Putting the garden to bedOct 03, 2022 02:41PM ● By Bryan Reed
As we wrap up a successful gardening season, there’s plenty of chores to be done in October. Fall is a great time to complete tasks that set ourselves up for even greater victories next spring. Here are a few things you can do to get your garden ready for next year’s growing season.
Don’t pull up old plants by the roots. Cut the plants at soil level instead. Old roots help with soil stability, texture and moisture retention, and can create pathways for water and air. Additionally, they protect the soil from extreme cold and act as a snowstop for drifting flakes that can melt in your garden. Leave the spent vegetable plants, including the stem and leaves, in the garden so they decompose and release minerals back into the garden for next year.
Add compost or manure. Some gardeners test their soil while others simply estimate how many nutrients their plants absorb and replenish them. Either way, now is a great time to assess and amend your soil by adding compost or manure because it will have time to break down and release nutrients. Winter temperatures will also mitigate pathogens in manure. Rabbit and llama manure don’t harbor any pathogens and break down quickly. Make sure to use manure that is at least six months old, and avoid using manure from animals grazing on weedy fields so the seeds don’t pass through the animal and into your garden.
Expand your garden. The weather is cool and the soil is workable, which means it’s time to expand your existing garden. Turn up weed seeds buried deep in the soil to be killed by winter frost. As soon as the soil warms in spring, you’re ready to plant and can stay ahead of next year’s weeds.
Start a compost pile. Start building a pile of food scraps and yard waste now so it’ll be ready by April or May for next year’s garden. It takes about four to six months for a compost pile to be finished and usable. I’ll outline this process in a future column (or in my class on October 4), but get started now by visiting www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home.
Bring potted plants indoors. Tap around the outside of the pots to make sure that any insect residents flee before bringing plants inside. Place plants in a sunny location near a solid wall so the thermal gain from the day’s sunlight can radiate back to the plants, keeping them warm as the nights start to cool. It’s also a good time to transplant house plants into bigger pots or just freshen up the soil. With less daylight, your plants will enjoy the extra attention.
Mulch perennials. Any new plants with shallow roots will appreciate the extra layer of protection from the cold. Dry leaves and straw both leave air pockets for added insulation. Carpet and cardboard are not insulating and are better for suppressing weeds and retaining moisture in the summer.
Clear plants from doorways and windows. Brushing up against wet, snowy vegetation on a porch or doorway is no fun. Plus, we need all the warmth we can get during the winter, so take a close look at your windows and doorways to ensure that trees and shrubs are not obstructing the sun’s rays.
Clean up and store garden tools. We should be done with the pruners, shovels and other garden tools until next spring. Clean off any soil buildup or sap accumulation to prevent corrosion. If you’re concerned about plant diseases, wash all tools with one part bleach and three parts water. Lube cutting tools with lithium grease or camellia oil. Add a thin layer of oil on the metal portion to prevent rusting and apply it to wood handles to prevent drying or cracking. Boiled linseed oil, olive oil and vegetable oil are all commonly used to lengthen the lifespan of tools.
Read last month's Grow Wild article about your winter garden: