With cooler weather approaching, most of us are done with our blood-sweat-and-tears gardening for the year, but that doesn’t mean we put away our tools just yet. A little fall prepping will get you off to a great start in spring.
Had a bout of late blight this season? Removing all traces of infected plants is crucial to a healthy garden next year.
- Remove all plant parts and leafy material, pieces of tomatoes or undug potatoes.
- Unless you know you can assure a temperature of 130-140 degrees through composting, double bag the debris and toss it in the trash – your compost won’t get hot enough to destroy the disease.
- Rotate crops to reduce chance of this problem again next year.
- Disinfect any tools used during this process so disease isn’t spread to other plants or areas of the garden.
- Weed and clean up foliage around plants and flowers that may carry disease.
The end of the season can be the perfect time to get a soil test and see how your soil is faring, what it needs and how you can get it ready for spring planting.
- While a pH test is a good idea, there’s also several soil tests you can do at home without any test kits, such as checking for organisms in the soil, assessing the soil structure and tilth and soil compaction.
- Tilling in the fall not only destroys a lot of pesky bugs that would normally overwinter there, but also gives your soil a good head start on breaking down nutrients to feed your spring crops.
- Add a layer of compost if you feel like it.
If you know your soil needs nutrients or is imbalanced, take this time to add whatever it needs so it’s ready for planting in the spring.
- Not only can this choke out weeds that already exist, but a good thick layer of mulch is also the perfect way to prevent new weed seeds from germinating in the first place.
- The mulch you want to use in your garden will depend on your needs, but for those of us who opt for solarized hay, you’ll need to use a forklift to bust out the bales. As your garden grows over the years, so do your needs and eventually moving everything by hand just doesn’t cut it.
- Newspaper covered with another layer of mulch is another great choice, and this option encourages earthworms in your soil. The earthworms will aerate the soil and fertilize the area with castings.
Clean and Store Tools
Your tools are an investment; taking care of them means you get more out of that investment.
- Disinfect all tools that may have come in contact with diseased plants, including pruning shears and trowels. Soak in a mixture of cleaning liquid, or bleach and water. Then rinse and dry, leaving no moisture on the tools.
- Lightly oil the tools so they don’t rust in cool weather and store in a safe, dry location.
- Drain and store garden hoses
- Drain the fuel tanks on your lawn mower and any other large equipment; check owners’ manuals for other winter care instructions.
Photo: Fotolia/Melinda Fawver
A little extra work in the fall will get your spring season off with a bang and have your garden growing tall and green in no time at all. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it’s a great place to start toward a happier and healthier spring garden. Fall doesn’t mean gardening season is over by any means – it’s just the cycle starting all over again.