Fall is the time to consider how well your garden performed during the growing season and what you need to prepare it for next spring.
With this years garden still fresh in mind, start by creating a garden journal. Jot down where in the garden each vegetable was growing, any disease or pest problems, and when the first fruits appeared. Use this journal to keep track of crop rotations and planning for next year.
Remove all debris such as roots, stems, leaves, fallen fruit, and weeds from the garden. Dont put diseased plants into the mulch or compost pile lest you reintroduce disease to the garden next year.
Turn over the soil, have it tested for nutrient deficiencies by your county extension service, and amend the soil accordingly. If you have access to horse or poultry manure, now is the best time to add it to the soil because manure needs at least six months to break down. Add compost and peat moss, and till this in to improve the soils quality. Fall is also the time to add lime if you need it.
Plant a cover crop of soybean, buckwheat, or winter rye grass as great sources of nitrogen and organic matter. Leave these cover crops untouched until spring, at which time you can till this green manure under.
Another option is to rake the garden smooth and cover with a deep layer of hay, straw, or dead leaves. This provides a perfect environment for earthworms, prevents weed growth, and keeps the garden soil from freezing as deeply in winter. In spring, simply pull back the remaining organic matter and youre ready to plant, often without tilling.
Once your garden has been put to bed for the winter, look over your journal. Analyze your entries and decide what to grow next year, what to eliminate, and where each plant will go. It is important to rotate crops each year to avoid depleting the same area of vital nutrients. Gather new ideas for next spring, send for seed catalogs, and order seeds for a March delivery.
The fruits of your labor in the fall will give you a head start in the spring and bring success during the entire growing season.