After you’ve cleared out the tomato plants, removed the tomato stakes, cleaned them, and stored them, it’s time now to turn your attention to the garden itself. Your garden is still busy during the winter … just underground. Earthworms and microbes in the soil process leftover summer’s remaining mulch and other organic material. You can help things along.
Burn debris before you turn the soil. Pile discarded leaves, straw, grass clippings, and other yard debris in your vegetable garden. Then burn them.
Burning adds wood ash to your garden. Trace minerals are in the ash, thereby
replacing those nutrients in the garden. Burning also destroys weed seeds, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms that overwinter in the soil.
Turn the soil. Break the ground deeply. Cultivating hardened soil allows winter rains to be deeply absorbed. This step will greatly improve the quality of the soil for your upcoming crop as it will allow wood ash and other organic matter to be restored. Then spade or rototill organic matter into the soil, mixing well to a depth of 8 to 12 inches.
Mulch. Straw, compost, or mulch help your garden maintain an even temperature during the cold months. But the biggest benefit arrives next season during the wet spring. Mulched planting areas are protected from becoming a muddy, clumped mess. When you’re ready to plant, you can pull back undecomposed
mulch, straw, or compost and get your crop in the ground on time.