Ecclesiastes chapter 3:1-2
Well here we are at that time of year already! The garden production has been slowly declining and we know the time is nearing to do the sometimes dreaded chore of cleaning out the garden areas and/or raised beds. I personally enjoy every aspect of farming and gardening! I am truly grateful to have reaped the rewards all season and eaten and shared the bounty of our blessings with others.
There is always a silver lining if we choose to see it!
O.k., enough pep talk! Lets get down to the business of cleaning out the gardens.
The very first thing I do at this time of year is to thoroughly check all plants for die back. Plants die back slowly at different rates, so cutting them out should be a gradual process to get the most out of the season. For example, we are still harvesting tomatoes, and the pumpkins are slowly ripening a few at a time and will continue to do so into October. So as you determine your individual needs and/or desire to keep your gardens going think about those plants that are still producing. A simple rule of thumb is, if its brown pluck it out. If it's green let it be.
I also allow my heirloom corn stalks to die and dry slowly in the field for later fall use as to be used as decorations.
A good thorough garden cleaning in the fall will really benefit your Spring plantings and lessen your chances of disease and insect infestations.
When I pull all of the brown plants out of their spaces, I BURN them ALL! Some folks compost these plant materials, I don't. The reason being is that I can not guarantee that insects that have layed eggs on undersides of leaves or in the plants themselves would be destroyed quick enough in a compost bin/pile. That's your call.
After I have cleaned all of the dead materials out, I then put clean added loose mulch layers around all of the "still green plants" to keep the ground from freezing too soon, this will help extend the season a bit and keep your plants healthy and thriving. Don't forget to water them as the days get cooler. Deep watering should be done in the morning, this will also help the plants stay healthy and believe it or not keeps them from freezing!
FOR RAISED BEDS:
On all of the raised bed areas of the garden that have been thoroughly cleaned out I place a 4 in thick layer of mulch or compost on top and I am done for the season! It's that simple.
An essential step for no-till growers and/or non-chemical use growers is the use of polyculture cover crops.
To accomplish this, simply clean out the area, prepare the soil and plant your cover crop seed.
What to plant in our area?
To achieve biomass, which helps to suppress weeds in the Spring and provides rich organic matter I use grains like winter wheat, barley and/or oats.
To provide the much needed nitrogen that is used up and/or depleted by leeching during the growing season I use; small legumes like peas and clovers. This combination mimics a natural ecosystem of self repair by nature if you will.
When to plant in our area?
The optimal time is between mid-September through October.
How to plant?
Lightly rake the area and scatter the seed either by hand or with a grass seed spreader (what I use). Application rates vary, so follow the directions on the bag or call your local extension agent? Rake the soil to lightly cover the seed, if the seeds are small, I water them in. Keep the seed bed moist until germination or wait for the next rain, and let nature do it for you.
In the Spring you can cut the cover crop down with a mower and let it decompose, then plant!
Happy FALL Cleaning!