Around the country there have been some unseasonably warm temperatures extending into December. Depending on the place you call home, you may even be seeing flowers blooming that ordinarily would not be this time of year. Although this extended warm season is unexpected, it can be pretty enjoyable at times, especially if you have veggie garden work to get done or soil preparation to tend to in order to be ready for spring planting.
While the weather holds off on unleashing bitter cold but is still not sweltering hot, now is a great time to complete some garden tasks that we may have been neglecting. Spring will be here before you know it, and will you be ready to plant when it arrives? If the answer to this is not a resounding, emphatic yes, then getting to work in the garden and performing soil preparation sooner than later is a must.
To get started with spiffing up your veggie garden for spring, cleanup should be a priority. If any plant debris remains, go ahead and remove it. Dig up any dead plants and residual roots, raking leaves that may have fallen at the same time as this is an important part of pest control; having these types of things left in your garden will invite pests in to snack and lay eggs. Get these items moved into your compost pile so they will be ready to use effectively in the garden come spring. However, if during your cleanup you find some diseased plant matter, be sure to dispose of this rather than placing it into a compost heap.
As you’re moving debris into the compost bin, it is only natural to move some compost out, right? Go ahead and give your garden soil some invigoration in the form of a few inches of compost. This will infuse your soil with good nutrients and minerals while at the same time helping with water management, be it holding water in or draining it properly in accordance with your set of needs. If you prefer, you can wait until spring to do this, but having it done and out of the way is very beneficial. Soil that is nutrient deficient can also be helped by the planting of cover crops to be plowed back into the garden come spring.
Depending on what you plan to plant in the spring, you are going to need soil with a corresponding pH. In some cases, this can take some time to achieve, so the sooner to you tackle the task, the better. If you’re still uncertain as to what you will be planting, aim for a neutral pH of around 7. If your current soil is too acidic, add and work in limestone. On the other hand, if it is too alkaline, granular sulfur can help. Regardless of what your soil needs, getting it precisely where it needs to be can take time, so starting the process with a few months to spare can save you a lot of panic in the end as opposed to letting it go until spring.
Once your cleanup is complete and pH is balanced, consider adding some organic mulch. This will help keep soil from running off while at the same time adding nutrients as it breaks down. Something as simple as grass clippings or shredded bark can protect soil and inhibit weed growth over winter. Just lay down a few inches and when spring arrives your soil should be ready for planting.
Although many of us grow veggies during the colder months, there is likely still garden space available for tending. Get yours ready while you can because there is no telling what Mother Nature has in store for us in the coming months. She may have been going easy on us and our gardens thus far, but we might as well tackle all of our garden work and soil preparation before that changes.