Planning Next Year’s Garden

By Lorna Carlisle

Not Done Yet….
As of this writing, we have not had a frost. Many of you will still be
harvesting vegetables and hopefully canning, freezing, drying or giving
away produce. The bounty won’t last, so enjoy it while you can. Now is not
the time to give up on your garden. What you do now will affect things for next year. 

Don’t let those weeds linger. Keep pulling them so that their seeds don’t live. Many weed seeds are viable for years. I’ve read articles suggesting adding everything to your compost pile. I would NEVER add quack grass. One tiny portion of that white root can take off like the plague.
Depending on how you manage your compost pile, if you have one, can determine what you throw in there. There are hundreds of books available on how to “build” a compost pile with formulas on percentages of browns and greens, when to water, at what temperature to keep your pile and for how long. I just retired from a full-time job and don’t want another one managing my compost pile! 

Almost everything goes on the heap: kitchen scraps, weeds (before they form seed heads), spent garden plants, chicken coop cleanout, etc. Grass clippings can also go on the pile. I tend
to mow and leave the cuttings to feed my lawn. Who needs to spend more money buying fertilizer or have an expensive lawn service to get a “perfect-looking lawn”? 

Our priority should be spending time and energy on things we can eat. Keep in mind, there are many edible weeds such as purslane and lambs quarter.. As you clean up your garden, put
dead plants on the compost pile UNLESS it has diseases which can spread. It’s best not to reintroduce diseases into your compost pile. 

I’m also reluctant to clean up the flower beds too quickly. Many winter birds will enjoy the seed heads. There’s always Spring for a more thorough clean-up. I’m a firm believer in no-till and not having bare soil where possible. Cover crops, sometimes called green manures, can be planted to stop erosion and to add nutrients in the Spring. 

Earlier in September would have been an ideal time for field peas, oats, or buckwheat to be grown which would then be killed by a hard frost. At this point, winter rye is the favored
cover crop. This is harder to deal with using no-till practices because it survives the winter and starts to grow again in Spring. Fall leaves can be chopped (using a lawn mower) and added to the garden. Full-sized leaves generally will mat and not break down very well. 

Garlic is usually planted around the end of October and harvested in July. Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, lettuce, beets and carrots can withstand light frosts, and their taste improves with the cooler weather. I tend to leave a few plants in the ground as I find they give the soil inhabitants something to eat. Hopefully, I’ll have more earthworms. One thing I don’t want to encourage is jumping worms. (That’ll be another article!) 

One of the most important things you can do now is plan. Keep track of where crop families were planted so you can rotate to another family area next year. Lastly, grab your catalogs and order
your seeds so you can dream of future gardens.