For some reason, we don’t give our garden the same amount of TLC at the end of the summer when fall is approaching that we were so eager to give back in the early spring. I’m guessing it has something to do with gardening burnout and perhaps from being dog-tired from all the hard work outside in the heat of summer…but what do I know?
Cleaning up the garden NOW will save you plenty of time later on, and even better, will leave your soil in good condition for next spring’s planting. While you may be tempted to leave the mountains of dried-up and done squash plants, corn, tomatoes, and weeds to just die back and wither away in the late summer sun, you really should do a little bit of end-of-season clean up once the harvest is over.
Spring gardening begins…in September? Perform these chores now to ready your garden for next year.
1. Clean up the garden area in general. Remove anyd forgotten and/or rotten veggies and fruit from the garden. If they are not disease infested or insect-ridden, you can throw them in the compost pile. Then, pull and rake up your dead leaves and any old or dead plant debris. This will keep diseases like powdery mildew as well as insects from overwintering in the “mess.” When you clean up the garden, you give them fewer places where they can hide out.
If you have gardening beds or square-foot gardening boxes, go ahead and edge around the sides and deal with intruding weeds now so you don’t have an overgrown mess later. Remember, many weeds go to seed at this time of year or in early fall, so you really are performing a big chore that will save you headaches later!
At our house, we actually mow down part of our garden. This may sound a little strange, but it works, and helps make the clean up chore a little easier. Just make sure you aren’t mowing large woody stems, or any other types of plants that may damage your mower’s blade.
2. Mulch! After you’ve cleaned up the general garden area, finish it off by covering the ground with a good quality mulch – such as unsprayed grass clippings, leaves, and straw. This will help maintain soil quality over the fall and winter.
3. Consider planting an off-season cover crop. This can help correct soil compaction, and will also revitalize your soil with the needed minerals that some crops take away after a heavy growing season.
4. Clean out your annuals before the seeds drop on the ground – unless, of course, that’s your plan and you want the plant to reseed itself for next year.
5. Keep composing! You will want to keep adding fresh leaves, grass clippings, and organic waste to your compost until spring.
Performing just these five simple steps will save you lots of headaches come spring. Work a little harder for just a bit longer, and you’ll be ready to kick back and enjoy the cooler days very soon.