By Paul Staley
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Shorter, cooler days, longer shadows. Cool, crisp mornings. Dry, crunchy leaves everywhere. Even though I love the freedom of summer, there is something very enticing in the changes that come with Fall.
Fall is also a great time to work in the garden. There is a lot to be done to prepare for a winter garden or to get ready for next year’s garden adventure.
Since our winters are so mild, most of your efforts can go into cleaning up the old summer growth. This is a great time to compost all the old leaves, as well as the annuals that have run their course. Be sure to discard diseased growth in the trash and not in the compost pile. It is far better to rid yourself of the damaged vegetation than to risk encouraging the growth and spread of diseases, molds and fungi. Compost piles too often do not heat up enough to kill the pathogens.
Fall is also the premier season for putting in new plants or trans-planting existing ones. If you put plants in during the late fall they will be better able to establish their root system while the soil is still warm from the summer sun. Mother Nature will – we hope – water them for you during the winter months. They will be ready to jump out of the ground when spring arrives and begins to warm us, and them, again next year.
Consider a cover crop for your veggie garden if you are not going to be planting food crops this win-ter. The cover crop can be harvested to feed your compost pile or turned back into the soil a month or so before planting.
Mulching your garden area with a thick layer of compost, leaves, straw or old garden plants is a great way to build humus in the soil. Over the winter it will break down and feed your soil, all the while encouraging the growth of all the good mycorrhizae, fungi and creatures that your plants depend upon.
If you have never grown veggies in the winter, I encourage you to try it. Too many of us forget about our garden during the cool months. Putting in broccoli and its brothers is a great way to stay in touch with your garden.