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OK, fellow gardeners, it’s mid-October and Kansas just had their first (and earliest!!) freeze!
It’s time to start putting our gardens to bed for the year and getting them prepped for spring planting!
Now, I must admit, this is one of my least favorite gardening chores. It’s usually chilly out and who likes pulling dead plants and unstaking tomato cages, right??
But, while I’m doing it, I’m already planning for next year 🙂
So, let’s start prepping for spring, shall we?
There are 6 main things you should be doing now to help facilitate a booming start to the spring planting season.
Prepping Your Garden for Spring Planting
Number 1 is this:
Clean the garden.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You need to pull out all those dead plants (unless they are perennials, like certain herbs or strawberries!) and haul them out of the garden, especially if anything had disease. (My tomatoes ended up with a fungus, so those will be going in the burn pile!).
Pull out stakes and cages and put away sprinklers and anything else that might be laying out.
Collect seeds for spring.
Gather any flower or vegetable seeds that you may want to save for next year.
For instance, I collect all of my own zinnia seeds. Lindy planted giant sunflowers, so she likes to save those seeds. You can also save tomato and pepper seeds and about anything else that your heart desires!
Mulch, mulch mulch
I canNOT emphasize this step enough!!! Mulch has several jobs that it fulfills in the garden. It not only acts as a weed barrier, but it holds moisture in (minimizing the plant stress of drying out then getting soaked again) and it decomposes, adding valuable nutrients to the soil.
Mulch is the Superman (although not quite as handsome as Christopher Reeves! Did that just date me??? Ha!) of the gardening world! It has many superpowers that you will want at your disposal come spring time!
When you mulch, you can choose several methods, depending on your resources. I like to add aged manure most years and then throw the mulch on top. I’m also a huge fan of adding cardboard to the garden first, then adding the manure with straw thrown on top of that! I detailed my process in this post.
But, each region and area is different and if you have a different type of organic matter available to you, use it! It’s better than nothing!
Different options may include, but are not limited to: straw (wheat or oats), wood chips (hard to come by around here), leaves, grass clippings, even shredded newspaper, etc.
I would highly caution against using actual hay. There is a difference between hay and straw. Straw is the dead, dried out stalk of a wheat plant (or oat plant!), but hay is various grasses that are cut alive then dried. There is a good chance you can introduce undesirable seeds into your garden this way.
Another source that I would caution against using is haygrazer or baled corn stalks. The stalks are so thick on those plants that they can take FOREVER to break down in the garden. I’m speaking from personal experience, lol!
On that note, though, alfalfa hay makes a fabulous mulch! It’s a legume plant and most alfalfa fields are pretty clean, so you don’t have to worry about weed seeds. It’s also a very valuable livestock feed, so it may not be a cheap option for mulch. But if you ever come across old, moldy alfalfa for free from a farmer (it does happen from time to time), jump on it! The nutrients in alfalfa are awesome for the garden!
Reflect on this past season and make goals for next year.
Spend some time pondering what went right this year and what was a train wreck.
For instance, we had a very wet, but very calm (as in no wind) late summer this year (extremely unusual in Kansas!) and my tomato plants didn’t get nearly enough air flow- hence the reason I ended up with a fungus! Knowing that, I’m making plans to space my tomato plants differently next year.
I also did not plant my green beans soon enough and they flowered during the hottest part of our summer! So, I hardly got any decent green beans.
On the other hand, my jalapenos produced like gang busters, so I don’t feel like I need to change how I grow those! And my zinnias were beautiful and attracted lots of beneficial insects, so I know I need to plant even more next year 🙂
Now, take a moment to think about what you want to try next year!
I would like to try grapes next year along with some squash (I always get terrible squash bugs, so I have not attempted squash in several years!)
Print off this worksheet to help you ponder your reflections and goals.
Pick one (or more!) gardening books to read this winter.
You can never have too much education or inspiration, in my humble opinion 🙂 Search on Pinterest for gardening books or just peruse Amazon or an actual book store. I plan on putting out a post this winter with my personal recommendations (I have quite a few!).
The slow pace of winter is the perfect time to spend researching for your new goals or learning about new ideas.
Don’t worry if your goals change! Gardening is a constant experiment and gamble, which is what makes it so fun and addicting!
Pick some projects to make or do this fall or winter that will help you in the spring.
Do you need more tomato cages? Collect the materials now and build them!
Does your garden need a fence or a better fence? Fall and winter are a great time to get that project done!
Do you want an arbor for climbing plants? Do that this winter before you get too busy in the spring.
Would like some decorative landscaping added to your utilitarian garden? Fall and winter are a great time to get those foundations laid.
As a recap, here are the 6 things to do this fall for prepping your garden for spring:
- Clean the garden.
- Collect seeds.
- Mulch, mulch, mulch.
- Reflect on your past gardening season and make goals for next year.
- Find some gardening books to read this winter.
- Pick out some projects to complete now that will help you next spring.
What was your garden like this year?? I’d love to hear about your victories and losses and what everyone plans on doing next year!