Putting the Gardens to Bed
The mornings have gotten frosty and we may be only weeks away from the first snow, so we have finally put our gardens to bed. The first step is simply to remove the gone-by plants from summertime, but after that there is a lot more which you can do to ensure that next year’s growing season is successful.
After removing all of your summer veggies, take out any weeds or other growth as well. Tilling your garden once in the fall will help to mix up the nutrients in the soil and dislodge any insects hoping to overwinter. You can also plant a cover crop such as clover, alfalfa, or oats. A cover crop will help reduce weeds in the garden, preserve the soil structure, and contribute to the nutrients in the soil. In the spring, you can simply till the crop into the dirt and allow it to compost.
If you are not using a cover crop, you will want to mulch your garden. You can use a thick layer of fallen leaves, hay, compost or manure. If you till this layer into the garden in the fall, and it will break down over the winter to give you a rich bed of soil to work with. I use the plentiful autumn leaves in combination with manure from our chicken coop, and mix it all together with the tiller before the ground freezes. Once the ground is frozen, you can continue to mulch the garden over the winter and til that material in the spring.
In our herb garden we have many perennials which we will allow to overwinter by putting a layer of mulch over them once they die back. Since we are in Maine, where the winters are long and frigid, we have also removed several herbs to spend the winter months indoors.
A thick layer of organic matter in your garden will help your vegetable garden thrive the next year, so it’s important to take the extra time in the fall to ensure a happy garden the next summer.
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