Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Organic Gardening Tips for the Month of October

Image: SB_Johnny

This time of year there may not seem like there’s much to do in the garden except clean up and put the tools away for winter. After the last of the vegetables have been harvested and before putting the tools away, there are a few things to do in preparation for spring. The work you put into the garden in October influences the start of next year’s growing season.

Tip #1: October Garden Cleanup

Once your plants have died off, pull them from the ground and toss them into the compost or bag them to put by the curb on trash day. Rake up any debris and toss that as well. Taking these extra steps helps to reduce the garden pest population next year. Many garden pests, “the bad bugs,” burrow under piles of garden debris to lay their eggs or set up home for the duration of the winter. Removing piles of debris from your garden in October encourages pests to hibernate elsewhere.

Tip #2: Till Compost into the Garden

October is the perfect time of year to till compost into gardens, especially in the north. Plants value the nutrients finished compost leave behind. Add about ½" of compost to existing garden beds and about 1" of compost to new gardens and to those that have never been fertilized before. Till the compost into the soil a good 3 - 4". Over the winter nutrients will leach into the garden bed where they’ll be ready to feed your plants for the new growing season.

Tip #3: Plant a Fast Growing Ground Cover

To minimize the amount of weeds that grow, even during the month of October, plant a fast growing ground cover. Ground covers blanket the garden crowding out weeds. Come spring, till the ground cover into the soil while preparing your garden for planting. Not only will you have fewer weeds, you’ll be giving your garden an extra boost of nutrients.

Tip #4: Clean and Put Away Garden Tools

October is a good month to clean your garden tools and tuck them away in the shed for the winter. While you’re in the shed, place snow shovels in an easy to reach place. Remove garden dirt and debris from your tools, oil them to prevent rust and sharpen any blades that need it. Organize your tools by hanging them up and placing them in storage racks so they’re kept out of the elements and easy to find next year.

One of the things I like to do in October is to sit on the porch drinking a cup of coffee, usually in a sweatshirt here in Maine, and think about my garden. What grew well and what didn’t? What will I keep the same next year and what will I do differently? I keep a garden diary, this year I posted it online, and I make notes for myself to remember next year. Maybe it’s a variety of vegetable that didn’t grow well or a certain insect infestation I had to combat. Whatever it may be, it helps me to grow an even more productive garden the following year. 

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