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Garden Topics: Vegetable Garden Fall Clean Up

I have mixed emotions about the end of the growing season. In some way, it's a relief from dealing with watering, weeds and pests. But it's hard not to feel a pang of sadness when the first frost arrives bringing near the end of another gardening year.  

There are a few things that should be done before really cold weather arrives. One of the more important ones is to tuck in your garden for the winter so it'll awaken ready to go in the spring. We've all faced a spring garden that's still littered with dead plants and drifts of fallen leaves, and it's not an encouraging sight. A couple of hours spent now will make your garden a healthier and more enticing place in the spring.  

 Dead plants and even small piles of garden waste provide hiding places where harmful insects will live. Bare soil will heave or erode, losing plant nutrients in the process. Plant tepees and tomato supports, will deteriorate, so remove them and store them away.

This is the best time to take a few soil samples and send them to the Penn State testing lab for a nutrient analysis. Call the County Cooperative Extension office for a soil test kit.  (For Allegheny County call 412-473-2540) When you get the results, purchase the needed soil amendments, and apply them so they can slowly work into the soil over the winter.  

Remove spent plants, roots and all, and add them to the compost pile.  Next is a really important step: spread two or more inches of compost over the garden. (Fafard’s Shrimp & Seaweed Compost works well for this purpose) You can incorporate needed fertilizer or lime, (that recommended in the soil test results) with the compost. Scratch it into the top couple of inches of soil. 

Finally, cover your garden about an inch or two deep of clean straw. If you have a windy site, wet the straw thoroughly with a hose or sprinkler so it mats down. Stand back and admire your neatly blanketed garden. The compost and soil nutrients will work their magic over the next few months, and by the time the first seed catalogs arrive, the soil will be ready for next season's plants.

 

Vegetable Cleanup

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