It’s decision time… time to tuck our gardens in for winter, or keep them growing with season extending techniques.
What will you do? Have a fall garden that you’re proud of? I want to hear about it!
For advice on what you can do in your garden right now, read below for what our garden expert Ruth has to say:
I didn’t get it together to plant a fall garden, but the weather has been so nice I want to work in my garden. Can I do anything now toward next years garden?
Absolutely! Run out this very second and plant your garlic. Plant fruit trees and small fruit now too. They will grow roots over the winter and be better established when spring arrives. There is still time to sow a good crop of winter rye. Winter rye is harder to incorporate into the soil come springtime, but rye will definitely provide the wonderful benefits of “green manure”. Remember, cover crops are one of the fastest roads to soil improvement and they prevent topsoil erosion. With serious weather looming, it’s time to cover your lettuces and cole crops (cabbage, kale) with floating row cover for winter protection.
Spread raw manure and lime in fall. After you spread them, be sure to incorporate them into the soil. This prevents runoff that can pollute our waterways, and captures all the nutrients and benefits so they won’t be washed away by winter precipitation. Lime requires a few months in the soil before it is available to your crops, so liming in fall is a great idea. (NC Cooperative Extension offers free soil testing!). The manure will be adequately broken down by springtime for safe planting.
Utilize your fallen leaves and your neighbor’s leaves too. Consider those leaf-piles sitting on the curb as a free resource just begging to be composted. If you don’t have time to actually compost your leaves, consider piling them up in some back corner of your property and let nature take its course. Eventually they will compost themselves and will make a wonderful soil amendment. (Avoid using magnolia leaves. They take eons to compost.) If you have a mulching lawnmower, rather than raking leaves up in fall…mow your dry leaves. The mower will crunch them up and in the process add nutrients to your grass.
Consider tilling a small portion of your garden now, for utilization as an early spring planting area. Usually in late winter/ early spring the soil is too wet to work. Finding an opportune gardening window can be challenging when you are juggling work schedules, kids’ soccer games, and gardening aspirations. Typically, it rains the day before you plan to work in your garden, forcing you to once again postpone gardening until the ground is dry enough to work (soil that is wet when worked can take over a year to recover its former structure).
Check your garden area for wayward tools. Clean them and bring them indoors. Wipe the metal parts down with old oil, and coat wood handles with linseed oil. Jumpstart spring gardening by sharpening your hoes, spades, and shovels now.
Choose to support area farmers, and tailgate market vendors. Many will be attending tailgate markets or special holiday markets up until Christmas, and some sell in local natural groceries over the winter.
Thanks for writing and Happy Thanksgiving!
Ask Ruth © 2013 Ruth Gonzalez & Organic Growers School
Ruth Gonzalez is a former market farmer, gardener, and local food advocate who wants to see organic farms proliferate and organic gardens in every yard. She serves on the Organic Growers School Board of Directors, and in her job at Reems Creek Nursery, Ruth offers advice on all sorts of gardening questions, and benefits daily from the wisdom of local gardeners.