It’s late autumn and if you haven’t done it already, it is time to put your garden to bed for the winter. Sad but true. Winter will be here before you know it so it’s time to get to work!
Some of us still have food in the garden. Right now, you may have cold weather crops like kale, radishes, greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, chard, mint, herbs and root veggies like carrots going strong. You can leave those alone or cover them with Remay to extend the harvest. Clean up those beds next spring.
As for the rest, it’s best to clean up any diseased plants and get them out of the garden first. This year, throw away tomato and potato plants…even if they didn’t get the late blight. Clean out those beds really well and DO NOT COMPOST! It’s also a good idea not to compost anything that got powdery mildew like your squash vines, cucumbers, etc. Bust out those purple bags and toss it all! Your garden will be happier in the long run.
The next plan of action is to cut down all of the dead plants. If the plants were healthy, leave the roots in the ground. They will compost in the ground, nourish the soil and prevent soil erosion.
Now is the time to send in your soil samples. You might be able to add amendments to the soil before winter. If not, you’ll be all set for next spring.
The last step is to mulch your garden beds to prevent soil erosion. Chopped up leaves are the best. Rake your leaves into piles, chop them up with the lawn mower and put them on the garden beds. Maple and birch leaves are ideal. Avoid oak leaves. If you don’t have leaves, I’ll bet a neighbor would be willing to give you some! Failing a friendly neighbor, grass clippings or straw will work as well. Add in some manure if you can get it. The idea is to prevent soil erosion and the decaying mulch will also add nutrients to your soil.
As those first snowflakes begin to fall, bring in all of your hoses and garden “flotsum” like clay pots, tomato cages, etc. Take some time to clean up your storage area and make it all nice and clean for next spring! Think of the joy you will experience on that first lovely spring day when you waltz into your clean, well organized storage area and can actually locate a shovel for planting your peas! Ahhhhh!
For more information about soil testing, contact the UNH Cooperative Extension.