In the fall, the crisp air eventually turns cold and our time to work in the garden comes to a close. Let’s face it, most of us are rather excited to have a break from the work, but to have a successful garden again next year, one last final effort needs to be made. The garden needs to be prepared for winter!
Although many people have differing opinions, there are a few different ways you can put your garden to bed. Cleaning up overgrown areas and general weeding is a great place to start. Weeding in the fall will give you a head start on those pesky weeds that set seed in early spring. It’s also a great time to pull any annual plants that won’t survive the winter.
When putting your garden to bed, don’t forget this is a great time to plant any of your fall bulbs, garlic, or trees and shrubs before the ground freezes.
Organic mulching is a great option when considering ways to put your garden to bed. Organic mulch includes anything that can decompose naturally, such as compost, straw, pine needles, grass clippings, and shredded leaves. Use these mulches alone or with newspaper or cardboard- after any staples, tape, and labels have been removed. Any cardboard or newspaper that doesn’t break down by the spring can be added to the compost pile for next year.
Another great option you can utilize is cover crops. Similar to how farmers use cover crops to protect soils from erosion over the winter, it is also a fantastic way for the home gardener to protect their soil! Spring oats, winter rye, clover, and hairy vetch are all great options. Both mulching and cover cropping aid soil structure and help prevent soil compaction.
With just a little extra time and effort this fall, you can be sure to get your garden off to a great start in the spring. Fall is a fantastic time to check your soil nutrient levels and gives time for any amendments to work before the spring growing season. When you start gardening in the spring, you will be thankful that you properly put your garden to bed this fall!