By -Georgia Lund-
At the end of the growing season, every gardener dreams of ways to improve their garden next year. The time to start the improvement process is in the fall, and these fall garden chore tips can get you well on the way to having bigger and better vegetables and flowers next growing season.
Fall cleanup is necessary to prevent an infestation of pests and disease next season.
Remove all flower and vegetable plants that have ceased production. If the removed plants have no bugs or evidence of disease, toss them on the compost pile to be added back to the garden soil next year.
Plants that are bug infested or diseased dispose of them away from the garden area to prevent re-infestation next year. Garden pests, like cucumber beetles, squash bugs, corn borers and potato bugs, over-winter in plants that are left in the vegetable garden.
Those living in a warm climate with a late frost date still have plenty of time to plant and harvest a fall garden.
Mid-August through September is a great time to plant spinach, collards, kale, lettuce, turnips, and radishes. Plant vegetable varieties that need the shortest time to reach maturity, so the vegetables will be ready before the first frost date.
Plant a fall cover crop after harvesting all the garden produce. A fall cover crop improves garden soil for better vegetable production next year. Plant small grains, grasses, and legumes that help prevent soil erosion and reduces the need for herbicides and other pesticides and improves soil health. Till under the cover crop in spring a month before planting time.
Well-rotted manure is an excellent organic fertilizer that will improve soil structure and add nutrients for increased vegetable and flower production. Manure can be included in the garden in the fall before planting a cover crop or can be added without a cover crop. Add 3 inches of manure on top of the soil in the fall and leave it as-is all winter, then till it in before spring planting time. If planting a fall cover crop, till in the manure and plant the cover crop soon after.
Tree and Shrub Care
If new trees or shrubs were added to your landscape this past year, they would need a little extra care to survive their first winter. Continue watering during the fall each week until the ground freezes, then apply a 4-inch layer of organic mulch around the soil to help retain soil moisture so that they will stay well hydrated all winter.
Garden Tool Maintenance
Before putting garden tools away give them a good cleaning and servicing. Sharpen and oil tools to prevent rust, and sand wood handles to prevent splinters, drain water from hoses and gas from tiller and lawn mower.
Maintenance done in the fall will enable tools to be ready when you are and give you a head start on making your gardening dreams come true next spring.
Image by: Tim Hester