While hobbyists are enjoying their pumpkin pies and other fruits of their summer gardening labors, the serious gardener is likely to be hopping about with the year-end tasks that need to be accomplished before the winter gloom sets in. When you are a landowner, there is never a shortage of things to do around the property – no matter the season! But in order to avoid a major growing upset in the spring, it is essential that you complete a very important tasks around your flowerbeds, raised beds, and your vegetable and herb patches. You will thank yourself later!
Weeds, Weeds, Weeds!
It can be very tempting to just let the weeds do their thing over the winter months, with the hope that a nice hard freeze will kill most of them off. But even a few weeds in your flower beds or herb garden can quickly gain a foothold in your space and leave you with a huge headache when spring rolls around. They can quickly spread to your vegetable spaces and leave you cursing them all through the spring and summer growing seasons.
Even if the weeds do die off in a freeze, you very well may still be left with root systems that could potentially have simply gone dormant when the temperatures dipped. Consider the nuts edge weed. This hardy and invasive weed goes dormant when weather conditions aren’t ideal and leaves behind deeply buried nodes, or nuts, that will roar back to life with a vengeance once the soil warms up again.
Take the time to quickly get rid of as many weeds as you possibly can. You could place down a thick weed barrier that will also serve to insulate the soil and keep your other plants from succumbing to too much of a chill. Plastic sheeting works well, but you can also cover the soil with things that would otherwise go into your compost pile, like leaves raked up from your trees, straw, or even the final bag of grass clippings from a mow. Just take care with the grass clippings, as they can sometimes harbor seeds for the weeds that are lurking on other parts of your property. Otherwise, the mulch can easily be turned into the soil in the spring, to help provide valuable nutrients for your plants.
Goodbye To The Old
In your vegetable and herb gardens, you should take the time to pull out old plants and those that have died off or are looking a bit puny. These plants are probably not going to make it through the winter and will just otherwise be depleting nutrients from your soil, as well as taking up space that you could otherwise devote to a new crop of winter plants. Before you put them into your compost bins, you should take care that they are not infested with pests. Certain pests (like the scourge of squash growers, the vine borer) can happily overwinter in a compost bin, only to make his reappearance in your garden next spring.
Plants that appear to be infested or diseased should be burned or discarded off of your property. Even one diseased tomato plant this year could find its way into infecting your entire crop next spring. Don’t take the risk, even if you could use the material in your compost bin. It isn’t worth risking the health of your crops next year.
Do a quick walk around all of your fruit and nut trees. Remove any fruit that may have fallen to the ground at the end of the season. While the fruit will just decompose and provide nutrients back into the soil, the fruit can also be a cozy home for the coddling moth and its larvae, the apple worm, to overwinter. You could just find yourself with a nightmare of a situation that could have easily been prevented by discarding old fruit.
Soil Remedies, To Ensure Good Harvests
We all know that you should never plant vegetables like cabbages in the same spot year after year without first replenishing the soil, but what we should all be sure to do is to test the soil after the autumn harvest. Instead of playing a guessing game and adding back in those nutrients that your plants may have sapped the soil of, you should test the soil to see where you are right now. Heavy rains may have washed away some of the nutrients or you may have added organic matter than increased the acidity of your soil.
No matter what the situation may be, by fixing your soil issues now you’ll be able to get your fall and winter crops growing earlier or allowing fallow soil the time it needs to settle down with the remedies you applied to it.
Your soil is the most important part of your property. Without your soil in good shape, your crops are not going to be in good shape, and you will be jeopardizing the amount of food that you can put on the table throughout the year and have available to preserve.
Always put your soil first and it will serve you well, no matter what else may be going on with your plants or your weather.
Rebuild, Reuse, Repair
On a farm it can seem like there is no end in sight to the number of things that need to be repaired. Getting the repairs done now, before the winter sets in, can save you a lot of time in the spring and also help to prevent a delay in getting your crops started in the spring.
You know your property better than anyone, so you know what might need to be repaired. Ensuring that fences are in good shape, make sure that your barn doors aren’t hanging off the hinges, patch up roof leaks, and make sure that your equipment is in good functional shape. Fix your fences, gates, and barn doors today rather than risk seeing your lambs and foals heading for the hills in the spring!
Don’t forget to check on your chicken coops. They should be secure with no spaces for predators to gain an entry point. Your chickens will do enough to get themselves killed by just being chickens; you don’t need to give predators easy access to an all-they-can-devour chicken buffet.
If you were planning on expanding your raised beds or building new growing spaces, then now is the best time to do it. If you tore down old beds or old wooden fences, try to incorporate as much of those materials as you can in order to save a few pennies. For example, old wooden fence posts can be easily rebuilt into a potato tower, which is a great way to grow a lot of potatoes in a smaller space.
Adding A Bit Of Warmth
Depending on where you live, you may need to consider moving several plants to a sheltered spot when the winter temperatures make their appearance. Many find that growing lemons outdoors is an impossibility due to the freezes their area receives each winter, but putting the trees in large portable planters can offer an alternative. A bit of your herbs and bulbs will do just fine over the winter months, but it couldn’t hurt to relocate them to a sunny spot inside of your barn or shed, just to offer them a bit of protection from the cold temperatures and the wind.
Your livestock should also be given as much protection from the elements as you are able to afford them. A barn or a sheltered pen can give them the warmth they need and help to get them through the winter months. Be sure that they have plenty of fresh water, especially if you receive hard freezes that could freeze their water solid. There are heating elements that can be added to water troughs; just make sure to keep it in good repair throughout the year.
Fresh straw can provide insulation for your livestock and your plants alike. After a freeze you should be sure to walk the property to check on how everything is doing, and add another layer of mulching straw if needed.
By taking care of these chores at the end of the summer and autumn growing seasons, you’ll be able to save yourself a lot of time during the otherwise hectic spring seasons and also help to reduce the problems that you could have with pests and diseases.
©2012 Off the Grid News