By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Skaggs: Prepare garden for next season with these chores
Placeholder Image

Gardening may have seemed more work than reward during the summer.

But if you're ready to hang up the hoe and spade for the winter, don't quit just yet. A few fall maintenance chores will help you avoid problems next spring.

First, make some good notes before you forget this season. Take note of varieties that performed particularly well or not so well.

Make a map of areas in the garden that have problem weeds. Identify them if you can. Note any areas that have stayed too wet or areas that didn't produce well.

Fall is the ideal time to collect a soil sample for testing at your local county Extension office. Test your soil sometime within the next two months, so you'll have ample time to apply any needed lime well before spring planting.

Once you've updated your records, remove any trellises you've put up in the garden. Remove any string or plant debris and knock off any excess soil. Store them in a dry place to help preserve the life of the trellis materials.

Be sure to give the garden a thorough cleaning, and I don't mean with a broom and dustpan.

Now is the time to discard diseased or insect-riddled plants. While it is common practice to incorporate old plants into the garden soil to add organic matter, don't do so if there's been a significant pest problem.

Insect-infested foliage and stems left on the ground can harbor pests that may come back next year.

If you have irrigation in your garden, don't just leave everything in place. Remove hoses, sprinklers, drip tape, etc. Store these out of the elements for the winter, after you remove any excess soil or plant debris.

Repair, sharpen and lightly oil garden implements before storage, too.

Now that you have all the obstacles out of the way, it's a good idea to run a rotary mower across the garden to chop up any plant debris that remains. This allows plant debris to dry down faster and keeps weeds from going to seed before frost. Applying a nonselective herbicide (such as glyphosate) a few days before mowing is even better.

Use the fall to add organic matter like grass clippings, manure and leaves that have been composted. Then bury the organic matter and debris by turning the land and planting a cover crop for the winter.

This will help prevent soil erosion. It can build up the soil when you turn under the cover crop in the spring. A grain such as rye or wheat works well for this.

Finally, don't forget to order your seed catalogs by the end of the year and begin planning next year's garden. Getting your seed ordered early in the year will better your chances of getting the varieties you want.

Enjoy the coming fall. As I've gotten older, it seems that spring gets here faster every year. It won't be long until gardening fever will set in, and you'll be anxious to get out and play in the dirt again.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.