When winter comes, some gardeners leave the whole mess to the elements, dead plants and all. Just as you wouldn't leave your child out in the cold without a coat, a vegetable garden needs special dressing up before the winter storms hit. A veggie garden left to the elements without proper care breeds disease and ruins soil. Just like your garden, the tools you use in it require special upkeep for the winter months to ensure they're working in the spring.
Remove any dead foliage and plant stalks from the vegetable garden. The University of Vermont Extension recommends cutting back the stalks on perennial plants back to the ground to protect exposed areas from disease and rot.
Remove fallen leaves from the garden as fungi breeds in them. Leaves also block sunlight and rain from nourishing the vegetable garden during the winter and may prevent perennial vegetables from growing in the spring.
Mulch any perennial vegetables with bark mulch or other organic material to protect roots from extreme cold during the winter as well as from fluctuating temperatures. Mulch only a few inches at most, as excess mulch will cause more damage than good.
Remove annual plants, roots and all, from the garden. The University of Colorado Extension suggests tilling the area to prepare the soil for the spring. Tilling also protects the topsoil from winter runoff.
Clean all tools you use in the vegetable garden of organic material and place them in a protected, enclosed area. Lubricate moving parts and remove gasoline and oil from tillers and mowers.