Why Fall is the Best Time to Take Care of Your Garden
As the days begin to get shorter, kids emerge from their homes to catch the bus -summoning the beginning of a new school year, and you start to feel a crispness outside as the leaves turn brilliant shades of yellow, brown, orange, and red. You realize that the seasons are once again changing…Fall is in the air.
For many home gardeners, the coming of Fall means putting away the garden tools, cleaning up the shed, pulling out the carcasses left over from the summer harvests, and retreating back to the house after spending months waging war on weeds that threatened to take over mini universe passionately known as your garden.
Not only is Fall fit for carving pumpkins and relaxing with a piping hot cup of hot apple cider in hand, but it is also the perfect time to improve the health of your soil and ensure it is on track to serve you well next spring. Before you hunker down for the long and cold winter days ahead, be sure to check in on your soil and address any issues that may be lurking below the surface.
Give Your Soil a Nitro-Boost
Nitrogen is like an energy drink for soil microbes and needs to be present in the soil in order for them to get busy breaking down organic matter during the fall and winter months. While beneficial soil microbes are magical beings that improve the health of the soil, they can also deplete your soil of nitrogen if you do not supplement it with organic fertilizers.
Adding slow release nitrogen to the soil during the fall season will allow it time to overwinter and seep down to the root zone where it will be needed come spring and summer planting time. If you grew heavy nitrogen feeding plants like corn, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, or broccoli, chances are your garden is depleted and is hungry for more nitrogen.
Reuse and Recycle Nature’s Waste
Have a pile of autumn leaves to deal with? Or how about old newspapers or cardboard? Leftover straw from a hay harvest? Instead of tossing these materials into your yard waste and recycle containers, use the material to add organic matter to your garden beds.
Mulching your garden with leftover organic matter scraps will not only help keep weeds under control, but it alleviates the need to use landscape fabric and plastics that eventually need to be torn out. Transforming leaves, straw, old newspaper, and cardboard into garden mulch saves you money on store-bought mulch and allows you to use materials you already have at home.
Adjust the pH of Your Soil
Is your soil too acidic or not acidic enough? Fall is the perfect time of year to adjust the pH of your soil while you have less crops or no crops growing at all. If your soil is too acidic, apply some limestone to raise the pH. If your soil is not acidic enough, apply some sulphur to lower the pH. If you do not know what the pH of your soil is, collect a sample and send it in for a lab test. While you’re at it, have your soil tested for nutrient deficiencies too so you can address that issue at the same time!
Add Some Fertilizer
Fall is the perfect time of year to give all your gardens a healthy dose of organic fertilizer. As we go full steam ahead into the winter months, the fertilizer you applied during the Fall season will mix into your soil and create the perfect nutrient dense foundation for spring plants to thrive.
If your soil is thick with clay, apply some AxisDE™(Diatomaceous Earth), which is a permanent solution for getting oxygen into your soil, as well as HuMagic®, which will loosen up the soil and give it better structure. If you have the opposite problem and your soil is too sandy, mix in a generous amount of HuMagic® which will build up the structure of the soil so it is better able to retain water and hold on to nutrients.
Protect your irrigation system
Before the frigid temperatures of Winter set in, be sure to protect your irrigation system so to ensure it does not spring a leak come springtime. Just like with the pipes that run to your house, there are several steps to take to keep your irrigation system in good repair:
If your irrigation system is auto-controlled, turn it off before the first freeze occurs.
Drain all of the irrigation pipes. Frozen water expands and can make the pipes burst.
Companies offer services to “blow out” your system with compressed air, which is very helpful for bigger systems.
Insulate the main water valve with valve covers, just like you would with other water valves around the outside of your home.
Don’t forget about backflow preventers! If they are above ground, they need to be insulated.
Before nestling in by the fireplace for the long winter ahead, get ready for next year’s growing season by amending your soil, stopping the invasion of weeds before they begin, and by making sure your irrigation equipment is protected from the harsh elements. By hanging in there and doing a little more garden work now, you will save yourself a lot of effort in the spring.