Fall is here! Hopefully, your garden had a wonderful summer of growth and production, but now it's time to clean up for winter. Not sure when to start taking things down? You can always wait until the first frost of the season, because your plants will naturally start shutting down for winter at this time.
Want springtime blooms? Now is the time to plant flower bulbs! Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, alliums, crocus, and muscari need to be planted in the fall, usually from late September through mid-October, depending on your gardening zone. Plant your bulbs when evening temperatures average 45-50 degrees, but you want to be mindful to get them into the ground at least six weeks before the ground freezes. There are handy tools out there to dig individual holes for bulbs, we recommend a drill auger that you can use while standing up. However, if you’re planting LOTS of bulbs, we recommend trench planting. Instead of digging a bunch of individual holes, spare your lower back and try using a spade shovel to dig up a large area with a depth of six inches. Deposit your bulbs side by side with the roots facing down, and then cover them all back up at once.
Start by removing all of the remaining material from your annual plants. Different plants need different methods of disposal – some plants like peas, beans, and corn can replenish nitrogen in your soil as the plants rot, so you can “chop and drop” them into the beds and let them break down all winter. However, plants like squash and zucchini can carry disease and parasites, so they need to be pulled out entirely and disposed of in the garbage, not composted. If you’re not sure whether you should be pruning your plant down or leaving the branches on, you can always leave it for the season and clean it up or prune accordingly in the spring.
Since your crops have been taking nutrients from your topsoil all summer, it's time to nourish it again before winter. Erosion from rain and the freeze and thaw cycles of winter will strip your soil, so the more you can boost it up, the better. If you keep a compost pile, now is the time to cover your garden beds with the compost. It will continue to break down over winter, and will also feed the worms in your bed, who will produce nutritious worm castings all winter. If you don't have compost, you can rake up the fallen leaves in your yard and cover your beds with these. They will help keep your soil in place and will add nutrients to your ground as they break down throughout winter.