Good Soil = Healthy Plants

Wintertime.  There I said it.  I always hate thinking about that time of year – especially right now when the fall weather has turned beautiful here in Ohio.  So…instead of thinking about the cold winter months ahead, I choose to stay positive and think instead of next spring and summer’s garden. Actually, much like a great lawn – what you do now and in the coming months can make a huge difference in the success of next year’s garden.  Here are four things you can do NOW to really jump-start your 2013 garden.


Although contrary to what we normally do – which is compost everything we can – we don’t compost our pepper and tomato plants from the garden.  We actually throw them on our burn pile and burn them with fallen sticks, etc.  Why?  Just too much chance for any plant disease to get passed through to the soil for next year.  In addition – the odd green or damaged fruit still on the plants, along with their thousand of seeds, are something we prefer to keep away from our compost pile.


Don’t let those weeds overwinter in your garden.  Clean them out now and prevent weeds from going to seed, digging deeper roots – and doubling your weeding efforts next year.


Chopped leaves and compost are the stars here.  Dig in generous amounts of compost to your raised beds or garden.  And start collecting those falling leaves now!  If you don’t have access to your own – make a trip around local neighborhoods and collect the bags or piles of leaves that accumulate at the curb.  We use our push mower to shred the leaves.  Then, we dig in generous amounts to our raised beds to decompose.  Even better, use the leaves as a mulch on your beds over the winter – helping to keep valuable soil from eroding.  Just dig into the bed’s soil in the spring.  For an even better mulch – try #4.

Make sure you clean your raised beds and garden rows of all weeds – don’t let them overwinter and go to seed


Just like the “big farmers” do – our gardens and raised beds benefit greatly from a cover crop.  We have already begun to plant our cover crops in the rows we have cleaned out.  We use annual rye – a great choice to help add lots of organic matter and nutrients to your soil – and also protect it over the winter months from leaching all of the nutrients out of your bare soil.

A good cover crop will dig deeply into your soil with their roots.  This adds valuable organic material to your soil, along with adding plant loving nitrogen to the soil as the plants break down.  Then you can turn under your cover crop in the spring before planting.  We get a lot of questions on the cover crops – especially – “Won’t they become weeds?”  As long as you use an annual rye – and make sure to not let the grass go to seed, and turn over in the early spring –  you should have no worries.

All four of these steps are great ways to ensure a healthy, productive garden next year, and without having to use harsh chemicals and fertilizers.

If you would like to follow along through the coming year and receive our weekly DIY and Gardening Posts, be sure to sign up to follow our blog via email, Twitter or Facebook in the side columns of our blog.  – Jim and Mary, Old World Garden Farms

27 thoughts on “4 Easy Steps To Prepare The Garden This Fall For Next Year

  • September 1, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Hello, I live in Minnesota we also have a short growing season but its productive! I have an organic garden and use natural ingredients to repel insects, I collect seeds and plant them in January or February indoors, than transfer to a outdoor greenhouse when weather permits. Get the plants in as soon as weather permits.. Test your soil to see what you may need to add in the spring, only add natural and organic ingredients to enhance your soil. I am out on Pinterest Dawn Nelson if you care to follow me I have garden tips on my pages. Good luck

  • January 1, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Just moved to Maine,bought a small farm. I know very little about gardening. The people that owned previous to me had a great fenced in garden space. I had the soil all tilled under in Oct. what do I do now? Should I start my plants from seeds or buy seedlings? Don’t want to use any chemicals,how do I handle pests and diseases? I believe Maine has a pretty short growing season. Where’s the best place to seek advice/info?
    Thank you!

  • October 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Hi! Love the information you post in your blog!
    We recently bought a home with 11 acres. The gentleman who lived here before us cash rented his land to a farmer who planted beans. My husband & I want to use about an acre of this land to grow a good sized garden next year. Should we be concerned about the type of herbicides/pesticides/insecticides this farmer might have used?

  • October 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    We have about 10′ of snow annually here in NE Calif. Will the cover crop grow in my raised beds here? Elev. 4500′ 96020 Zip code.

    • October 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      Nancy – If you have enough time at the end of your growing season to get the seed in the ground and give it at least 3 weeks to get a good start – it can work. It overwinters great – as long as it has had a chance to get started. Hope that helps!

  • September 20, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Will planting a ground cover help keep the grass out? I have a huge problem with grass. How can I get it to die!!

