Fall is the time to get your garden ready for spring planting. If you tackle a few important tasks now in mid fall then your spring gardening will be so much easier. So here’s a quick list of those last minute items you should take care of before winter sets in!
1. Be sure to tear out all of your dead, dying or spent plants.
This seems pretty basic but a lot of people get busy this time of year and never get around to pulling out all those old tomato plants or corn stalks. Good hygiene is an important part of a successful garden. Leaving old plants all winter in your garden gives lots of pests great places to hide. Slugs and snails especially are looking for a nice warm spot to spend the winter, don’t give them somewhere to hide. Many other pests will over winter in plants left in the garden. Be sure you either dispose of all this seasons’ plants or even better compost them!
2. Be especially careful to get rid of any diseased plant material.
Tomato plants with sick leaves, that kale plant that is just covered in aphids, or those squash vines covered in powdery mildew. All of these types of plants should be thrown out NOT composted. Many of those types of diseases are carried in the soil. If you compost those plants the problems will just be transferred to other parts of your garden. Also be sure to completely clean up any loose leaves from diseased plants and get them away from your garden beds. It’s also a good idea to do one last good weeding to get rid of any perennial weeds that might make it through the winter.
3. Do any tilling or turning of your beds now!
If you beds need a tiller run through them or if you just need to turn the soil with a digging fork, fall is the best time to get that done. In the fall your soil is usually nice and dry and easy to work so do all of your tilling now. Then when spring comes you won’t have to wait for the soil to dry before you can plant. All your beds will need is a quick work over with a rake and they will be ready for your spring peas, lettuce and Cole crops!
4. Add compost
No matter what your soil type, it needs more organic matter. A good quality organic compost will improve almost any soil type. And this time of year most of the nurseries and even the big box stores are trying to get rid of the left over’s. So compost can often be bought at a big discount. Try adding an inch or two of compost to all your beds before you till them or turn the soil. Your plants will thank you next spring!!
5. Rougher organic materials
If you are planning on adding grass clippings or leaves to your garden, fall is the best time to do that as well. It takes longer for these rougher materials to breakdown in the soil. While they are breaking down the bacteria doing all the work takes up nitrogen from the soil robbing your plants. Till these rougher items into your garden in the fall and they will have all winter and early spring to breakdown and improve the soil before you start planting in the spring.
6. Drain Hoses and Water systems
Be sure to drain any garden hoses that you have been using all summer. Simply lay them out flat and then pick the hose up and walk along hand over hand with the hose above your head. This will force all the water out the other end. If you have drip systems or underground sprinklers in your garden, be sure they are all drained and winterized as well. Also be sure to disconnect hoses from the hose bibs or they will cause the pipes to bust in your house if they freeze!!
7. Bring in all pots, decorations and movable structures
Winter weather is very rough on clay and plastic pots. Stack them together and store them in a garage or shed. If you don’t have that option then put them in a protected corner and cover them with a tarp! Tomato cages, trellises and other garden structures should also be put in a protected space. This will make them last a lot longer. Also don’t forget your garden gnomes and other nick-knacks, their paint will last many more years if they spend the winter indoors!
8. Sweep for garden pests
As winter really gets closer spend some time in the cold part of the day searching your garden for hidden pests. Look for slugs, snails, ear wigs and other critters and try to root them out of their hiding spots and destroy them. The more of those little guys you get rid of this fall the fewer of their babies you will have to deal with next summer!
I know you may be a little tired of gardening right now but trust me you will be happy next spring that you spent some time this fall cleaning up and prepping your garden.
What garden tasks do you prefer to do in the fall? Did I miss any?