Five must-do end-of-season garden chores to ensure garden success next year

Posted by Jamie Oberdick on 11/03, 2015 at 02:34 PM

Five must-do end-of-season garden chores to ensure garden success next year

Fall gardens can still produce but time is now to prep for next winter.

So, even with this week’s mild weather, the reality is we are staring another Central Pennsylvania winter in its face. With cold, snow, and ice looming on the horizon, many of us are not thinking about gardening, but right now is a vital time for the success of next year’s garden.

There are steps that you can take now to help your perennial herbs survive the winter, ensure your fruit trees produce, prevent pests from coming on strong next spring, and feed your future veggie plants. Here’s five must-do chores to close out the year:

- Mulch the cold away: Mulching perennials can help ensure your favorite herbs come back next year, even if they are cold-hardy varieties. I made the mistake of not mulching my established sage plant, and it didn’t make it through our brutally cold winter last year. Mulching doesn’t mean going to the store to buy bagged mulch, lawn clippings or all those leaves on the ground at the moment make a great mulch.

- Do not prune your fruit trees: This is something NOT to do. For whatever reason, there are still a lot of people who volcano mulch and who prune their fruit trees now. As for the pruning, it’s not a good idea to do so right before trees go into dormancy. Pruning for most trees is best done in winter cold, and most trees really do not need pruned.

- Clean out your vegetable garden: Garden pests LOVE a lazy gardener because they give them plenty of places to overwinter. But you’ll likely pay for it next growing season. For example, if you don’t cut back asparagus, the asparagus beetles will have a place to overwinter (also, don’t mulch asparagus cuttings, burn or trash them). It helps to turn your soil over once you’ve cleaned out the garden to expose various pests to hungry birds (which seem to understand this as they hang out in my garden after I till) and freezing temperatures.

One thing to keep in mind; certain greens do well in chilly weather and are actually better tasting, and root vegetables can be kept under mulch in the ground all winter. Don’t get rid of those!

- Try growing cover crops: Planting a cover crop that will sprout and grow in the early spring is a great way to add nutrients to the soil when you till them in during the fall. Hairy vetch and field peas will add nitrogen, for example. Other cover crops to consider are arugula, red clover, and oats.

- Winter prep your tools: These are important maintenance steps. Be sure to drain all the fuel out of power tools like mowers, tillers, and weed cutters. Empty any containers that you will store in an outside shed so they don’t break from freeze expansion. Bring in any pesticides, fertilizers, paint, etc. that you have stored outside so they don’t freeze; but be extra careful you store them out of the reach of pets and kids. Sharpen your tools now so you don’t have to worry about it in the spring and clean off any dirt so they don’t rust.

Tags: gardening | fall |

{name} Author: Jamie Oberdick

Bio: Editor, Local Food Journey | Passionate about supporting local food in Central PA

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