John Porter, Kanawha County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent
Reflect on your garden as the leaves fall
As we enter the cool days and even cooler nights of autumn, it is a great time to reflect upon our gardening year and prepare our gardens for next year. Believe it or not, the fall can bring a great buzz of activity to the garden. Working outside in the fall is also a great way to enjoy the beautiful fall colors and the pleasant temperatures, when it is not raining, of course.
Get all you can from your garden
The vegetable garden gives one great final burst of energy to get done what it can before the first frost comes. Be sure to get out and harvest the last of the produce before it succumbs to the low temperatures. Great handfuls of tomatoes hang ever patiently waiting for a heat wave to ripen them. Now is the time to end their long wait, harvest them, and bring them in to ripen off the vine, or better yet enjoy a feast of fried green tomatoes.
Prepare your garden for next season
In their place, sow hardy greens such as kale, spinach, mustard and turnips. Peonies, daylilies and their perennial cohorts prepare to hibernate below ground for the winter by storing the energy in their leaves in their roots (and bulbs, corms and tubers). When they have finished their time in the garden, it is time to remove the debris and give it second life in the compost pile (if it is not diseased).
A helpful mnemonic for fall gardening
To help get the ball rolling for all of the activity that can take place in the fall garden, just remember (in no particular order) that:Clean up debris and compost if it isn’t diseased
Organize storage sheds, garden notes and left over seeds
Mulch beds and plants after the ground is frozen
Plant spring-flowering bulbs, evergreens and garlic (sow some leafy greens)
Overwinter cool season vegetable crops with row covers
Sharpen and Store garden tools (after they are cleaned, of course!)
Test the soil in your garden and lawn Record your garden successes and failures for next year
Enjoy fresh produce while it lasts
Water trees and shrubs (especially evergreens) to reduce winter damage
Apply lime and fertilizer according to test results
Remove spent plant parts and compost them
Save seeds from favorite plants