Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn
It’s time to start thinking about the end of the season! Summer fades into fall at different rates around the country, so timing varies, but the principles are the same. Taking the time to do some maintenance and cleanup from season to season is helpful. Here are some important reasons to take the time to do some end of season cleanup:
- Removing old plant material helps to prevent diseases and discourage pests.
- You’ll be less likely to feel overwhelmed with old messes when it’s time to plant new seeds.
- Weeding and mulching prevent weeds from becoming established during the off-season.
- Cover crops and soil replenishment help to build better soil quality.
- You’ll save money on repairs and more with some simple maintenance.
- Saving seeds from your best plants can help you to be more successful in future seasons.
Tidy Up Dead Plants
Let’s talk about the plants you may not want to completely clear out. You probably have some plants that are still happily producing, and obviously, you don’t want to clear them in the middle of a great harvest. Another consideration is seed saving. If you’ve got any plants you want to save seeds from, quit deadheading them or harvesting and allow them to begin concentrating their energy on seed production now. Lastly, you may want to leave various flowers, wildflowers, and ornamentals to continue their autumn cycle. This can give your plants a chance to self-sow and to feed your local birds and friendly pollinators.
It’s much more important to do a thorough job of clearing out the vegetable garden. Annuals that are finished for the season should be cleared as soon as possible. Compost healthy plants that are at the end of their cycle. Plant diseases get into the soil and can cause headaches later, so it’s especially important to remove tomatoes and anything diseased. Don’t even try to compost anything suspicious. Just send it out with the trash.
Prep Your Soil
Autumn is the best time to replenish the soil for a healthy garden. Weed the area well so that no competition gets established over the winter. Mix in shredded leaves, compost, or rotted manure to enrich the soil. If you’re not using the land over the next season, plant a cover crop like clover that can be turned under as green manure later. Covering the soil with organic mulch protects it from winter weather and will gradually add organic material as the mulch breaks down.
General Cleaning & Maintenance
Take care of your garden tools and do a general tidy-up of your storage areas. Sharpen clippers, pull up tomato stakes and plant supports, and drain and put away your hoses. There’s nothing quite so frustrating as having last year’s maintenance to do or needing to replace items that were destroyed because they weren’t cleaned and properly stored. It’s much more fun to focus your time and energy on starting your seeds than doing last season’s work.
End of Season Cleaning Checklist
Worried you’ll forget something? Use this checklist to keep track:
- Start a compost pile if you don’t already have one
- Compost dead plants
- Completely remove any diseased plants
- Empty pots and clean them for next year
- Save seeds for next year
- Properly store stakes & plant supports
- Clean and maintain tools
- Clean up storage areas
And of course, as always, enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. A new season is right around the corner, and you’ve set yourself up for success by closing this one out thoughtfully.