Fall Garden Tasks Yield Spring Simplicity and Summer Bounty

Garden PumpkinsIn the Spring, we are often anxious to get a new garden in the ground that will come out healthy and bounteous. However, it is the Fall garden tasks that are often the most important to get those wonderful and bounteous crops.

There are several important tasks for the fall garden but two are of the most important:
Building your soil
Killing Disease

In this article, we’ll cover building the soil.

Garden is a Living Ecosystem

Remember, a garden is a living ecosystem. It is full of important microbes and life that generates fertile soil and bounteous harvests. The work you do in the fall can either build the ecosystem or hurt the ecosystem.
The most important fall garden task is to build the soil with organic materials and compost and let nature do the hard work during the winter.
While we are staying cozy in our heated homes during the winter, nature continues naturally breaking down the organic material throughout the winter. The most important thing that we can do in the fall is to provide a rich layer of organic material soil. The smaller the particles the better. We have found a mixture of leaves and grass to be our best ratio of carbon to nitrogen. It is much better if it can be chopped, but even if it is put directly onto the soil, the winter will take a 6-10 inch layer of leaves and grass and break it down.
So the four steps to preparing your fall garden  soil are these:

1) Gather your leaves.

You may have enough trees in your own yard, but if not, ask the neighbors for all the leaves they want to get rid of. Or, if you are too shy, maybe do a service project for the local church or civic center. Generally they have trees and the leaves need  to be gathered in the fall. Usually it’s not that hard to find sources of a variety of leaves.

2) Chop and mix the leaves.

If you can use a lawn mower to pick up the leaves, it will chop the leaves and mix it with the grass. (A note of caution. You do not want to include grass that has been chemically treated! That will pull those chemicals right into your garden. Just don’t do it. Ask first!) Put the leaves and grass into sturdy lawn bags. If you purchase quality lawn bags, you can use them for two or three or more years. If you buy cheap bags, many will tear the first year. Buy thick bags.

3) Spread the Leaves

Haul the leaves and grass into the garden. I try to spread 6-8 inches (or more) of unchopped leaves or about 3-6 inches of chopped leaves and grass.

4) Till lightly

The final step is to take the tiller and till the leaves into the soil. If you have to rent a tiller, you can wait until spring, but it works much better if you can till in the fall when the soil is perfect for working. The tilling will further break down the leaves, but more importantly it mixes the leaves and grass into the soil where the micro-organisms are heavy at work. You have just given the “good guys” the food supply they need. Along with the moisture of the fall and winter, the micro-organism will do what they do best. They will eat the food and break it down into nutrient-rich soil. You will be surprised how all of those leaves and grass will disappear during the winter.

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