags, newspaper, or weed fabric.
  3. Add a layer of compost about one inch thick. This can be finished or fresh compost, as it will decompose over the winter and add organic matter to the soil.
  4. Top with a layer of mulch, for retention of moisture, weed control, and to maintain even soil temperatures.

You can mix and match the ingredients depending on what’s available to you but aim to keep the same structure and a mix of green and brown material to ensure you provide your plants with all the minerals and nutrients they need.

Why Mulch Is So Good

Mulch is great for building strong soil in the winter. It protects the landscape from erosion and maintains the temperature of the ground below. It also provides essential nutrients, especially when mixed with leaves.

Mulch can make heavier soils more manageable to work with, and help to hold water in summer. It also makes a great environment for insects and organisms to thrive in, which can be great for your plants.

Any mulch that hasn’t decomposed when spring comes around can simply be pushed to the side so you can plant seeds and seedlings. When your plants are established, remove any more leftover mulch to prevent weeds.

Now You Can Build Healthy Soil

You now know everything you need to build strong, healthy soil in the winter

If this is the first time you’ve tried sheet mulching/composting in the winter, test your soil with an easy pH test from your local garden center. We’re guessing you’ll like what you see! When you are looking for the highest quality soils in Indianapolis look no further than McCarty Mulch & Stone.