The effort you spend organizing your vegetable patch in the fall will pay off in the spring, when you can easily and quickly start planting new plants. This publication contains some tips on fall cleaning and preparing your vegetable garden for the next gardening season.
Every fall, I have mixed emotions as the gardening season slowly comes to an end. Since our plants don’t have a long growing season, September is usually the start of the winter canning marathon.
I spend a good portion of my time in the kitchen trying to keep up with the harvest (almost all plantations are harvested overnight).
Usually, the beds don’t get much attention during this time – just checking daily for ripe fruit and harvesting them.
There is no time to weed, prune and vigilantly maintain the health of the plants. They are left to fend for themselves, either growing or wilting.
When the October frosts began, many parts of the vegetable garden were a mixture of dead or dying plants, weeds and even rotting tomatoes.
No more tomatoes, except for the crop that is ripening on the kitchen table. No more zucchini to roll in jars, no more cucumbers to pick, no more string beans to can.
As the big summer season comes to an end, I feel more and more satisfied with preserving my crops and filling my shelves and basement with jars of food. It’s a reward for all the hard work that goes into growing the plants and caring for them throughout the season.
It’s also a bit of a thank you for all the time spent cleaning, cutting fruit, and making twists late into the night, when the whole house has fallen asleep.
I felt some relief and sadness when most of the vegetable garden was harvested. But I know I will feel much better once I get outside and start preparing my vegetable garden for winter. So, what should I do to properly prepare my vegetable garden for winter?
Clean out all your seedbeds
By the end of the season, your vegetable garden tends to get so messy that you might as well give up. Break the big task into smaller tasks and organize at least one bed at a time until they are all cleaned up and ready for winter.
Be sure to remove all dead plants. Some diseases, including phylloxera as well as pests, are likely to overwinter on leaves and rotting fruit left in the bed. To remove all dead plants and any rotting fruit or vegetables.
Healthy plant material can be added to your compost pile. However, please note that more often than not, compost is not hot enough to kill disease or fungus.
Therefore, it is best to dispose of unhealthy plant residues affected by the disease, pests, or mold with your household waste or burn them to prevent these problems from spreading throughout your compost pile.
Add a layer of finished compost and mulch to cleaned beds
Remove the old mulch, remove any weeds if possible, put a layer of finished compost 1-2inch (2.5-5 cm) thick, and then put the old mulch (thin layer) back in place. This will help control weeds and protect the soil.
Many diseases and pests die when the ground freezes during the cold season. However, covering the beds with too thick a mulch will prevent the soil from freezing sufficiently. And when the ground freezes, add another layer of mulch for perennial grasses and flowers.
Do a test on your soil
Fall is a good time to do a soil test to determine if your soil needs additional nutrient and pH adjustments.
The results of doing this test will include the following information.
- soil pH.
- Potassium (K), phosphorus (P), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S) levels
- Levels of organic material.
- Lead levels.
This information can help you determine how much lime and fertilizer (organic or mineral) to add to improve soil conditions. Lime is often used to correct pH levels.
Adding lime in the fall is a particularly good solution because it dissolves into the soil during the winter. Other soil amendments that should be used in the spring are best used for this purpose.
Choose a bed where you have not planted onions this year and plant garlic with an eye to the next gardening season. Use plenty of compost and organic fertilizer for it.
It is best to plant garlic bulbs about 4inch (10cm) deep and about 6inch (15cm) apart. Add a small layer of mulch after planting, and cover the bed with a larger layer of mulch when the ground freezes with the plants.
Expand your vegetable garden
Fall is also a good time to expand your vegetable garden. Consider building a few raised beds or a few square meters of a vegetable garden on top of the grass. Many garden outlets have organic soil and compost for sale before the end of the gardening season.
Autumn leaves can simply be called gold for every gardener. This time of year, I collect as many fallen leaves as I can and fill my compost bin with them or put them in waste bags. Such leaves can be used for mulching, as part of a brown compost pile, or as a leaf mulch.
1.Mulch: A thick layer of shredded fallen leaves on the surface of the bed can help control weeds, conserve moisture, and provide valuable nutrients to the soil as this mulch decomposes and promotes the emergence of beneficial microorganisms.
2.Composting: Fall leaves are a great brown (carbon) waste for composting. I like to stockpile a certain amount of fallen leaves that I can add to my compost pile once the need arises to offset green (nitrogen) waste such as kitchen waste.
3.Leaf humus: Over time, leaves collected in piles or compost bins break down and form rich humus that can be incorporated into the soil to improve soil structure and moisture levels. This humus also provides food for useful microorganisms.
One of the easiest ways to collect and shred fallen leaves is to use a lawnmower, with or without a bag. If you use a mower with a bag, it will contain a nice mixture of shredded grass and leaves that can be fed directly into your compost bin.
However, even if your mower is not equipped with a bag to collect grass, you can direct it so that the shredded leaves and grass are largely gathered in the same pile. Then simply transfer the pile to a compost bin or garbage bag.
Take good notes
As you organize your vegetable garden in the fall, take a moment to think about what you planted this season and how you planted it. Make sure you write down what plants you planted, which ones did well and produced lots of fruit, and what crops you harvested.
What pests did you have to deal with this year? Are there any beds that are letting you down? By writing down these details now, with fresh memories, you’ll have enough information to plan your next gardening season wisely. It will also give you time to find solutions to those problems you’ve encountered.
Enjoy the fall
On those cool fall days, you’ll have some fun working in the vegetable garden. The high humidity is no longer as exhausting as it used to be to work outside. Look around and enjoy the beauty of your vegetable garden as the autumn sun shines.
Take a deep breath and smell the beautiful scent of fresh earth. Soon everything will be covered with snow and next time you will only “see” the earth in the spring.
Tending the beds in autumn is an opportunity to start planting new crops more easily and quickly at the beginning of a new season. Flower beds will be waiting for you, already ready to plant new plants.
Simply pull back the mulch, pull weeds, place organic fertilizer (based on the results of a fall soil test), and plant seeds, or place seedlings in the soil. In winter you will have enough time to dream about what you can plant in the new season with good planning.