If you’ve done your late-summer harvest, saved your seeds and worked on canning, you might be a little tuckered out when fall rolls around. But it’s no time to rest on your laurels. The autumn months are for tending to your cool weather crops, reflecting on the past season to decide what needs improvement and getting ready for next year’s planting. Don’t worry: You’ll have all wintertime to chill when you follow these fall gardening tips. Here’s what you need to do now.
1. Map out your garden.
Make a diagram of what you’ve planted and where so that you can switch up your layout next year. Crop rotation helps preserve and enhance soil nutrients and fertility, according to a study published in Ecology Letters. Make any notes on problematic plantings or good combos. Did those cucumber vines work well next to the cornstalks? You can use these records to fine-tune your spring plan of action.
2. Remove weeds and spent plants.
Uproot any plants that are no longer producing, cut back perennial veggies like rhubarb stalks and asparagus ferns, remove tomato cages (or stakes and other structures) that are no longer in use and give your garden a thorough weeding. Anything left in the garden that’s not part of your fall crop will deplete your soil.
3. Tend to fall crops.
Depending on your climate and preferences, you may have planted fall crops like kale, leeks, Brussels sprouts, fennel and more. The Old Farmer’s Almanac features a planting guide based on the approximate date of your region’s first freeze. If you’ve missed planting dates for this year, plan ahead for the next. Garlic lovers should plant cloves in late September, and the new shoots poking up after the ground thaws will be one of your first signs of spring.
4. Test and amend soil.
Fall is a great time to test your soil for its structure, organisms and other factors that indicate whether you have a fertile garden plot or need to make adjustments. You can try a DIY analysis method called the Willamette Valley Soil Quality Guide or buy a test kit. Your results will help you determine what soil amendments to add. Shredded leaves or your compost stash are good options.
5. Cover it up.
To protect your garden bed from going to the weeds when warm weather hits, cover it before winter sets in. You can use mulch, a layer of fallen leaves, cardboard or a tarp.
6. Get organized.
Fall is also a time to get organized for what you’ll need next year. If you’re a seed saver, take inventory of what you’ve collected and order any seeds you still need. A nice autumn day provides the opportunity for going through your potting or gardening shed, as well. Repair or replace broken tools and clean everything up. You’ll be eager once spring arrives to get back to working with the dirt, and these gardening tips will save you any upfront hassles.