By Tracy Beaufeaux, University of MN Extension Master Gardener - Wright County
With the impending winter looming just on the other side of fall, we might be ready to call it quits on our gardens for the year. But, don’t put your tools away just yet. There’s still work to be done. Here are five important tips to do now to help you prepare your vegetable garden for next year.
- Remove all dead and rotting vegetation. Dead plant material can harbor disease, insect pests, and funguses that will stick around and infect next year’s crop. Healthy foliage can be added to your compost pile, while plants that were diseased should be disposed of in your garbage or burned.
- Clean out any remaining weeds. By this time of year most weeds are setting seed. By removing them you are reducing the amount of weed seeds and therefore reducing your weed pressure in the future. Most home compost piles don’t get hot enough to kill weed seeds so it is recommended that you put them in the garbage or bring them to your municipal compost facility where the bigger piles get hot enough to kill most weed seeds.
- Add compost/soil amendments. Once your garden is cleaned out it’s a great time to add organic material, fall is the perfect time to dig in soil amendments like manure, compost, bone meal, or lime. Adding nutrients at this time of year means the additions have time to start breaking down, enriching your soil for next spring. Amending, turning, or digging soil now means you’ll be prepared when the busy season of spring has you doing everything at once.
- Observe and take notes. While the growing season is still fresh in your mind don’t forget to write it down on paper. Observe what did well and what didn’t, where things were planted, what you consumed the most of and if you need more or less of a crop next year. Also take note of pests and problems you experienced in the garden this season so you can do some research over the winter to be better prepared for next year.
- Clean, sharpen and organize your tools. After all your dirty work is complete take the time to give your tools some love. Gardening tools used for trimming plants, pruning bushes, removing weeds, and digging soil should be disinfected regularly to prevent transmission of plant pests and diseases. First clean the tools to remove dirt, debris, and plant residue, next spray the disinfectant of your choice on your tool, or soak the tool in the disinfectant, a 10 percent bleach solution works well for most tools. After disinfecting let dry and then use a file to sharpen pruners, shovels and hoes. Lastly rub down your metal surfaces with an oiled rag to prevent rust during winter storage. Fall is also a great time to get your tool storage organized and assess which tools get used and which tools can be gotten rid of.
Last but not least, take time to enjoy the splendor of the changing seasons, breath in the cool air, observe all the beauty around you and take time to be thankful for the joy that gardening brings.