October 22, 2014
As the days get shorter and the temperatures slowly drop down, the vegetable garden will soon need to be put to bed for the winter. Here are some of the things that you need to do before winter sets in.
Toward the end of the growing season, it seems almost inevitable that insects and plant diseases invade the garden. Human nature would seem to make us lose interest in tending to the garden when the garden is no longer producing a bumper crop. Any of the infested plants that are left in the garden can be a home for insects and diseases to spend the winter in your garden. Come the spring, they “ spring “ back to life and you are battling the same old problems year after year. You should remove all dead plants from your garden. Any dead of decaying vegetables or leaves that may be on the ground should be removed as well. If you have a compost pile that will heat up enough to destroy any insects or diseases that are harboring on the plants, then put the plants into your compost pile. If you chop up the plants into smaller pieces, they will decompose faster. Otherwise, you should dispose of the plants and their parts with your fall leaf clean up.
Once the plant debris is gone, you should loosen the soil and add some lime to the soil. Unless you are growing potatoes in your garden, the majority of your plants will grow best in a fairly neutral PH. Some people like to add compost or an organic fertilizer to the soil at this time of the year. If you were going to be doing this, it would be beneficial to turn the fertilizer and compost into the soil. I know that some people will disagree with this method, but it is better to have the fertilizer in the soil than chance that it will run off the garden. When all of this is done, it is time to plant your final crop of the season. If we do not get snow in early winter, the blowing wind can strip off layers of your soil. Over the years, you can lose inches of soil to the drying winter wind. To prevent this from happening, you can plant what is known as a cover crop. The most common cover crop for the late fall is winter rye. Winter rye is a large seed that is scattered onto the soil. Some people prefer to lightly work it into the soil. Other just let the seed nestle into the loose soil that occurs when the old vegetable plants are removed. The winter rye will sprout and quickly turn into a green haze of thick blades of the grass -like winter rye. The root system will spread through the soil, helping to anchor the soil in place. The growing blades of the rye will keep the wind from whipping across the soil and stripping away the soil. At some point, the soil will freeze and the rye continues to do it job of protecting the soil. In the very early spring, as the soil thaws, the rye will continue to grow. As soon as the soil dries a bit in the spring, the winter rye must be tilled into the soil. All that green leafy rye will then be adding valuable organic matter back into the soil.
We have winter rye seed in several different sizes at our store. Getting your garden ready for winter is the final step in your growing season. Soon enough the snow will fly and yet, soon enough, it will be time to plant the peas again.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.