How can I prepare my garden soil for next year’s growing season? This gardening season is drawing to a close with cooler temperatures and the inevitable fall frost killing the produce that was still growing.
It’s time to move on to preparing garden soil for the next growing season. Investing time now to prepare the soil can reap an increased quality and quantity of produce or ornamental beauty in the garden in 2022.
Here are some simple tips for preparing garden soil that uses natural resources, increases soil fertility, improves soil water holding capacity, and reduces garden pests and diseases.
Remove dead material
First, remove dead and dying plants from the garden, unless they are perennial flowers or crops such as asparagus or rhubarb. Healthy plant material that is not diseased can be added to a compost pile. Throw away and do not compost diseased plant material as the composting process cannot guarantee the complete destruction of pathogens.
Second, once the plant material has been removed from the garden, remove any additional weeds and plant debris from and around the garden. Plant debris and weeds provide shelter for pests that will damage crops and flowers in the future.
Stir compost, manure and shredded leaves into the garden soil to a depth of 12 inches. Bagged compost from a retail store or municipal compost pile may be available for gardeners to purchase and incorporate if they do not have their own compost pile at home.
Now is the time to apply uncomposted, raw manure from cattle, horses, sheep, goats, rabbits or poultry to the garden to withstand the winter – and be ready to fertilize the vegetable crops right there. next season.
Ideally, compost, manure, and leaves should be mixed into the soil with a spade or potato fork to reduce the risk of creating a hard layer in the garden. Incorporation with a rototiller can destroy soil structure and beneficial soil microbes that improve soil drainage and organic matter levels.
If the soil in the garden begins to build up with an additional “soft” appearance on the surface, a hard layer may be present or has been inadvertently created.
Consider planting a cover crop in home gardens in the fall. Cover crops, including oats, rye, and field peas, can reduce soil and water erosion during fall and winter. Incorporating these cover crops into the soil the next spring before planting increases organic matter content, water and nutrient holding capacity – and plant nutrients for the benefit of the crop. next year.
For beds where established perennials are present, incorporate shredded leaves, compost, and manure around the base of established flowers without accidentally burying those established flowers. If possible, gently incorporate these amendments with a hand trowel where open space is available. A very light layer (less than an inch deep) around perennial flowers such as iris and peonies is important as they are very susceptible to burying too deep.
All of these suggestions help gardeners invest in next year’s garden now by improving soil health and productivity. Investing time and effort now can bring major benefits to gardening in 2022.
If anyone has any questions about improving garden soil health in the fall, please contact me by emailing [emailÂ protected], or by calling the Nebraska Extension office in North Platte at 308-532-2683.
Lott is a Nebraska Extension horticultural educator.