A bit of work in fall makes for smooth sailing in spring

With the fall season here, it is important to take care of the home and hearth and get them ready for next spring to avoid...

With the fall season here, it is important to take care of the home and hearth and get them ready for next spring to avoid additional work.

According to Rob Spencer, chair of Heartland Beautification Committee, as the gardening season winds down from summer to fall to winter, there are a number of things that people can do “to wrap things up with a nice, tidy bow and get things in place for the next year.”

“The first step is to clean up the space that you have,” said Spencer. “You can remove and compost the debris from the plants that you grew this season, or you can spread them around the space and/or incorporate them into the soil.”

Spencer said that heavy, chunky and woody materials, such as sunflower and corn stalks or pieces of cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, etc.) might be best removed and allowed to gradually break down, as they can make the seed bed a bit rough for a year or two afterwards.

“But less substantial materials will quickly break down and will contribute organic matter to the soil, which is great,” said Spencer. “Adding organic matter to your soil will improve soil health and make most soils easier to work, especially heavier, clay soils.”

Organic matter also represents a long term source of soil nutrients, according to Spencer, and adding peat moss, composted manure or compost derived from various types of vegetation is fairly easy and inexpensive.

“You can let it sit on the surface for the winter or you can work it into the garden space in the fall,” added Spencer. “If you leave the surface a bit rough, this will have the added benefit of perhaps trapping a bit more snow through the winter.”

Growing tougher crops during fall

Spencer also added that since fall is also a time where one can plant some tougher crops for next year – provided they are well protected for the winter – it might be a good time to try out what works.

“Fall-planted garlic is an easy win and doesn’t take much effort,” said Spencer. “For those perennial crops that you are overwintering, you can cover them or just trim them up so that they are tidy and free from excessive amounts of foliage.”

Explaining how it should be done, Spencer added that prior to a hard freeze up, one might give the perennials a drink of water, to ensure that they are fully hydrated before the dry winter.

“If you don’t specifically water them, at least ensure that they aren’t wilted and dried out leading up to their climb into dormancy,” said Spencer. “Some crops will also benefit from an insulating layer of straw for protection. You don’t need thick piles of it, just a loose three to six inches of straw.”

Spencer also suggested that if one had enough space, they might consider moving around or rotating the crops that they are growing, even leaving some spaces with just a cover crop for a year or two.

“If you are limited in the space that you have available, at least move things around so that the same crop isn’t in the exact same location as this year,” said Spencer.