It might feel like Summer is hardly over, but it’s time to get busy with Fall garden tasks! Tomatoes are waning and so is daylight — but there's still plenty to do in the garden during the cooler months.
It’s time to clear out those annuals, replenish your garden's soil, and make things tidy. Working on your garden in early Fall will set you up for great success in Spring!
Your own cold weather gardening tasks, Fall crops, and what you’re harvesting in Fall will depend on your Plant Hardiness Zone — a standard set by the USDA to codify what types of plants do best in certain climates, based on average climate temperatures.
You’ll want to get going before the first freeze in your area so the ground is soft enough to work with. As soon as the air starts to chill and several weeks before the first frost approaches, it’s time to retire that Summer garden and prepare for Winter.
Here are some go-to things you can do this season to get a head start on the most abundant Spring garden.
Remove spent plants from your garden, making sure to remove the roots, too. You can throw them in the commercial compost bin or toss healthy (pest- and disease-free) plants in your backyard compost.
Got summer bulbs? While most bulbs are perennial, warm-weather bulbs won’t make it through a cold winter. (This depends on your gardening zone.) Remove those tender bulbs from the soil and set them in storage for next year.
Rake your garden to clean up leaves and sticks. Put them in the compost bin or dispose. (But save good roasting sticks for bonfire s’mores!)
Fall is a great time to get very thorough with weeding. It’s tedious, but will prepare you with pristine soil in the Spring.
It’s essential to turn soil in Fall if you want to have a healthy growing medium in Spring! Use a shovel to turn that well-worn soil, aerating and breaking up clumps.
And while you’re turning that soil, go ahead and add your choice of powerful single-ingredient organic fertilizers!
Biannual plant foods and soil supplements help replenish soil after those big growing seasons, when soil can be left lacking in nutrients. Fall is the ideal time to feed soil with an organic fertilizer, because nutrients will feed the soil all Winter.
Nourish your garden’s soil with a cover crop! Cover crops will add organic matter and nutrients to soil and prevent erosion. Try a cover crop like rye or clover — it’s best to use annuals, not perennials, so you don’t get unwanted “volunteers” popping up in your Spring garden.
Last-of-the-summer harvests and new fall crops can be some of the most delightful harvests: big squashes, full-bloom flowers, apples of all varieties, and perhaps even some final plump tomatoes (depending on your region).
Savor the Fall sun rays as you pick your last veggies, fruits, and flowers. There will be plenty more where that came from next year!
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