Fall Gardening Guide and Checklist

by James



The growing season is almost over by the time fall rolls around but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop gardening. There are many things to be done in the garden this time of year to prepare for the next growing season.

Fall gardening can be productive and produce late-season vegetables like kale and turnips if you plant cool-season crops. Even if you don’t like some of the hardy cool-season vegetables fall is the time to plant them as a winter cover crop.

It is the time for improving the garden soil so next year’s garden can produce bigger, better, and more vegetables and fruits than it did this year. Follow this fall gardening guide and get your garden in good shape and maybe even extend the growing season for a few more weeks.

Clean Up Garden

Pull up and discard all plants that are have ceased production. Inspect the plants as you pull them up for evidence of pests or disease. If the plants are pest and disease-free toss them on the compost pile so they can decompose and be added back to the garden soil next year. Dispose of pest-infested or diseased plants so the problem won’t be re-introduced back into the garden next year. Cucumber beetles, squash bugs, corn borers, potato bugs, and many other pests overwinter in the garden if infested plants are left in the vegetable garden.

Protect Producing Plants

Some plants will continue to produce until frost and are capable of tolerating a few light fall frosts and continue producing if they have a little protection.

If tomato vines, bean vines or other hardy plants still have produce on them that is not quite ripe, cover them with a sheet of newspaper at night when a frost is predicted. The light-weight newspaper will keep the frost off the plant and keep ripening produce from freezing. Be sure to remove the newspaper first thing in the morning before the sun shines on the plant.

Amend Soil

The nutrients in the soil have been depleted after feeding spring and summer plants and fall is the time to amend the soil so it will be fertile and ready to support plant life again.
After clearing the dead vegetation away add 2-4 inches of compost or well-rotted animal manure to the top of garden soil. If you have another favorite organic plant food, like kelp, molasses, or leaf mold, add that along with the compost or animal manure. Work that organic material into the soil to increase fertility, improve drainage, prevent soil compaction, and encourage beneficial microbial activity in the soil.

Plant Fall Vegetables

If you live in a climate that has a mild winter you can plant cool-season vegetables in the early fall and harvest fresh produce until mid-winter.

Cabbage, kale, broccoli, lettuce, radishes, turnips, mustard, collard, kohlrabi, and carrots are a few of the fall vegetables that grow well in the cooler weather. Even if you don’t like these vegetables or live in a climate that has more severe winter weather, plant some cool-season vegetables in fall to act as a cover crop and green manure.

Planting a fall cover crop improves the soil for better vegetable production next year. Fall gardening cover crops include those mentioned above plus small grains, grasses, and legumes. Fall cover crops will help prevent soil erosion, cut fertilizer costs, reduce the need for herbicides and other pesticides, and improve soil health. Turn the fall cover crop under in the early spring so it can quickly decompose and provide an instant meal to spring crops.
Several spring flowers, like daffodils and tulips, start from bulbs that need to be planted in the fall. Plant bulbs pointy end up, add a layer of mulch and some type of marker so you will know where the bulbs are at the end of winter.

Prune and Add Mulch

Inspect deciduous trees and shrubs for damaged or diseased branches and prune away those branches. Give plants a light pruning to shape and remove all pruned branches.
Fall is the time to add a fresh layer of organic mulch around perennials, shrubs and trees. Use tree bark, pine straw, hay, or other organic material as mulch. This will prevent plant roots from freezing and spring bulbs from being heaved out of the soil during the winter.

Garden DIY is a blog which reviews the latest gardening equipment and also publishes detailed guides on lawn care and general garden maintenance.

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