Prepare Your Soil for Spring This Winter

Read in Afrikaans

Everything in gardening starts with soil. If you want a garden that produces, be it beautiful ornamentals, a lush lawn or delicious vegetables, the first thing you need to look at is your soil. Winter is a great time to do this, partly because there’s not much else to keep you frantic during this dormant season, and partly because this will give you a jump start on the growing season when the frosts are behind you and spring rolls in.

Dig in some compost

To prepare your garden, start by applying a generous layer of compost, about 7 – 10cm thick. Next, use a garden fork to gently incorporate the compost into the soil. By doing this, you allow the beneficial microbes to efficiently break down the compost in preparation for the upcoming spring season.

Mulch away

You’re probably sick of us telling you to add mulch, but we’ll never stop! There are very few things you can do your garden in winter that are more beneficial to the soil’s health and therefore the plants’ health than mulching. If you don’t want to dig in a layer of compost, simply spread a layer on top of the soil as a mulch.

Another great mulch that is free is lawn clippings and dead leaves. Both do a great job of keeping the soil warm, which keeps the microbes healthy and active, and adding organic matter to the soil. Simply rake these up with a plastic rake, spread a layer on the soil and leave nature to do the rest.


Yes, you can fertilise in winter. Wait until the usual date of your last frost is only a week or so away and use a premium organic fertiliser, preferably one that contains vermicast, carbon, calcium and other organic matter, giving your garden a generous scattering. When planting, give each plant a good helping of bio-fertiliser too – remember, these slow-release organic fertilisers can’t burn your plants so you can’t use too much and you don’t need to water it in.

Prepare your containers

Winter is a good opportunity to get containers or raised beds ready for planting. Use a good-quality potting soil, compost and an organic bio-fertiliser, mix it well and cover it with a layer of mulch so that the microbes can get busy. You can plant immediately if there’s no danger of frost or you can wait until the cold weather is over before getting going. If you plan to grow herbs or veggies, sow seeds in trays now and keep them somewhere warm in bright light so that you’ve got strong seedlings ready to take advantage of your well-prepared soil as soon as spring emerges.

The Gardener