As much as we hate to admit it, fall is here and winter is right on its heels. It’s time to get your garden ready for next year by doing a few things before the snow flies.
Clean up your garden beds or planters. Remove and compost all your dead vegetation and rotting fruit or veggies that you didn’t get a chance to eat before the first frost. If your plants had fungus, mildew, mold, or blight, burn or trash them rather than composting; your compost pile won’t get hot enough to kill those microorganisms and they could spread to your plants next year.
After you’ve cleaned everything out, add a layer of finished compost and mulch to get your garden off to a good start next spring.
If you have a lawn, gather your fall leaves. Leaves are great mulch and compost materials, and over time those leaves will break down into humus, a lovely, rich soil that will make your garden bloom even better next year. The leaves will compost more quickly if you can shred them using a mower, but even if you can’t, it’s worth piling your leaves in the compost.
Get a soil test. This is especially important if your garden didn’t grow so well in spite of everything you did to help it along. Your soil may need special amendments to give it the ideal balance of nutrients for crop growth. A soil test will tell you your soil pH (acid/alkaline balance); the levels of potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur in your soil; the level of organic matter; and whether your soil has toxic materials like lead in it.
Plant garlic. Garlic always does best if it’s started in the fall. Use a bed or container that didn’t have garlic or any of its relations (onions, scallions, shallots, or chives) growing in it. Plant the bulbs about 6 inches apart and 1 to 2 inches deep, then cover with 1 to 2 inches of fine soil. If you live in the northern U.S., add a six-inch layer of mulch before the ground freezes in order to protect the bulbs. Next spring, your garlic crop will be off to a great start!
Finally, remember what did well and what didn’t, and consider making notes that you can refer to when you start your garden again next spring.