I don’t know about you, but I was still picking vegetables from the garden as late as the middle of November. The weather was still so warm that I still had peppers and tomatoes growing! And while I was grateful for the luxury of being able to enjoy the bounty of my garden at such a late date, I must be completely honest and share with you that I was also getting a bit weary, especially knowing that there was still so much to do before putting my garden to bed before winter arrives.
Just as we grow tired and require rest, I believe that our gardens demand the same, so I work hard in the fall to clean it up so that it can get the rest it needs over the winter and be fresh and ready to provide a home to all my seedlings come spring. Here are some of the tried and true steps I have taken each fall in order to ensure my garden is refreshed and renewed for the next planting season:
- Cleanse: My first priority is to remove all dead plant material, adding it to my compost pile as long as it is not diseased. Clearing the debris from the beds helps to prevent disease and eliminates the feeding ground for overwintering pests.
- Till: Although there is a strong argument for no-till gardens, I still subscribe to the old school of thought and have had great success with lightly tilling my garden in the fall before it goes into hibernation. I choose this method for two primary reasons: first, I usually add organic compost to the soil at this time, so tilling helps to incorporate it into the existing soil. Second, tilling in fall helps to bring any late season pests, trying to make the depths of my garden their home, up to the surface where they can freeze.
- Feed: Once all of the beds are prepared, I want to make sure the soil is provided nutrition for its winter hibernation. While some subscribe to spring composting, we prefer to till organic compost into all of the beds in the fall. This provides ample time for soil organisms to break down the compost into usable nutrients come spring.
- Reflect: After closing the gate to the garden for the season, I take a moment to reflect on all of my successes and failures. Turning to my garden journal, I make comments next to all of my seed packets, noting what worked and didn’t work, not only in the garden, but also in my kitchen. Did I plant too many of one vegetable or variety and not enough of another? How did a certain variety hold up in the garden versus others? And, most importantly, I highlight the varieties that I want to grow again in the following season.
Although I will appreciate the rest from a busy garden season, it will be short, as come January, I will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first of many seed catalogues. It won’t be long until I am dreaming of digging in the dirt once again!