Posted on 27 January 2013 by

Gardening Chores-Closing the Garden for the Season

Tags: ,

Photo Credit: Fall garden by Indy Kethdy’s used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

I am always sad when it comes to the end of a gardening season.

I think about the dishes I fixed, funny stories that I will share with my friends and how I and my garden have grown together.

This year, I have also thought about what the future holds for me and my family.

My family dynamics have changed. I am now an empty nester whose children visit for the fresh produce they miss.

I am also getting older and issues in the garden that drove me crazy in the past just seem to be part of life instead of an intrusion on my time. But as I walk down the garden path of the past, I also need to be cleaning it up so that I have a clean palate for the next garden season.

The first thing I do at the end of the season is to remove all produce and plant material. It is amazing how performing this simple task can save ones garden from a lot of pests and disease problems. Once I have removed the plant material, I dispose of it according to the type. Anything in the nightshade family gets thrown away.

The reason for this is due to nematodes. These little creatures live in the roots of these plants. When they are left in the garden space or composted, the little creatures just make home in the soil. When the next gardening season appears, you already have a nematode problem before you get started.

Next, cover the surface area. This is a step that many beginning gardeners forget. The next gardening year, problems will arise from this missed step. Ground covers can come in many forms. This includes living ground covers (green manures) straw, plastic and cardboard. Each one of these covers has its own pros and cons.

Living ground covers provide a high nitrogen fertilizer when tilled into the soil. One of the common green manures that are used is anything in the legume family such as soybeans. Others include red clover and vetch. Any living ground cover will protect the soil from soil erosion and reduce the invasion of weeds. But the negative to this type of cover is that it does need to be tilled in prior to planting next year’s garden crops.

Straw is another surface cover that has been used for years. It is cheap but it is easy to remove come the next gardening season. It helps control soil erosion and weed invasion. The negative is that you need to make sure that you purchase straw and not hay. If hay is used, you will end up with a large crop of weeds that will need to be dealt with prior to planting your garden crops.

Plastic and cardboard is another approach. In the past, many gardeners have either used plastic or cardboard but not both. Recently, it has been found that plastic laid on the ground can cause chemical contamination. To prevent this, lay cardboard down first and then top with plastic. The big positive of this technique is the fact that the plastic/cardboard layer can warm the soil up so that one can plant sooner.

So this year, do not just harvest the fruits of your labor and put off cleaning the garden until next year. If you do you will be disappointed in the garden season’s results. Until we blog again, cleaning today will save tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Recent Comments