    • September 20, 2012 at 11:53 am

      Jenny – It will help a lot! It helps crowd out any grass seed blowing into bare dirt. Also – not sure if you till your garden or not – but we don’t. In addition – we are not big fans of tilling – not sure if you do or not – but we simply spade over our raise beds and plant with new compost added in raised hill bed rows. The raised bed rows also help to keep out blowing and drifting weed and grass seeds by being above the rest of the soil. Hope that helps – and thanks so much for stopping by the blog!!!

  • September 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Thank you – I love this and need it. I have a question though – we are thinking about doing a fall / winter hoop garden. It we do that then we can’t really do this, correct? Or how do we handle that and nourish our garden going into the fall and winter. We live in Southern Michigan and hope to grow chard, kale, etc. Thank you!

  • September 17, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Yep, the cool weather is so enjoyable for working in the fall garden. Especially for the hard work of turning soil or carrying wheelbarrows of manure. And you’re right. The work now all pays off in the end!

  • September 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    I just planted a fall garden in most of my raised beds and still have tomatoes and peppers coming in. As soon as the leaves start falling we plant to shred them and make a big pile. They make the most wonderful dark brown dirt!(we have red clay). We may try planting a cover crop in one of the currently empty beds.

  • September 14, 2012 at 7:19 am

    Thanks for reminding people to not put their tomato and pepper plants in the composter. It saves a huge headache down the line! I have started a new link up called Tuesday Greens if you want to swing by and share on Enjoy the fall weather!

  • September 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Our garden is surrounded by oak trees, and the leaves of these have been the source of much woe. They are very acidic and also help spread molds and other problems. I have learned to keep them out of the garden and my compost pile. I compost them separately and spread the compost back around the oaks and other trees.Some types of leaves don’t have a place in the garden!

    • January 6, 2013 at 11:21 am

      Consider yourself fortunate instead. You can do a lot with oak leaves to help your gardens quality and production.

  • September 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

    This is a great post! Right now, we live in the deep south and I am able to keep a fall garden, however, we have bought land in another state where fall gardening won’t be much of an option, so I’ve been looking into cover crops. My father-in-law said they used to plant alfalfa on their farm as a cover crop. Any thoughts on alfalfa versus rye? Thank you!

    • September 13, 2012 at 6:55 am

      Tabitha – Alfalfa is a great cover crops as well – it is considered a legume and provides a lot of nitrogen to the soil. I have always used annual rye because it comes up so fast and can be planted at any time and is really easy to dig under. Alfalfa’s root system requires a little more work in digging under – so I guess I have always opted for the easy way out with rye 🙂 Both are very very good for your soil

      • September 14, 2012 at 10:54 am

        Thanks for your reply, I appreciate it! I’m willing to try the easier route, for sure. ;D

  • September 12, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Love your blog, lot’s of great advice and recipes. This is good advice about preparing garden for next year, but here in theSouth my garden is never empty. I garden year round. My fall /winter garden is already growing nicely with brussell sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots, and broccoli. I am now following you.

    • September 12, 2012 at 8:29 am

      Oh so jealous of getting to garden year round! Thanks for following and for the compliment on the blog! Jim and Mary

  • September 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    We use annual rye for ours – although you can use other types of annual seed like clover, etc to enhance your soil. I’m not positive about Colorado – but I can tell you that here – we can plant it in early fall (about now) all the way up to the middle of October. It really just needs a 4 to 5 weeks to get established before a hard frost will kill it back. We then just simply dig it under in the spring and plant our vegetables. The roots of annual rye go deep and break up soil and then after turning it under – they really give back a lot of Nitrogen to the soil. We just sow it on top of the ground and rake in a little and it grows easy and fast. If you can’t get a cover crop established – I would definitely at the least cover your beds and ground with a thick coat of shredded leaves and then turn under in the spring.

  • September 11, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Thanks for that post! It was a great reminder of ways to prepare the garden for winter. Could you go into more detail at some point about cover crops? I’ve never really thought about doing that in my garden and would like to more about it. For instance, when do you plant it? Right after the rest of your crops are done? If so, then what do you do with it in the spring? And would it work in places where there is a really short season, such as up in the Rocky’s? There is only about 10 weeks from frost to frost. Thanks!

    • September 19, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Would buckwheat work as a winter covercrop? Those are the only seeds i really have on hand right now…and i have some various legume seeds…i am trying to figure out where to plant my garlic, what is a good crop to follow with garlic? Thanks!!

      • September 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm

        Buckwheat would work well – It does not overwinter well – so it will be easy to turn over in the spring and is a good way to get a cover crop in. As for the garlic – garlic will do well in soils that are very rich in organic matter and loose – so the above cover crops will help along with some compost if you have on hand. Hope that helps and thanks for stopping by the blog! – Jim

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