Growing and tending a garden through the spring and summer can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding of human experiences. The harvest in the early fall is simply sublime. But cleaning all that mess up? It’s much less poetry-worthy. Even so, there’s a certain art to putting the vegetable garden to bed, one that can increase your yields year after year once you’ve mastered it.
The end of the gardening season is never pretty. Dried up plants, often broken or bent, are scattered across a once-fertile landscape in an almost post-apocalyptic scenario. It’s dark, it’s brown, it’s all kinds of heart-wrenching to know you’ve reached the end of the life cycle of your garden. But take heart! What you’re seeing is just another part of the cycle, the beginning of another stage of your garden’s life.
In the fall and winter, all the nutrients those vegetable plants used up to produce lovely vegetables and fruits have to be returned to the soil. Some of that comes in the form of spent vegetation breaking down, and some will come in the form of additives to the soil. Both work together to ensure that next year’s is a bumper crop.
There are three basic elements that can be used to bulk up an end season garden for the next year:
Go one step further and add the equivalent of one quarter of the depth of your container or garden spot in compost. Doing this in the fall gives your compost plenty of time to break down, releasing even more nutrients to the soil, while improving both moisture retention and drainage. To figure out how much compost you need, dig down to the bottom of your prepared garden spot or pot and stick a tape measure in. Divide that figure in inches by four and apply that many inches of soil across the top, then mix it into the garden thoroughly.
In addition to these many options, gardeners also sometimes cover their gardens with clear plastic to help encourage sun solarization, a method that helps destroy pests like nematodes within the top few inches of soil. Your garden can only be solarized if it’s bare, however, so you’ll have to opt out of cover crops during the solarization period.
If you’re not sure how to get started putting your garden to bed this year, don’t worry! Your HomeKeepr community has your back. Just ask for a recommendation for the best landscaper or other horticultural expert in your area, and your garden spot will be on track to rest and develop through the cold of the year in no time.