From Dennis Patton:
My family just had the last fresh tomato, bacon and lettuce sandwich of the year. What a wonderful year it was in the vegetable garden. For years 2015 will be remembered as the summer of ample rainfall and mild temperatures. A gardener could not ask for more from a Kansas City summer.
As they say, all good things must come to an end. The much cooler temperatures and hints of frost have brought to a close the vegetable season for most crops. Now gardeners are ready to turn their attention to 2016.
Questions have already begun: so what do you think it will be like next year? No one really knows, but gardeners are eternal optimists and at this time we approach the next season with ideas of it will be our best ever. Before old man winter sets in there are still just a few more garden chores that can help us prepare for next year.
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Vegetable garden cleanup is the first step to putting the garden to bed for the winter. Removal of the old foliage, vines and plant debris will help reduce insect and disease issues next season.
The issue is then to compost or not. The answer to this question really depends on your style. If you have space in the compost bin, then go ahead and compost. But if you are out of space or cannot compost thick heavy vines then maybe disposal is the best option. I know in my own garden I cannot handle the amount of tomato vines. These are bagged and sent off to the landfill composting facility.
Don’t just remove old vegetable debris but also get after those weeds. Weeds this late in the season only have one purpose and that is to drop as many seeds as possible. That means next year the weeds will be thick and ready to choke out your plants and of course create more work. You may know the old saying. “Give a weed an inch and it will take a yard” or in this case a vegetable garden.
Prepare the soil
The second step is to turn the soil this fall. Coarse spading or tilling the soil will pay off come spring when you are ready to plant. The emphasis here is on the word coarse, leave chunks and clods as the freezing and thawing of winter will break these down. Come spring take a garden rake, and they will crumble leaving soil ready to plant the first peas, radishes or potatoes of the year.
Fall is also a great time to add organic matter such as compost. Organic matter is the only way to improve our heavy clay soils. When tilling incorporate a nice 2 to 4 inch layer into the soil 6 to 8 inches deep. Here again the forces of winter will help break down and incorporate this material leaving you with great soil come spring.
Soil testing is also helpful in the fall. If the soil test reveals the need to alter the pH level then the amendments can be made and the winter conditions will start the process. The soil test will also provide the basis for your fertility program helping to ensure you have a good harvest. Soil testing is available through all metro area extension offices.
Take advantage of the sunny, mild November days and get a jump on the 2016 season by taking a few minutes for fall garden prep. Trust me from experience; you will be so glad you did these steps come spring when the gardener’s blood is just pumping to get outside.