Preparing Your Fall Garden For Spring
Don’t Put Off What You Can Do Today…
Because Otherwise You’ll Have to Do It in the Spring!
With the cooler temperatures and crisp, clear air, fall garden chores just don’t seem so much like chores. Just think of the satisfaction you’ll gain in knowing that come spring you’ll have a much easier time transitioning from winter as the weather starts to warm; you will be so happy you took the time to prepare now. Next spring’s yard work will be a breeze and next season’s gardens will look and perform better than last year’s. Doing a few fall tasks now will leave you more time later for enjoying other, more delightful pleasures, like planting new colorful annuals or building that gazebo you’ve been planning for years.
So, let’s make a list:
- Spruce up your flower and vegetable beds: Clean out all of the old, dead wood, leftover dead tomato plants, vines and weeds that are currently making your gardens, both veggie and flower, look anything but attractive. This is the time to cut back those asparagus ferns or other plants, shrubs and bushes that will benefit from a fall clipping. This also might be the ideal time to start that compost pile you’ve been meaning establish. We found this great article on composting in the winter, for anyone who already has a compost pile or wants to start one. One note: any diseased plants should be thrown away or burned; never add them to your compost pile.
- Pick up all the leaves and debris from your yard: Yeah, we knowthis is everyone’s favorite job. NOT! But, all those leaves make great compost or mulch for those garden areas you have just cleaned out. And did you know that raking is a great form of exercise? It works just about every muscle in your body; and you are guaranteed to find a few muscles you haven’t worked in a while if raking is not part of your regular routine.
- Test your garden soil and amend now: In many situations, especially when it comes to adjusting the pH, it takes time for soil amendments to work; therefore, adding them now means your soil will be garden-ready come
springtime and planting season. You don’t have to take your soil to the local extension office to have it tested. Soil testers are relatively inexpensive, though priceless in terms of determining what your soil needs to grow the healthiest and most beautiful plants and vegetables. Our selection of soil amendments is extensive. Be sure to read our three-part series (Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3) on soil and soil testing. We’ve tried to break it all down for you, in an easy-to-read and understand informational blog. If you still have questions, you are welcome to contact our Master Gardener.
- Add a thick layer of horse manure or other favorite amender: Horse manure, chicken manure and others will ensure rich, organic soil for next year’s gardens; however, using fresh manures can burn and damage tender seedlings. Instead, lay the manure in the fall, allowing it time to age and to soak into the soil throughout the winter. Laying a thick covering, about 1 inch, will act like mulch, slowing weed growth while allowing the nutrients to leach into the soil with the freeze and thaw of winter, or you can lightly work it into the soil at this time. Also remember: when choosing manure, it is best to only use those manures from animals that have been fed on green stuff. Pigs, for example, eat dairy and meat productsnot a good recipe for healthy soil.
- Finally mulch! We cannot say this enough. We hear, year after year, how our customers finally decided to mulch and what a difference it made in terms of water use, weed control and overall garden health and productivity. Mulch is worth its weight in gold when it comes to the appearance of your garden beds, as well as the time and money it saves on weed control and water use. Straw works ideally, as do other commercially prepared mulches, though the colored mulches do not break down as well as natural mulches. Natural choices, such as wood chips, pine needles, straw and leaves will not only make your gardens look good, they will add rich organic material over time, enriching your soil, making it more amenable to water retention and natural aeration. Mulch well and mulch as often as needed for the most care-free garden beds. A note: This is the time to mulch your strawberry and garlic plants. If you live where snow cover will not adequately insulate your plants throughout the winter, 6 to 10 inches of straw will keep those plants from heaving out of the ground with the freezing temperatures.
And now that that’s all done start planning for spring! Walk your yard, admire the work you’ve done, take your partner and kids along, take measurements and visualize what you’d like your garden beds to look like next year. Browse our site, thinking about colors, textures, height, moisture and sunlight requirements, and ultimately, what will make you and yours happiest when garden season is here again.
We wish you many happy fall days!