How to Prepare Soil in Winter for Spring | 9 Organic Steps

Prepare your soil after your winter crops have finished to be ready for a big spring harvest, new flowering annuals or a brand new fruit tree. Remove winter crops, deep rooted weeds and boost the soil with aged manures and compost. Cover with 3 inches of mulch and let the soil sit for 2-4 weeks before planting.

This article will explain 9 easy steps to prepare your garden soil in winter ready for spring. These steps are ideal for preparing your vegetable garden, raised beds or preparing the soil for spring annuals or fruit trees. Work through each step to improve the soil and get it ready for spring.

1. Remove finished winter crops and annuals

The first step to prepare your soil for spring is to remove winter crops and annuals. Flowering violas will be ready to be pulled out once the stems start to brown. Remove old vegetable stems including broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages. Remove any finished spinach and prune any dead, brown leaves off of strawberry plants.

2. Remove deep rooted weeds

The next step is to carefully remove any deep rooted weeds by hand or using a weeding tool. Put on some garden gloves and long sleeves and grab large weeds by the base, pulling up gently. This should pull deep rooted weeds out completely and prevent the roots from sprouting back.

Clear garden beds and vegetable gardens of weeds to prevent them from taking food and nutrients from your plants. My raised garden beds will still grow weeds as seeds are blown in or dropped by birds. In these small spaces it is essential to make as much room for plants as possible.

3. Use a hoe to remove shallow weeds

To remove shallow weeds including soursobs take a hoe and gently scrape the weeds out of the soil. This is the quickest way to remove lots of weeds at once. These weeds will easily lift out of the soil if you have it covered with mulch.

If the roots are deeper, find a small spade or hand weeding tool to lift the whole weed out from the roots.

4. Rake back mulch

The next step to prepare the soil ready for spring is to rake back the mulch off the top of the soil. Use a metal rake to gently scrape back bark chips, fall leaves or straw. Expose the soil to make it easier to dig through soil improvers.

If the mulch has broken down completely and looks dark then it can be dug through the soil to finish breaking down. Light mulches like straw are usually broken down by the next season. Alternatively, you can remove the mulch and add it to your compost to finish breaking down.

For citrus trees, add a mix of aged cow manure and compost on top of the soil to avoid disturbing the roots of the tree.

5. Dig through aged cow manure

The next step to prepare the soil is to dig through aged animal manures. My favorite is aged cow manure but you can also use aged chicken, goat or alpaca. These manures are mild fertilizers that also add organic matter to the soil. This helps to aerate the soil to allow plant roots to grow large and strong.

Only dig through aged manures as fresh manure can burn plant roots.

Organic matter from aged manure also helps to feed soil bacteria and worms. They break down the nutrients in the organic matter making them available to your plants.

6. Dig through compost

Compost is a fantastic additive to mix through your soil in winter to get it ready for spring. Make compost at home or buy some in bags. Compost is a mild fertilizer and adds lots of structure to the soil helping it to hold moisture.

Home-made compost is best and can be made simply by collecting fall leaves and letting them break down in a wire cage. Make sure the cage is big enough to be at least 4×4 feet and let it break down over winter. By the end of winter you will have leaf mold which is great for improving soils.

For more on making compost out of fall leaves, check out my article here: How to make compost without manure | + DIY Compost Bin

7. Cover soil with 3 inches of mulch

Once you have added aged manures and compost rake the soil flat and cover it with your favorite mulch. For flower gardens and citrus trees I like to choose a bark or tree mulch. This will contain broken up pieces of leaves, stems and branches which breaks down into compost on top of your soil.

For vegetable gardens, choose a light mulch like pea straw, sugar cane mulch, hay or lucerne. These break down over 3 months and are ready to dig through the soil.

Always cover the soil with at least 3 inches of mulch to prevent weeds. This mulch depth will prevent the sun reaching the weed seeds and will stop them growing. Top up mulch levels as they start to thin.

8. Water the soil to settle the mulch

After you have dug through compost and manures and covered the soil with mulch, it is time to water it in. I always water my mulch after laying to prevent any blowing away in the wind. Most light mulches can blow away quickly so add enough water to settle it down and help to hold it in place.

Adding water will also being the breakdown process where soil bacteria and worms will come to digest the organic matter. This will mix it through the soil and help to release nutrients ready for your plants to absorb.

9. Leave undisturbed for 2-4 weeks

Before planting any new fruit trees, vegetables or flowers leave the soil to settle and rest for 2-4 weeks. This is why it is important to prepare your soil in winter ready for spring. This gives the ingredients time to mix through, for worms to come and create air pockets and for the aged manures to break down.

How to Prepare Soil in Winter for Spring | Summary

Preparing your soil in winter ready for spring planting will give you a head start. This means you will be ready to put in new vegetables or even fruit trees when the weather warms in spring. Wait for frosts to pass before you plant delicate new plants or citrus trees.

Preparing the soil 2-4 weeks before you want to plant will give the ingredients time to mix through and break down ready for quick and healthy plant growth.

Happy growing.