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Clearing The Garden – 6 Must Do Fall Garden Chores Before Winter

When it comes to clearing out your garden in the fall, there are a few must do fall garden chores that can really help pave the way for an incredible garden season next year.

As the Autumn season settles in and plants start to fade, all of those endless spring and summer gardening chores of planting, watering, weeding and harvesting finally come to a close. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to put those garden tools away just yet!

Believe it or not, fall really is one of the most important seasons for vegetable gardening. With just a little bit of effort now, you can build stronger soil and help eliminate future pest and disease issues. And perhaps best of all – finally stop the cycle of endless weeding.

must do fall garden chores
What you do with your garden after harvesting the last of this year’s crops can have a big impact on the health and productivity of next year’s garden.

With that in mind, here are 6 simple tasks that you can perform this fall to set your growing space up for an amazingly productive and weed free garden next year and beyond!

6 Must Do Fall Garden Chores

Photograph Your Garden – Must Do Fall Garden Chores

One of the easiest and most helpful “chores” you can do early this fall is to snap a few pictures of your garden. And while you are at it, take a few minutes to jot down what grew well and what didn’t too.

Why is this so important? Because no matter how good you think your memory is, it will fail you next spring! And recording it all down now with a few simple pics and notes will help you immensely at planting time next year.

One of the best ways to keep your garden healthy and productive is to practice crop rotation. Not only does it help provide fresh nutrients to your plants, it keeps pests from setting up shop in the same space, year after year.

But if you can’t remember where you planted what, it can be hard to keep it all straight! So before you remove your plants, record your garden with a few photos and notes. It’s such an easy task to do while it is all fresh in your mind and right in front of you.

must do garden chores - photo
Whether you grow in raised beds or a traditional garden, taking photos of your garden space can help you plan and plant in future years.

One thing is for sure, it will keep you from planting the same crop in the same place, and from replanting varieties that didn’t perform well. In addition, it will help you know what issues to be on the lookout for and to stop them early next year.

Clearing Out Plants – Must Do Fall Garden Chores

Now it’s time to get to work and clear all of those dying and decaying plants from your garden spaces. Unfortunately, the longer you allow old plants to stick around, the more trouble they will cause. In fact, clearing the garden of all plants, foliage and debris is one of the biggest keys of all to keeping your garden healthy next year.

When plants and rotting vegetables are allowed to remain, they become a haven for pests and disease. Not only do they provide a source of food, they also help protect them through winter. And when spring rolls around, they can come back stronger than ever to attack your garden.

Even worse, those same rotting vegetables leave behind thousands of seeds. Seeds that can become a nightmare next year as they begin to grow and try to compete with your crops.

removing plants in the fall
Allowing plants to remain in your garden is a recipe for disaster. They can allow pest populations to explode, and make it easy for disease to spread as well.

Whatever you do, don’t let your garden crops stay in place all winter long. Pull them out as soon as they begin to fade. Even though they may be done producing food for you, as you will see in the next step, most of that garden debris can be a great addition to your fall compost pile!

Growing Your Compost Pile In The Fall – Must Do Fall Garden Chores

Fall is the perfect time to start a pile with readily available leaves and garden scraps. And by starting it now, you can have great compost ready to go come planting day next year.

Simply put, compost is the powerhouse of great gardens. Compost teems with all sorts of beneficial microbes and organisms that help to create great balance and structure in the soil. If you want to grow a great garden year after year, compost is a must.

When building or adding to your compost pile in the fall, there are a few things that you will want to keep out. We never compost our tomato and pepper plants. We have found with the ease of spreading blight and disease, those two plants are better left out.

Building a compost pile is one of the absolute best things you can do for your garden & plants, and it is great for cleaning up the garden in the fall. When it comes to fall garden chores, it is hard to beat the benefits of growing your own compost.

With that said, to really speed up the decomposition, it is best to chop up all of your garden’s foliage and ingredients before adding them to your pile. Simply piling plants on top in a heap can take forever to decompose. But by chopping them up (a mower works great for this task) your compost can be ready by late spring.

Don’t Till – Plant A Cover Crop! – Must Do Fall Garden Chores

Plain and simple, cover crops are the best way to power up your garden and keep it productive year after year.

Cover crops stop soil erosion, replenish valuable nutrients, and keep weed seeds from finding a home in bare soil too. And best of all, there is no need to till now to plant, or to till in the spring to plant! (Creating A No-Till Garden)

Cover crops are easy to plant, inexpensive, and the perfect way to protect your garden from fall til spring!  See : How To Plant A Cover Crop

For years, we have planted our garden with annual rye (cereal rye) as a fall cover crop. It not only recharges the soil, but provides a thick protective coat that keeps out next years weed seeds. (Product link : Annual Rye Seed)

Planting a cover crop is one of the top fall garden chores you can do to ensure a great garden. We have been using annual rye (cereal rye) for years, and it continues to work wonders for us and our garden.

If cover crops are not an option, at the very least cover the soil with leaves or straw. Keeping your garden soil covered is the key to keeping weeds out!

Mulch The Walking Rows –Must Do Fall Garden Chores

Now that leads us to the next easy, but incredibly crucial task for closing down your garden in the fall. And that is covering the walking rows with mulch.

When it comes to a successful garden next year, what you do with your walking rows is just as important as planting a cover crop in your growing rows. Covering the walking rows with mulch will help eliminate those seemingly endless weeding chores.

By covering the soil with organic material, you eliminate the opportunity for weeds to find a home in your garden. Weeds that will be competing for nutrients come next spring and summer. Using a thick, 6-inch layer of mulch is the perfect way to do just that.

Be sure to cover your walking rows with some type of mulch. Shredded bark, wood chips, whole leaves, and straw are all good options.

There is a long list of options when it comes to materials to use to prevent future weeds. Wood chips, shredded bark, and whole leaves are all great options. One note on using whole leaves. They can get slippery, so it is a good idea to cover them with a light layer of wood chips or straw.

Clean & Disinfect Tools Trellises And Supports – Must Do Fall Garden Chores

And last but not least – clean off all of your tools, trellises, cages, and stakes!

These tools and garden supports can easily carry this year’s diseases with them to next year’s plants. So before you put them away, clean them with a mild solution of water and bleach to disinfect any fungus or disease.

A simple solution of a 1/2 cup bleach with a gallon of water will do the trick. Wipe all areas of the supports down with the solution, and rinse off with water. Let them dry in the sun, and store away. 

Cleaning your garden tools and supports before storing them away for winter is a key fall garden chore you don’t want to skip. Our stake-a-cage tomato supports will be cleaned and dried before we put them away for the winter.

Once your fall garden chores are complete, you and your garden will be all set for big success next year! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.