As you start the process of clearing out your garden this fall, it’s good to remember that what you do to your soil during the fall can have a big impact on your garden the following year. If you want to increase the health and quality of your plants, flowers, and vegetables, take some time to prep your soil in the fall.
There are two main reasons fall soil prep is so important. The first is that your soil tends to be drier and easier to manipulate in the fall. This means that you will have an easier time taking out removing all your dead or spent plants as well as all weeds. It’s especially important to remove all weeds from your soil at this time. If you leave them over the winter, the seeds will spread, leaving you to deal with a huge weed crop in the spring.
The second main reason fall soil prep is so important is because it’s the best time to fix any nutrient imbalances in your soil. The health and quality of your plants is directly tied to the nutrient, pH and acidity levels in your soil. If one level is off, this will lead to particular problems in your plants.
There are two ways to determine the nutrient levels in your soil. The first, and most accurate, way is to have your soil tested. This means sending soil samples to a lab, which will then give you an accurate reading of all your levels. The second, less precise way, is to simply look at the plants that you grew during this season. Where were they lacking? What problems did you face? By understanding these problems, you’ll know which specific nutrients your soil needs. For example, if your soil (and plants) were dried out, then add some peat moss (which helps soil retain water) to decompose in your soil over the winter. Problems with shallow roots? Try adding some bone meal to your soil. If you’re not sure of your particular problems, consider digging in a general compost or manure to add a wide variety of nutrients to your soil.
Once you’ve prepped your soil, protect it against winter winds and rain by adding a barrier. The best protection is a cover crop, such as winter rye. Not only will the crop keep your soil active, it will add helpful nutrients into the soil. If you don’t want to plant a cover crop, cover the soil with mulch in order to prevent erosion.
With a few simple steps in the fall, you can make sure that your soil is ready in the spring for a healthy planting season.