It’s turning cold and wintery in our region, so it’s important to focus energy on cleaning up the vegetable garden. I wish that all my cleanup chores were done; but we’re still working on it – and working hard because I know a few hours of work now will make a huge difference in next year’s garden.
Destroy Plant Debris
By the time fall rolls around and a few frosts have hit, what’s left in the garden looks pretty awful. It’s important to remove and destroy (not compost) all the remains from this year’s vegetable plants.
That’s because many vegetable pests survive from year to year on old plant debris. Being careful about removing plant debris helps prevent insect and disease problems from starting next spring and summer.
After getting all the plant debris removed from the garden, it’s a good idea to add compost. I add a layer of well composted manure that the chickens and goats have contributed to each garden bed. The manure has been composting for over a year, and has broken down into an easily spreadable (and very valuable) addition. In the photo below, I’ve added compost to first half of the bed – you can see how dark and rich the compost looks compared to the rest of the soil.
Cover With Mulch
After adding compost, I like to get a good layer of mulched leaves on the beds to help keep every thing in place. Winter rain, snow, worm, and insect action will help everything decompose and add tremendous fertility to the soil by next spring. Again, the picture below just shows the leaf addition to the first half of the bed.
When we began with these garden beds, the soil was compacted clay, and difficult to work or grow anything in. But after just a couple of years, by adding back natural amendments, the improvement in the soil has been incredible. It takes some work each fall, but the garden just gets better every year!
Soon, the seed catalogs will be here, and I can fantasize about next years garden – knowing I’ve done cleanup and added the fertility needed to make it spectacular.