When the leaves have turned color and are beginning to fall off the trees it is time to prepare your garden for winter.
Winterizing your garden is an important step to ensuring a healthy garden next year.
Start winterizing your garden by removing the dead plant remnants from this year's garden. Dig up all of the plants, including their root systems and either remove them or pile them on top of the garden.
Ideally it is best to remove them and to put them in a compost pile. Leaving old crop debris in the garden creates a haven for rodents and insects. Also, if the plants are diseased it is important to remove them to help prevent next year's garden from becoming diseased as well.
If you decide to leave the plant remnants in the garden leave them on top of it to dry out and till them into the soil in late fall or early spring.
Take some of the fallen leaves from the trees and till them into the garden. By tilling the fallen leaves into the soil in the fall time your garden will begin to absorb some of the nutrients associated with the leaves. Leaving them on top and waiting to spring to till them in retards the absorption of the nutrients and delays the warming of the garden soil in the spring.
Do not put fertilizer on your garden in the fall. It is bad for the environment and it is a waste of your money. Without the plants there is nothing to absorb the fertilizer. Consequently it washes away causing harm to creeks and wetlands. Save your money and apply the fertilizer in the springtime.
If you are inclined to add a chemical to your garden in the fall time, check your soils pH level and see if you should add lime or sulfur. Fall is an excellent time of the year to add these chemicals if required. Simply spread them on the soil and till them into it.
Tilling your garden in the fall time is also helpful in several other ways. Regardless if you are removing the dead plant material or not adding sulfur or lime to it, it is wise to till the garden in the fall time. Tilling the garden in the fall time helps to destroy any insect larvae in the soil. Also the thawing and freezing of the soil that occurs during the winter and spring helps to break down the dirt clogs and ensures a smoother soil for planting in the springtime.
Planting rye grass or another cover crop is also a good idea to prevent erosion and improving your garden's soil. Simply broadcast it and rake it into the soil per the manufacturer's recommended levels. However if you do decide to plant a cover crop, you should do it earlier in the fall season, typically before the leaves begin to fall off the trees. If you plan to plant a cover crop start the winterizing of your garden in early fall. In spring, till the cover crop over about 1-2 weeks before you plan to plant, so that the cover crop plant material has a little time to breakdown and decompose.