Chances are –  this time of year –  a picture of your garden would look more like a starving artist painting than a classic masterpiece.

Leaves are plentiful in the fall - and can easily be composted or used as a cover for your garden
Leaves are plentiful in the fall – and can easily be composted or used as a cover for your garden

As we head toward the end of summer – most gardens begin to show their wear. The tomatoes and cucumbers are beginning to wane, with their branches thinning and beginning to brown – while many of the other crops have begun to wither away as well.

However – even though it may look a bit dodgy – there are still some last-minute chores in your garden that can make all the difference to creating next year’s Mona Lisa. In fact – it’s precisely what you do now in your garden that can make ALL the difference!

Here are 4 “must-do” chores that can put you on the road to a successful garden next season:

1. Complete A Garden Review – Now!

Such a simple task – but so WORTHWHILE!  Taking a few moments now to review and jot down the facts and thoughts of this year’s garden can go a long way in making your next one successful – and it’s so much easier to do it while it is before your very eyes!

Garden Plan
It’s easier to remember what was planted where when you write it down now!

Let’s face it – as time passes, so does our memory of the past year’s garden. Before you know it – the holidays are here, January and February fly by – and all of those great ideas you had back in the fall get lost in the rush to just get a garden planted.Why?  Because you can see it all – and the garden season is fresh in your mind. You can see what worked well, and what didn’t. What pests attacked what and when.  What you planted too much of – and what could you stand to plant a little bit more of.  These are all important things to get down on paper to help guide you as you plan and create your next garden.

Good notes are a must for a good garden plan
Good notes are a must for a good garden plan

When you take a moment to make notes and put it all down on paper – it’s amazing to find out how much better it all works next spring.   Planning now lets you easily remember what performed well – what didn’t – and what you need to try different.

You will be amazed how much those notes come back to help next year!

2. Clean out the debris

Put a star beside this one as IMPORTANT! This simple step can help to alleviate many of the recurring problems that gardeners face each growing season.  Vegetable plants left in the garden to over-winter become a haven for insects and disease to take root.

If you leave plants like these tomatoes in the ground all winter -they can breed disease for next year's crop.
Plants like these tomatoes need to be cleaned out once they have died off – left in the ground all winter – they can breed disease for next year’s crop.

Many garden pests can find a home in the decaying stems, leaves and root systems of left over veggie plants.  Given the chance – many will lay their larvae in the roots and soil around the plants – waiting to “spring” to life next season to create problems for your new plantings.

In addition – those damaged or withered left over vegetable plants can harbor mold, fungus and disease that can also be transferred to next years plants.  Your best bet – get them out of the garden each fall to prevent the transfer of those diseases.

3. Cover Your Soil

A thick cover crop is one of the best things you give your garden this fall
A thick cover crop of annual rye covers our growing rows.

After you have spent all that time removing your old plants – do your garden a huge favor and cover it back up with a cover crops or a thick layer of shredded leaves, compost or straw.   (See-How To Plant Cover Crops)

Leaving your soil bare is an open invitation for all type of weed seeds to find a home until next spring – where they will sprout into action. In addition – barren soil that will be pelted by the fall and winter rains, wind and snow can whip away the top layer of your soil (usually the most fertile), and leave you with less top soil to grow your plants in next year. So much like you do to prepare for winter – put a blanket on your garden!

4. Start A Compost Pile!

Last but certainly not least – get started on that compost pile!

A good compost pile + a great garden!
A good compost pile + a great garden!

Compost is a necessity if you want to keep the soil in your garden productive year after year (See: Composting 101). Along with cover crops, using compost in the garden helps to rebuild and re-energize your soil with the vital nutrients that plants need to grow strong each year – and if you start a pile early this fall – you can have “black-gold” ready to go come spring planting time!

There is no better time to get loads of compost materials than in the fall – and with just a little legwork –  you can secure all of them for free!  (see: How to start a great compost pile for free this fall)

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Happy Gardening!!!  Jim and Mary – Old World Garden Farms



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