By Charles Bellman, writer for Mantis.
Here are some useful gardening and yard care tips for late summer and early fall:
1. Continue to weed your garden often to stay ahead of weeds. Weeds can spread very quickly during the late summer, and they’ll rob your plants of both nutrition and water. Pull weeds when the soil is moist and the weeds are small. Early morning weeding sessions after an overnight rainfall can be very efficient.
2. Take pictures while your garden is fully grown. They’ll help you remember what you planted, and where. Crop rotation is a good practice that helps reduce diseases and the effects of some pests. If your tomato plants or annual flowers are too crowded, use these photos to remind you of proper spacing next season.
3. Make some notes. This is an ideal time to set up a gardening notebook or a PC file. Note what worked well, what you’d like to do better, what you’d like to learn before next season, and any tools or supplies you might need for next season.
4. Harvest squash and beans before they get too big. If you have extras, and choose not to can or freeze your bounty for later use, find a way to share it. Many food pantries and churches will accept fresh produce for distribution to those in need.
5. If you don’t already have a compost bin or pile, now is a great time to start! You’ll soon have finished tomato plants and other garden leftovers. Areas with a lot of deciduous trees will soon be covered with falling leaves. Composting is easy with the help of a composter!
6. Make a plan to collect as many fall leaves as you can easily compost or store. If you collect more than your compost bin or pile can handle, store dry, shredded leaves in large garbage cans or bags. Shred them with a shredder or a lawn mower; make sure that you keep them dry during storage. The shredded leaves can be used next season to mulch vegetable gardens, and they can provide the necessary “brown” material that your compost needs when it can be overwhelmed with “green” materials.
7. As fall approaches, avoid the temptation to prune… except large, overlapping branches that might break under the stress of snow or wind. Pruning always encourages new growth and should be avoided as winter approaches. New, tender branches are much more susceptible to winter damage.
8. Aerate and Dethatch your lawn if it needs it. The very dry summer that many of us have experienced has resulted in abnormally high thatch build-up. Aerate and dethatch your lawn at least 6 weeks prior to the end of its growing season, so that it will have time to recover before winter dormancy.
9. Continue to add mulch to your flower and vegetable gardens throughout the season. A combination of shredded dry leaves and grass clippings is our favorite. The leaves help prevent the grass clippings from matting, and the grass clippings help prevent the leaves from blowing away. Mulch helps suppress weeds and also keeps your soil retain moisture. As mulch decomposes, it will boost your soil’s tilth and fertility.
10. Plan to clean up your gardens when they’re “done.” Not only are messy gardens an eyesore, but they’ll harbor more damaging insects and diseases. Clean up your vegetable and annual flower gardens before the ground freezes and you’ll be ready to get off to a clean start next season.
To learn more about composting, click here.