Grow a better garden next year with these fall gardening tips for improving your soil over the winter!
Want better soil next garden season? Now is the time to take steps to improve it! Incorporate these fall gardening tips now, and over the winter months, earthworms and other garden helpers will have time to break down new organic matter and incorporate it thoroughly into your soil. That means they’ll do most of the work for you – all you have to do is plan ahead and give them something to work with!
The 4 simple fall gardening tips below will give you your best garden soil ever, without having to do much work at all.
Take care of these items now for a great growing season next spring and summer!
1. Remove all old plants. You don’t want to leave this years plants in the ground and rotting in your garden all year. If you have plants with any signs of disease or fungus, leaving them all year will lead to the spread of disease. Plus, rotting plants will encourage mice, rats, and other rodents. Throw away or burn any plants with obvious signs of disease. Other plants can be tilled back into the soil or chopped up with a hoe to small pieces to break down over the winter months.
2. Plant a cover crop. Cover crops are an excellent way to improve your soil. They require little work on your part, but do a lot of work for your soil. By planting a cover crop you will help control soil erosion, reduce weeds, and add nitrogen to the soil.
Sow cover crops 4 to 6 weeks before your first hard frost date. Scatter the seed by hand or with a seed spreader over the soil, being sure the soil is damp and seeds are kept moist until they sprout. Let them grow all winter. You may notice the cover crops doesn’t grow as fast after the first hard frost and picks back up again once it starts to warm up in the early spring or late winter.
Good cover crop options are annual rye grass (this has a long root for breaking up hard soil and also germinates rather fast), buckwheat, clover, oats, and hairy vetch. Hairy vetch is actually part of the legume family and has a pretty purple flower.
In the spring, mow down your cover crop and allow it to dry out for a few days before tilling or hoeing it back into the dirt.
3. Put down a layer of manure. Another option before sowing your cover crop or if you aren’t using a cover crop is to put down a layer of manure. You can use chicken, cow, horse, llama, or pig manure. It will break down over winter and provide natural fertilization for your garden.
4. Use leaves to cover soil. Don’t have time or access to cover crops or manure? Use fallen leaves to cover your soil with. They will protect from soil erosion and help with weed control. Use a layer of straw to help keep them in place. You can also place leaves on top of manure.
BONUS TIP: Use an edible cover crop. We used kale for part of our cover crop last year. In a portion of the garden we scattered kale. It got to be about 4 inches high before the first hard frost. After that, it didn’t grow, but come spring, it started growing again, making it one of the first edibles for harvest.