Last year my wife and I built a small 4' x 8' raised bed and were pretty happy with our success (both first-time gardeners).

Last October I reached out to a 'master gardener' in our area and asked for her advice in closing the bed for the year. She instructed me to:

  • Pull out all organic matter (roots, vegetables, weeds, etc.) and discard
  • Aerate the top soil by turning it over a few times
  • "Seal" it with a layer of leaves

I followed the advice. Now I'm in the process of reopening the garden, and the leaves are still there, as well as a few plants (weeds?, baby trees?) that I didn't expect to see.

I'm wondering:

  • What should I do with the leaves? Remove them? Put top soil & compost mix on top of them? Roto-till the first six inches of dirt and effectively 'mulch' them into the existing top soil?
  • And what do I do with the weeds that have already sprouted up? I could rip them out but am worried that perhaps their roots have already grown deep into the bed.
  • 1
    discard? surely she meant compost it? Commented May 16, 2015 at 20:43
  • 1
    I think her name was Rita, not Surely/Shirley (sp?)
    – smeeb
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 9:14

2 Answers 2


Remove the leaves and any other debris from the beds. I don't like covering raised beds with leaves as they tend to good spots for all sorts of bugs to live. I either leave my raised bed open or cover it with 6mil poly sheeting.

Another option is to plant a winter cover crop. This is something I've always wanted to do but always forget to try. Winter rye, wheat are commonly used in my area by farmers. Legumes not only block weeds and act as a green manure but also fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil. I'd like to try winter peas. Places that sell them also sell inoculants of the rhizobacteria that fixes the nitrogen. In the spring you just till it into the soil or you can cut it down and leave it on top of the soil to act as a mulch.

Pull the weeds. If you used a good, lightweight mix for your beds they should come up very easily. After you get through all the weeds that you can see, use a handheld garden fork to look about an inch or so into the soil. You'll probably find some more weeds that have started to germinate but haven't popped up through the soil yet. Remove any other things you find that you don't want in your soil.

If you used a lot of top soil in your raised beds you might have a harder time pulling out the weeds. My raised bed soil is basically more like a potting mix. Just compost, vermiculite and peat moss.

After you clear everything out I would top off with just compost, not topsoil/compost mix, especially if you started with any topsoil in your mix initially. The lighter and fluffier the mix is the easier it is to plant, water and weed.

  • Thanks @OrganicLawnDIY (+1) - and good tip about the poly sheeting, will do at the end of this year :-).
    – smeeb
    Commented May 16, 2015 at 8:55
  • @smeeb I added another option for closing at the end of the year. Something I've been wanting to do for years.... plant a cover crop. Commented May 16, 2015 at 12:56

Last year I prepped my 6 4x4 beds early and covered them with landscape fabric. There were no weeds at planting time. This year I didn't, but I have been planting new veggies, for me, early, and weeding along. I till my beds with a tiller attached to a trimmer power head. I then till in compost, and then rake in peat moss. I am trying square foot planting this year, and work in the proper fertilizer for each vegetable in its area before seeding or transplanting. I am working with 41 "vegetables" this year; in quotes because some are beneficial plants.

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