It’s important to clean up vegetable gardens before winter. Diseases and pests can overwinter in the soil, affecting next year’s harvest.
Implementing Smart Gardening techniques during fall garden clean up can make the difference between a successful and frustrating gardening season. Soil testing, mulching with organic materials, and planting a cover crop are all good choices for home gardeners.
The way you clean up your flowerbeds in the fall can have a huge impact on next year’s garden. This includes de-thatching your lawn.
Thick thatch can be caused by overzealous use of fertilizer or improper watering. It also interferes with a healthy soil microbe population and makes it harder for earthworms to penetrate the thatch layer, creating poor aeration of the turf.
In addition, too much thatch blocks the sun from reaching grass roots. De-thatching should only be done on slightly damp ground and not in a way that disturbs the surface roots.
Dig up bulbs and tubers
The last of your crops are ending their production cycle and the days are getting colder, which means the gardening season is coming to an end. Fall garden cleanup is a great opportunity to prepare the soil for winter and keep your perennials thriving through the harsh weather.
Bulbs and tubers should be dug up and stored before they get too shriveled to use. They can be stored in a cool, dry location until planting time.
When digging, carefully loosen dirt from bulbs and tubers with a garden fork to avoid severing or cutting them. Try to dig them when the weather is warm so you don’t risk damaging them with the cold.
If you have trouble keeping critters out of your bulbs, cover them with a layer of bark or mulch to deter curious paws. Another option is to interplant tasty tulips with narcissus, which are poisonous to squirrels. This will give them a similar look and taste but not appeal to the hungry varmints.
Mulching your garden is important for weed suppression and water conservation, as well as to protect tender perennials from the harshness of winter frost. A thick layer of organic material also helps to warm the soil, enabling it to start growing again earlier next spring.
Several types of mulch are good for the garden. Bark and wood chips are available in different shades, and as they break down, earthworms work them into the soil, enhancing its quality. However, avoid eucalyptus or walnut tree products, which can contain allelopathic chemicals harmful to other plants.
Alternatively, use shredded leaves as a natural mulch. They’re plentiful and free, and they will begin to decompose over the winter, nourishing the soil. Just be sure to shred the leaves before putting them on your garden bed, as un-shredded leaf material tends to compact and grow mold in layers. Also, don’t turn or flip the leaf mulch in the fall; doing so can re-seed the bed with weed seeds.
If you have a vegetable garden or flower beds that tend to produce lots of weeds, fall is the best time to tackle them. Pulling weeds while they’re young prevents them from producing seeds and makes them much easier to remove. Also, be sure to clean up garden supports like bean stakes and tomato cages so they don’t harbor diseases that will affect next year’s crops.
Then, throughout the rest of the fall and into early spring, frequently draw a hoe through your beds or mowing them to disrupt weeds’ ability to produce seeds. Even if you think they’re dead, many weeds can still germinate from a buried seed head or root crown.
Another method to prevent weeds is to cover your beds with landscape fabric. This smothers the soil, blocking sunlight and preventing growth. It can be purchased from gardening stores or home improvement centers and is easy to apply. Just remember to spray the surface of the fabric before applying it to make sure the soil is moistened.