Preparing Your Garden for Fall
For those of us who are consummate gardeners, seasonal preparation seems to be a never-ending chore. How often do you get to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor? Almost never, right? Now that cooler weather is slowly creeping up on us it’s time to get the garden prepped whether you plan to do any fall planting or not. Just remember, the preparation you do now will yield beautiful spring and summer blooms and a bumper crop of veggies next year.
Once your summer crop is spent remove old vines and plants. If they are not diseased or infested by insects you can incorporate them back into the soil. They will provide super organic matter making the soil richer and full of nutrients for spring planting.
Now is also the time to add more organic matter to the soil such as compost, peat, leaves or manure. Till in a light dusting of ammonium sulfate along with the organic matter. Just make sure you do all of this prep work while the soil is still easy to turn.
If you have planned for a fall crop like carrots, beets and turnips apply mulch over the plants to keep the soil insulated and workable to extend the digging season. After the first light frost harvest your pumpkins, gourds and winter squash. Don't wait too late--a heavy frost could ruin the crop.
Pull up spent vines and foliage from annual flowers and compost them or turn them into the garden soil. If you want to add fall color to the garden choose pansies, chrysanthemums and snapdragons that can last well into colder months. Just make sure you plant them before the soil becomes too cold. Warmer soil allows the roots to establish the plants to thrive.
Weeds are the bane of existence for amateur and master gardeners alike. They can choke out of healthy flower and vegetable beds and suck valuable nutrients from the soil. By the end of summer you’re ready to give up after fighting the weeds all summer long.
Fall is approaching and not a moment too soon. It’s the best time to rid your garden of weeds. They're much easier to remove once they’ve died off. Getting rid of those unwanted dormant plants reduces the chance you won't be bothered with the new crop of weeds in the spring.
Once temperatures hit freezing your perennials will go dormant for the winter. To ensure they come back stronger and healthier than ever in the spring cut the stems within a couple inches above the ground. Toss the healthy cuttings in your garden compost bin. Some plant varieties continue produce green foliage throughout the fall. Keep them around for a while then cut back the dried stems and spent flowers.
Early fall is also the time to divide perennials that become overcrowded. After two or three years dig up each root mass and carefully divide the plants by hand. This will ensure you have a continuous supply of plants for your garden. In late fall after the ground freezes loosely distribute mulch around the base of the plants to provide winter protection. Once spring growth begins you can remove the mulch.
Cooler weather is the time to plant spring bulbs. If you love early spring bloomers it is time to plant daffodils, irises, hyacinths, crocuses and tulips during the fall months. September and October are optimum for planting bulbs depending on your USDA hardiness zone. Wait until there’s a definite chill in the air but do it while the ground is still workable.
Cleaning Up Your Summer Garden for the Fall
© 2019 Linda Chechar