Although the past week has been gloriously sunny and warm, the end of October signals that garden season is coming to a close here in NE Missouri. I’ve already pulled my cucumbers, cantaloupe, and zucchini out of the ground, and will soon strip my tomato vines and pepper plants.
Preparing my garden for the winter months is a task that I actually look forward to each year. It’s an opportunity for me to reflect upon the abundance of the harvest season, and yet also a chance to rest and renew my enthusiasm for next year’s garden (bigger and better!).
As I put the garden to bed, I like to remember the FIVE C’s of preparing for winter:
Compost, Cover, Collect, Create, and Celebrate.
As I pull plants out of the garden, I immediately bring them to one of three compost piles: The first is a slower composting pile for for large woody stemmed plants, such as sunflower stalks, or tomato vines. The second is for leafy greens such as brown kale leaves, or rotting tomatillos. The third pile, separate from the others, and outside the garden fence, is for invasive weeds that I’m trying to remove from the garden.
It may seem easier to leave dead plants in the garden, but I have found that when my garden is properly prepped in the fall, and all spent garden plants are properly composted, that I am rewarded with not only a much healthier garden, but also a super quick spring prep.
Whether you like to cover your soil with mulch or with a cover crop, it is essential to cover that bare soil! I typically cover my garden beds with 6 inches of straw mulch, but leaf mulch is also a great cover (and abundant in fall!). In the spring, I simply move the mulch layer to the path to allow the sun to warm the soil, do my seeding or transplanting, and replace the straw when plants have grown up a few inches.
This fall I’m experimenting with a winter rye cover crop in the upper garden. I thickly sowed the rye and lightly raked it into the soil. I look forward to sharing my experiences with this crop.
Fall is a great time to save seeds! Love those brilliant orange cosmos and zinnias that you grew this year? Save some seed! Did you grow a fantastic heirloom tomato or melon whose flavor knocked your socks off? Save some seed!
Here’s a great resources for saving seed: Seed Savers Exchange Seed Saving Instructions
And one about Saving Heirloom Seeds.
Fall is the perfect time to create new sheet mulch (or lasagna garden) beds. In fact, my compost pile for leafy vegetation is in my new sheet mulched bed. As I remove healthy, but spent plants, I simply heap them onto my bed of straw, horse manure, and food scraps. I’ll continue to layer throughout the fall, and in the spring, the bed will be ready to plant into.
For more information about how to create a sheet mulch garden, check out these posts:
Yes, you’ve worked incredibly hard this spring, summer, and fall, providing food for your family and your community. Now it’s time to celebrate your accomplishments.
I was really thrilled by our upper garden this year, as well as by the fall garden that will provide us with greens and roots into November or December.
What was particularly successful in your garden this year?
Write it down in your own garden journal, and please, share it in the comments!