Now is the time when heirloom gardeners start getting their vegetable gardens ready for Winter. This is not just the end of this season, it is a time to lay the ground work for a good start to next year’s successful heirloom garden! New gardeners among us will wonder what they need to do to finish things off when their harvest is complete for the season.
Once you have picked all the heirloom produce that’s left in your garden, get things wound down for the year by cleaning up the beds. Taking time in the Fall to clean up a bit, makes getting the garden ready in the Spring a whole lot easier, and kicks things off to a good start next year.
- Save your Heirloom Seeds. Any plants that you have been saving the seeds on, now is the time to harvest, before dismantling the
garden for the season. Save any of your heirloom or open-pollinated seeds from plants that have matured.
- Complete your note taking for the year. If you create maps of your garden, this is a great time to take a look back at your maps, and make sure you added everything in that you planted, or to make changes if you moved plants around, etc. while this information is still fresh in your memory. Notes of what worked well, what didn’t, what you would like to grow again, or didn’t like for flavor, all these things are valuable information to file away for next year to make it easier to remember this year’s gardening experience.
- Remove all Plants. Pull up or cut down any and all plants that are left and, either leave then on the ground to decompose, add them to the compost pile, or, if the are any plants that are diseased, burn them or thrown them in the garbage. Do not compost any plants that are diseased or weeds that have gone to seed. Adding weeds that have gone to seed to your compost pile may cause you have a bumper crop of weeds in your garden next year! A properly heated compost pile will kill seeds from heirloom plants, but, we don’t usually risk it. Avoid leaving any old heirloom fruits or vegetables including squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, etc… in the garden, or you will have these heirloom plants coming up all over the place next Spring.
- Clean up your Garden. Remove all stakes, boards, labels, row markers, plastic, shingles, or anything else from your garden. Plastic mulch can get thrown in the trash, floating row covers can be washed off and stored away for next year.
- Add Amendments. This is the perfect time to add a load of compost or fertilizer, such as worm castings, to your soil so they can soak in and feed your soil throughout the winter for next years garden. Now would also be the time to till leaves or other amendments into your garden, so that by Spring much of the decomposing is done.
- Cover your Garden. You can cover your garden to help protect the soil over the winter. A deep layer of straw, mulch, or a cover crop will help protect the soil from the stress of winter and helps prevent soil erosion.
- Clean up and Sharpen Garden Tools. Over the course of the gardening year, tools can become quite dirty and dull. Now is the time to
clean them up and sharpen any that have become dull. A light coat of mineral oil will protect them through the winter. Change the oil in your rototiller and add Sta-bil Fuel Stabilizer to the gas. Sta-Bil Storage Fuel Stabilizer keeps fuel fresh for quick easy starts after storage.
Doing this work now may be a bit hard at the end of the season, when you may feel worn out, but, it really pays off when you head out into the garden next Spring! You’ll be glad you took the time. 🙂
When the dreary days of Winter start to get to you, don’t forget you can start planning for next year to help look forward to warmer weather, fresh air, and the joys of gardening. Once you recover from the work of bedding down the garden from this year, you can enjoy planning what to grow next year!