As many cling onto the final rays of summer, I am excited to be entering one my favourite seasons. It may be because I am a temperate kind of girl, who prefers to layer up in sweaters and scarves to bikinis and a sunhat. Although I miss the early sunrises and longer days, I get excited about the change of landscape and the traditions that come with the season. It also gives me a break from a busy summer of harvesting and markets, and allows me to focus on my personal goals and time to plan for the upcoming busy holiday season and the coming year.
I am not the only one planning ahead. Trees and plants do a great job taking Mother Nature’s cue to prepare for the winter months. When the first leaf starts to transform from its green colour to its true colour, that’s our cue to prepare our gardens as well. Believe it or not, fall preparation will yield greater spring and summer results in your garden.
Here are some of my Top Ten Tips for fall gardening
& preparing for next year’s gardening season.
01. Garden Journal
Take some time to review what you’ve enjoyed about your garden. Make some notes on your favourite varieties of veggies, flower combinations in your flower beds or container gardens, any pests or diseases that were present, how much time you spent in your garden, and what inspired and brought you joy. These notes will help you save time and money for the next season and make you a better gardener. It’s great if you can keep a journal during the season, but if that seems like too much work, consider taking pictures. I take lots of pictures of my garden during the growing season to help jog my memory and help me determine my future gardening plans.
02. Start Prepping Now!
The earlier the better! The weather can change and it’s far more enjoyable to work outside while the daytime temperatures are warm. Don’t wait until the end of October when the rainy season hits when you may have to do your garden work with a headlamp.
03. Garden Clean Up
Remove weeds, diseased or dead plants from the garden. Do not put weeds and diseased plants in the compost, as they may not be killed off by the process and can spread through the rest of your garden. Burn them or put them with your garbage that goes to the landfill. Vegetables and annuals that are finished should be completely removed and put into your compost. Herbaceous perennials that have gone yellow can be pruned back and composted, but keep the ones with seedpods as they offer food for the birds and offer you some winter interest.
04. Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs
After a long cold winter, a bright daffodil or a snowdrop brings much hope that warmer days are to come. Take advantage of the soft soil and plant spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips, alliums, narcissus, galanthus, muscari and fritillaria. They will brighten up the garden and your day before everything else wakes up in the spring.
05. Test Your soil
If you were wondering why that veggie or plant was not thriving or you are experiencing lots of pest and disease problems, it likely has to do with your soil. Building a good bio-diverse and healthy soil for your garden will translate to happier plants. There are simple test kits available from your local garden centre that will provide basic nutrient and pH levels in your soils. Keep in mind that there is no need to add soil to your garden at this time of the year.
If there is anything that you can be adding to your soil it is compost! It’s your garden’s immune booster. Add 2 – 3” of compost to the top of your garden. Apply before the ground freezes so that the rain can release the nutrients into your soil base, which will give you a head start in the spring. Good healthy soil will hold air, water, and drain more efficiently; it will produce plants with fewer insect and disease problems, and will encourage a larger population of beneficial soil microorganisms, which control harmful ones. Note: compost should have a sweet earthy smell and a crumbly texture. If it has a strong sour smell its not been properly cured.
Autumn leaves, grass clippings, and bark mulch make the best mulch. Lay down the mulch just as the ground is starting to freeze which will help to keep it at a consistent temperature. The nitrogen and nutrients in leaf matter will also add nutrients to the soil.
08. Clean Your Tools
Before you trade in your garden fork for a snow shovel, it’s important to clean your tools. I use a solution of ½ rubbing alcohol and ½ water to disinfect and protect from the spread of disease. This is especially important when pruning from one to plant to another. Wood handles should be treated with linseed oil to keep them from cracking.
09. Collect Seeds
Collecting seeds, especially from open pollinated, non-GMO heirloom varieties, is crucial to the biodiversity and health of our garden, and is a fun exercise to be shared with the kids. By collecting seeds from your healthy veggies or plants, you can save yourself money and see better results in your garden. F1 Hybrid plants do not always produce the same plant or may be sterile. If you want to learn more about seed saving, check out my blog from this spring – Making a difference one seed at a time.
10. Container Garden Love
Don’t let that dead geranium or potato vine remind you that summer is gone. Compost them and replace them with bright coloured mums or combine them with flowering kale and ornamental grass. Container gardening does not have to be a one hit wonder – they can be enjoyed all year long. If your planter is not a frost resistant pot, then this is a good time to clean them (and give them a good scrub) so that they will be ready for next year. If you want to learn more about 4-Season Container Gardening, check out my new Container Garden Design Services page.
I hope you are digging these garden tips. If you are craving more, please check out some of my favourite sites and resources below or send me a note. I am happy to help find the best earth friendly solution for you. Until then, happy gardening and I will leave you with this thought…
West Coast Seeds Fall & Winter Gardening Guide
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