KC Gardens

These fall garden chores set the stage for spring

Clean up summer’s wilting and dead plants to reduce the spread of disease and bugs.
Clean up summer’s wilting and dead plants to reduce the spread of disease and bugs.

Another season in the vegetable garden is coming to a close. Summer’s milder temperatures and timely rainfalls resulted in good yields. But before we close the books on this year, there are a few chores that can be done now to put you on the road to success for next year.

Clean up residue

Removing vines and plants can greatly reduce the spread of insects and diseases. Leaving the old materials in the garden provides a haven for insects to overwinter and disease spores to lie dormant until spring.

You may be tempted to compost this refuse. But the woody stems of tomatoes and other vegetables will take time to break down and may not completely kill the pests. I recommend simply discarding the vegetable debris.

Till the soil

Turning over the soil in the fall offers a number of advantages for next season.

Rough till the soil, leaving it a little rough or cloddy. The freezing and thawing of winter will break down the soil.

Come spring take a rake and smooth out the surface and you are ready for planting.

Add organic matter

KC soils tend to be high in clay. This makes the soil slow to drain and easy to compact, resulting in poor plant growth.

Organic matter such as compost, peat moss and other materials naturally counteract the properties of clay by adding air space in the soil, helping hold more moisture. This allows the plants to root deeper.

As you till the soil, incorporate 2 to 4 inches of good quality organic matter.

Get a soil test

A soil test can be run through any of the metro area cooperative extension offices. The results will provide you with the information needed to correct any imbalances. An improper level pH level in the soil, for example, can reduce a plant’s ability to pick up the nutrients needed for good growth.

The soil test also provides a basic analysis of the type of fertilizer you need to apply for the best growth.

Make notes

We all have good intentions and think we will remember what worked and what didn’t. But come spring time, we often forget what we were going to do differently.

Now is a good time to take a few minutes and jot down notes on which varieties worked and which crops did not succeed.

Store unused seeds

Vegetable seeds will remain viable for two to three years when properly stored in a cool and dry environment. Tuck seed packets into a zip-top bag or container and put them in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.

Following these tips will go a long way to ending the season on a high note and helping you know that the next growing season will start out on the right foot.