Last Wednesday, I happily celebrated the autumnal equinox. With the astronomical start of fall, cooler temperatures are finally filtering into South Carolina, sweeping out the heat and humidity. For gardeners, the start of fall means a whole new set of important gardening chores that are waiting to be completed. And a head start now means less work for the spring planting season.
Here are some of my favorite tips to close out the growing season right.
1. Clean Up Garden Beds
If you’re not growing cool weather crops for the fall, now’s the time to clean up any plant debris left behind from your summer plantings. Removing this organic material will help reduce the incidences of future disease and pests. If you had issues with plant diseases during the growing season, do not compost any of the affected plant remains as most domestic composters never get near the 130 or 140 degrees Fahrenheit needed to destroy many of these plant pathogens.
2. Weed, Weed, Weed
I know everyone hates weeding, especially after the harvest has ended. However, a good weeding in and around the garden at the end of the year will help prevent some weeds from overwintering and will destroy some important habitats for many insect pests. Also, if your garden plot is in your formal yard, like mine is, now is the time to edge your garden plot to stop the gradual encroachment of grasses.
3. Test And Amend Your Soil
Testing your soil this time of year means you’ll be able amend it well before the spring planting season. Testing is as simple as contacting your local extension agent to get a sample bag or box and then following the instructions to submit your soil sample. In the same vein as soil testing, this is also the time of year to be adding compost and other organic materials now to enrich your garden soil.
4. Try Journaling Again
If you tried and failed to keep or update your garden journal during the spring and summer months, now is a great time to jot down a few general notes about any successes or failures you faced, favorite cultivars to grow again next year, a simple sketch map of plantings to help with crop rotation for 2016, and any other observations regarding the soil conditions, diseases and pests.
5. Maintain Your Equipment
Finally, clean and lightly oil your tools after you have finished your fall chores. Store the clean tools in a dry environment off the ground. These simple steps will help protect your investment in good shovels, rakes and hoes by preventing rust and corrosion.