Fall Garden Prep Tips: Amending the Soil
As fall arrives, the time is finally right for planting new beds, seeding the lawn, transplanting things around the garden, and potting up any herbs or tender plants that need to come indoors for the winter. There is a lot to get done before winter arrives, but the most important task is amending the soil. A garden is only as good as its soil, after all.And fall is the best time to amend soil, because it will allow any amendments time to break down, ensuring that the nutrients in compost are readily available for plants when the growing starts next spring.
Often well-intentioned gardeners will throw unfinished compost in right before planting. The most common amendments that get tossed in are shredded leaves, eggshells (or even whole eggs), coffee grounds, and banana peels. These are all great things to add to the soil, but they need to be properly composted before the growing season is underway because 1. A lot of the nutrients in these materials aren't available until bacteria or worms have broken them down, and 2. When these materials first start composting, the bacterial activity can use up all the available Nitrogen, creating an even less fertile soil for a time.
This is why it is important to amend the soil well in advance of planting. For the best results, compost should either "finish" in its own pile or be thoroughly incorporated into existing soil in the fall. A sprinkle of an organic source of Nitrogen, like Blood Meal, Poultry Manure, or Alfalfa Meal, will help the compost break down faster and prevent that dreaded Nitrogen deficiency.
A lot of gardeners incorporate their amendments into the soil using a tiller, but this isn't usually necessary, and it also damages the soil's structure, interrupting decomposition and making the soil more susceptible to erosion. To keep the soil healthy, just pull the weeds, and then fold amendments into the topsoil using a garden fork.Once the bed is prepared, a good way to lock in the nutrients is to add a layer of mulch to the top. This will keep the weeds out and keep the nutrients from being eroded or leached away. Leaves are a great way to top off your prepared bed, as they are readily available in the fall, they prevent weeds, AND they slowly decompose to add their own nutrients to the soil.
For more tips on preparing your garden for fall, visit waysidegardens.com or contact us directly by calling our public relations department at 1-864-941-4521.