The school year is just beginning, summer flowers are dying off and vegetable gardens are winding down. Signs that summer is drawing to a close are everywhere. With fall on our minds, what needs to be done in our yards and gardens before temperatures cool down?
Start Improving on Next Year
The first thing you should do is assess your yard and garden. Take stock of all the plants that didn’t succeed this summer and why. Check out your lawn and determine if you need to re-seed or plant new sod. Think of ways to improve things for next year, such as:
- Identify plants that are overgrown. They may need to be divided.
- Check for diseases on your plants. Treat or remove them so they do not infect plants around them.
- Replace summer annuals. Add fall color with plants like Chrysanthemums.
- Dig up bulbs. Unearth bulbs that may not be able to survive the winter in your zone and store them.
- Fertilize turf grass. Add a slow release, all-natural fertilizer to your turf grass.
Soil Preparation is Key
Preparing your garden for next year is easy. The more work you put in now, the easier your task will be in the spring. The key to a successful garden is soil preparation, and fall is the perfect time to do this, since the ground is still warm.
- Clean up dead plants and remove debris – Make sure you remove weeds so they are not tilled back into the soil where they can spread their seeds.
- Work compost into the soil – Tilling the compost into the soil helps distribute the nutrients throughout. It will also oxygenate the soil and help keep diseases at bay.
- Protect the soil – If you aren’t going to plant in this area until next year, cover the ground with straw to protect it from harsh winter weather.
- Mulch – If you are planting fall flowers or if you just want to protect your evergreens, then mulch. Mulch will help keep plant roots protected and the soil healthy.
Fall Tilling is Easier
Because the ground is warmer in the fall, it is much easier to till deep enough to provide a good medium for root growth in the spring. Tilling is a great way to get your soil ready for next year.
- It opens up the soil allowing oxygen to reach the deeper layers of the ground.
- It relieves compaction – plant roots have to work too hard to get through packed soil.
- It allows for amendments to be distributed through the soil.
- It improves drainage.
Give Soil Time to Develop
By tilling compost into your soil in the fall, you are giving it all winter and spring to become biologically active. Organic amendments take time to interact with the earth and render their benefits to plants. It can take weeks or months for amended soil to work at peak levels, which is why fall tilling is so much better than waiting until spring. The soil has time to develop.
Rough it Up
If you are not planting in your garden until spring, rough till your soil in each direction and leave it. The ground will flatten out before spring when you can go back and fine till it. Some of the amendments you can add to your soil now are bone meal (for nitrogen) and rock phosphate (for phosphorous). Add a complete organic fertilizer in pellet or granular form when you till. This is an easy way to add nutrients and will cut down on the amount of compost you need in the spring.
Leave Something for Pests
For your vegetable gardens, consider letting some of the plants linger. Plants like spent cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and radishes act as pest magnets. In the spring, these plants release a cyanide compound when decomposing that can kill nuisance pests like wireworms. Just till the decaying plants into the soil before planting next spring. Instant compost!
A Gardener’s Work is Never Done
Fall is when you should think about ways to enjoy your garden during the cooler weather. If you enjoy bird watching then leave a few flowering plant stalks in your beds to attract birds. The birds will feast on the seeds and use the stalk as a perch. Remember, garden life is year round and a gardener’s work is never done.
Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tillers and shovels to wheel barrows and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.