by Neil Secor
Start your vegetable garden for next year by preparing the garden now! There are many things you can do now that will save you time next spring and result in a more successful garden.
The most important consideration is sanitation. Clean all weeds out of your garden. Remove any dead plants, rotting fruit and weeds to prevent future problems next year. Be careful not to take everything and “dump” it into your compost pile, as this could infect the compost. Diseased and insect damaged plants could have eggs on them, and perennial weeds may have seeds that could infiltrate the compost. When in doubt, throw it away.
The fall is also a great time to add organic matter to your garden and raised beds such as compost, manure or well shredded leaves. Do a soil test to see what nutrients are needed. In addition, check the PH, as you may need to add lime. Adding a chemical fertilizer in the fall is a waste of time and money, as it will not remain in the soil over winter. One alternative is to plant cover crops (often called green manure), such as clovers, vetch, legumes or winter rye. These will be turned under next spring, adding nitrogen and organic matter that will enrich and aerate the soil. Doing this now will save time next spring when the soil has to dry out before you can get started.
Now is a good time to start keeping a garden notebook or calendar as a reminder of what was successful and what did not work. Planning ahead this fall will result in a more bountiful harvest next year.