Last week, we went over some of the initial steps that should be taken to prepare your garden for the fall. As the rainy season has hit and winter looms on the horizon, there is quite a bit for gardeners to do to prepare their gardens for winter, as well as take steps that will kickstart growth next spring. Here are a few more things to do during your fall garden preparation.
Feed Your Soil
Many people feed their garden soil in spring, but fall is the best time of the year to do this. It’s a good practice to take soil samples, label them, and send them off for testing at a lab. Check your state’s options to find out what forms you need to fill out and where to send your samples for analysis. A list of soil testing labs in Maryland can be found here.
While soil testing isn’t absolutely necessary, it will give you precise readouts on your soil’s nutrients, clearly defining any deficiencies that need to be addressed. Many labs will send a list of recommended fertilizers based on your results to make it easy as possible for you to feed your soil properly and keep it healthy and balanced.
If you compost, fall is the best time to use your compost to feed your garden. Take steps to protect it over the rainy season and the winter to help it remain where it’s needed and be absorbed into the soil. This will also give you the chance to restart your compost pile, which is a great spot for fall leaves and other yard waste to end up so it can be used to feed your soil again next year.
Cover crops offer a lot of benefits for your garden over the winter. Some common cover crops include rye, vetch, or clover. Cover crops add nutrients to your garden, draw carbon from the atmosphere into the garden soil, prevent soil erosion, and breakup compacted areas of the garden bed, among other benefits. They can also provide some cover for your soil and plants over the winter, hence their name. These should be planted at least one month before the first killing frost for the best results. If they need to be planted later, choose a hardier cover crop that will be able to endure a hard frost sooner.
During the height of the gardening season, tools are being used for many hours a day, and there isn’t always time to sit down and carefully maintain them—now is a good time to take care of them. Clean them, sharpen them, and replace any that are damaged or broken beyond repair. If rust is present, clean it up with sandpaper or a wire brush. Once your tools are thoroughly cleaned and sharpened, coat them with some light machine oil to prolong their life and protect them from damage.
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