Our outdoor growing season is winding down, but that doesn't mean you're off the hook for gardening chores just yet. There are many things you can do right now to make the best of the remaining season and set yourself up for success next year.
You still have time to plant fall flowers to enjoy until the frosty weather hits. Now is a good time to plant mums, winter pansies, decorative cabbages and kales.
According to the almanac, we aren't supposed to get our first frost until Nov. 16, but keep an eye on the weather for cold nights and early frosts. On cold nights, cover your plants with a light cloth or plastic bag to protect them. If you are growing late season lettuce, protect it with a row cover before the first frost.
Now is the time to plant bulbs that will pop up in the spring. Plant garlic, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocus. It's also a good time to transplant trees and shrubs that have gone dormant with the cold weather because they won't get as stressed.
Fall harvest and clean up
Harvest and preserve the last of your fruits and veggies. Can, freeze, dry, or store them in a root cellar.
Share extras with your friends, neighbors, and the local food bank. Throw what's left of your plants on the compost pile.
Build your soil
Fall is the best time to focus on re-building your soil for next spring. It's a good idea to test your soil to see what it needs. If necessary, adjust your soil's pH with lime or sulfur.
Dig compost into the top 3-4 inches of soil and around the base of established plants. You can also spread a thin layer of compost on your lawn to fertilize it. Add organic soil amendments such as kelp meal, greensand, rock phosphate and bone meal.
Cover your bare soil with mulch or cover crops. Shred the leaves from your yard with your lawn mower then spread them over your garden. The leaves will break down, feed the soil, prevent soil erosion and encourage microbial life.
In place of mulch, cow peas, clovers or soybeans are ideal cover crops. When you till them into the soil in the spring, they will provide nitrogen for your plants. Nitrogen is essential for early seedling growth.
Deal with pests and disease
Slugs can destroy a spring garden. Shrink next year's slug population with one final slug bait application now.
Keep an eye on your perennials for signs of pest and disease so you can treat them in the early stages. We are entering mold season.
Tools are expensive. If you take care of them, you'll only have to buy them once. Make sure to clean and oil them before you store them.
Once your garden is cleaned up and resting for the winter, make sure to request your seed catalogs so you can plan next year's garden.
Monica Rakowski owns KP Indoor Garden Store in Key Center and blogs at thenaturelifeproject.com.
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