Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fall Gardening Tips by Mary Farrah

CAUSES Urban Agriculture and Forestry Outreach Extension Agent, Mary Farrah, provides helpful tips about taking care of our gardens during the winter:

It’s time for the fall garden clean up! As our growing season is winding down, the only crops able to tolerate the chill are the overwintering garlic bulbs, the cold hardy greens of the brassica family, lettuces and spinach.

It’s time to pull all the dead and decaying warm season veggies—and the weeds that escaped our notice while we were busy having fun this summer! Doing this will eliminate many overwintering insect and pest eggs and bacterial, fungal and viral diseases you didn’t even know you had. This simple and easy cultural practice is the number one place to start minimizing pests and pathogens that will otherwise gladly move right into next season’s garden.  A fall garden clean-up equals good gardening hygiene!

Should you compost or trash what you’ve just pulled? If your compost reaches 140F then it will kill most weed seeds within three hours and is a safe place to dispose of diseased plants. Otherwise it’s better to trash the plants rather than infest/infect your compost (and your garden when you spread the compost). To learn more about composting to reduce weed seeds and plant pathogens, I recommend this article.

If you don’t usually plant a fall/winter garden, consider planting an annual cover crop next fall  (it should be sewn by early November). Cover crops can do everything from suppressing weeds, to providing nitrogen, building the organic matter in your soil, preventing erosion, loosening subsoil, and fighting pests and weeds. You can learn more about cover crops here.

Happy gardening!

Learn more about the CAUSES Center for Urban Agriculture & Gardening Education