Tips for Fall Garden Preparation

As the summer season comes to a close, it’s time take stock of the condition of your garden. If you have decided to plant a second season harvest, there is a good chance you have already removed the debris from your summer plants. But, if you have yet to plant your fall crops or are planning on retiring to the warmth indoors, now is the time to give your garden some attention.

Follow these quick and easy tips to keep your garden in pristine condition.

Out with the Old

After harvest, there are normally holes, weeds, and spent plants strewn about your garden. It’s important to get all this debris removed before the cold sets in and it affects your plots. Leftover plants can not only affect the chemical balance of the soil, but they can also harbor diseases.

Before this happens, get in there and remove what you can. Plants that need to be removed but are healthy can contribute to your compost pile, otherwise they should be trashed. Attack the weeds that you’ve neglected throughout the season, or the nasty ones that popped up as your plants stopped producing. You want to make sure they’re not able to seed before the frost sets in.

Treat and Test the Soil

Once again, soil treatment now will make all the difference the next time you choose to plant the area, so pay particular attention to the current condition. Removing old mulch and turning the soil is essential to getting fall crops to root in re-used beds, but if you have chosen to leave your garden until next year, it’s just as important to prep your soil for winter.

Before you make any changes however, you will want to test your soil’s pH levels to determine if you need amendments. Then consider what you already have on hand; dead leaves, old hay, kitchen compost, etc. Just like planting in the spring, these household fertilizers should be spread over your garden at the end of a season. If you need it, also spread store-bought fertilizers or manure at this time.

Create Winter Cover

There are two ways of doing this, depending on what your fall gardening plans are:

If you’re planning to re-plant, before putting fall vegetables in, consider getting cold weather frames or hoop covers in place. This way, if a frost comes unexpectedly, you can protect your plants and help them make it to harvest. You will not actually need to put the covers on quite yet, but by at least framing the structures, you will make things easier on yourself in case of an emergency.

If you are aren’t going to plant again until spring, cover your garden with plenty of compost or green manure (see below for more info) instead.

What to Plant NOW

It’s not too late to plant a fall crop. Vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, radishes and peas are hearty decisions for climates that are likely to encounter frost. Vegetables like beets, carrots, cauliflower, and other lettuces can also tolerate a light frost and will still yield a good harvest if you get them started in early October.

But if you would rather call it quits for the season, consider planting green manures, which are actually off-season plants. Commonly, gardeners plant things like red clover or rye grass to grow during the winter months in order to keep the soil nitrogen rich and free from pests.

Image courtesy of PhotoSomething/iStock


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