Prepare for The Upcoming Season
How to Plan an Autumn Kitchen Garden
Are you already resting on your laurels from this summer's fruitful garden labors? Well, there are many more laurels, er, make that beets, spinach and lettuce to grow before the snow comes. Planting a fall garden can be a rewarding effort and a great start to preparing your entire yard for winter's dormancy as the last head of lettuce is plucked. Here are four things to do that will help sprout a tasty new leaf during fall's shorter days. 1. Clean up summer's growth
* Compost any weeds and leaf litter that have accumulated in your planting beds. Be careful not to put weeds that have gone to seed into your compost, or you will end up with weeds wherever you spread that compost.
* Vegetables that have stopped fruiting should also be removed to the compost area. If you are growing heirloom plants, you may want to save the seeds from these plants in a cool, dry place for next season. 2. Prepare your garden bed
* Fall's shorter days mean fewer hours of sustaining sunlight are available to veggies. For the new additions, choose a location within your existing vegetable garden that is free from still-maturing vegetables. This allows the new plants to avoid competing for water and nutrients.
* Lightly turn the bedding soil and rake in a soil amendment, such as composted organic material, to give cool-season plants the nutrients they need to flourish. 3.Plant appropriate vegetables
* Check the Old Farmer's Almanac
for the first frost dates in your region.
* Pick seasonal vegetables with short growth durations. Beets, kale and crisp lettuce, which mature in about 30 days, thrive in cool, pre-frost conditions. 4.Extend the growing season
* Add mulch around the sprouts of cool-season vegetables to ensure moisture is available. Lack of moisture can cause bitterness in lettuce.
* Learn how to build a simple cold frame
--a kind of portable greenhouse--to extend the life of your cool-weather plants.
* If you have the time and the space, stagger the planting of cool-season crops every two weeks. This allows you to harvest a continuous crop--at least for as long as the temperature remains moderate.
How to Put the Garden to Bed for the Winter
A little maintenance now will have you smoothly raking your way through fall, ready for a carefree winter and prepared for a refreshing spring garden. 1. Clean and green
* Tidy up by gathering loose leaf litter in a compost pile and chipping fallen branches to use as mulch around the base of shrubs and trees. If you can't rent or borrow a wood chipper, check with your local municipality to see if it offers a public composting facility.
* Consider leaving ornamental grasses and perennials that bear attractive seed heads or leafing to stand for the winter. The seeds can attract wildlife to your backyard habitat, and the plant texture will be a welcome relief during a stark winter.
* Pull any plants that died out during the growing season. Consider replacing the expired plant with one more suited to drought or more tolerant of the light or soil conditions. When planting replacements, allow at least a month before the first frost. This gives you adequate time to water the plants and allows their roots to get established.
* When pruning trees and shrubs, first consult a resource to determine which season to prune. Some hardwood trees and deciduous shrubs are better pruned in winter, when sap is more viscous and the form is more visible.
* To maintain a healthy winter turf, overseed with an annual ryegrass.
* Dig up any bulbs that you want to keep over the winter and store them in a cool, dry place. 2. Take care of the garden tools
* After making your final prunes and cuts, brush dirt and residue from your garden tools and apply boiled linseed oil or Inhibitor V80
to the exposed metal surfaces. This will prevent the tools from rusting in the toolshed.
* Drain and coil the garden hose. Water left inside can freeze and expand over the winter, damaging the hose walls. Hang the coiled hose up off the floor, then connect the male and female ends together, making a loop, to prevent critters from nesting inside.
* If you have gas-powered yard equipment, it is a good idea to drain the gas tank. Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank (its instructions should explain how much) and run the engine dry. "There's always a little fuel left in the carburetor--it's impossible to get it all out," says Gent Simmons, a product manager at outdoor equipment manufacturer Husqvarna
. But having a low amount of stabilized fuel prevents damage to the carburetor. If you have a metal gas tank, which is rare in mowers but can appear in older tillers or dethatchers, first stabilize and fill the tank, then disconnect the fuel line and run the engine dry. Simmons says the fuel prevents the walls of the metal tank from rusting.