Proactive gardeners don’t look at fall as the end of the gardening season, but as the beginning of their spring garden. With so much that can be done now to prepare, it’s the ideal time to take care of some important business before hanging up your trowel for the winter. In this podcast, Joe Lamp’l discusses some important tasks for putting your garden to bed. And the efforts you take now will be well worth it next spring.
Putting the Garden to Bed
If you’ve been with us from the start of this 26 episode series, we’ve shared an entire gardening season together. And although fall signals the end of the summer growing season, I hope you’re inspired to keep it going, as I covered in the last two episodes. But if you’re hanging up your trowel for the season, no problem! But there are several important housekeeping things you want to do to in your garden to get the most out of next season.
First, go ahead and tidy up the garden and beds. Pull up spent plants and add them to your compost pile. But one thing to consider—some of your plants may have seed heads that are really nice to have in your garden throughout the fall and winter, since they’re a great food source for birds and other wildlife. I know in my garden, I always plant tall sunflowers. They’re a great compliment to the garden when in full bloom, but the real delight is the role they play now. Although not much to look at, the birds don’ t seem to mind and you should see the goldfinch in winter. They love picking out the seeds from the spent flowers. And the same goes for other flowers in my garden.
But for any plants that won’t be pulling double duty as a habitat or food source, I pull them out and send them off to the compost pile. That is all but the ones that may show signs of disease. If I add them, and the compost doesn’t get hot enough over winter to kill the pathogens, and that’s a real possibility, then I run the risk of bringing those diseases right back into my garden next season. So anytime you encounter this same problem, don’t take the chance. Destroy diseased plants or bag them up and send them away in the trash. As much as I’m against adding any excess waste to the landfill, in this case, in my opinion, it’s really the best situation overall. No one else wants those diseases on their plants either.
And on that theme, I pull out every weed I see but only add the ones that haven’t formed seed heads to my compost. Just as with plant diseases, if the compost doesn’t get hot enough to kill the seeds, when I add back compost next season, it could include thousands of viable weed seeds too. And who wants that? So what do I do with the seedy weeds? Well for me, they go to the chickens. Otherwise I’d send them to the municipal composting facility where I know they’re composted to a heat level that kills the seeds.
Once my garden is cleared out and cleaned up, I add about a one-inch layer of compost and work it lightly into the soil. By adding compost now, I’m improving the existing soil with more nutrient rich organic matter, while allowing plenty of time to let it work its magic. The end result will be an ideal growing environment when I’m ready to start my garden next spring.
But there is one final step I do here before calling it a day. A three-inch layer of mulch in the form of wheat straw for me works wonders at protecting the exposed soil surface while slowly adding even more organic matter as it breaks down over winter. By spring, it’s the perfect planting environment for my new seeds and Plants from Burpee Home Gardens.
So to recap, clean up, clear out, add compost and then mulch. And when you’re ready to start next season’s garden, we’ll be right back here, with more helpful podcasts to enhance your gardening experience and knowledge. And in the mean time, we’re always here with all 26 of our Burpee Home Gardens Tip of the Week Podcasts. You can access any of the podcasts or subscribe to the series for free in iTunes, and you can also listen online at Burpeehomegardens.com — which is a great place to go for more ideas and inspiration anytime.
With this being episode 26 of the 26 episode series, we hope you’ve enjoyed these podcast as much as we’ve had in bringing them to you. On behalf of Burpee Home Gardens, thanks so much everybody for making us a part of your gardening life. We’ll see you back here soon!
Now go get dirty!