Getting Your Garden Ready for Autumn
Weatherwise, it’s been a pretty unpredictable year around here. Over the last few months it seemed like the cool weather and fog just wouldn’t let up. And finally…the heat came.
This growing season had its pros and cons, for sure.
On the plus side, gardeners who love flowering plants had a virtually unending spring. Plants and bushes attracting the pollinators–like milkweed, butterfly bush, and orange butterfly weed–thrived. In fact, you are probably still seeing butterflies fluttering around. It’s been a historic year for butterfly migration around here.
Unfortunately, the heat loving plants like melons didn’t get those long, hot summer days. The result? Big, sprawling plants that didn’t produce the desired fruit. Since the days are once again getting shorter, the plants have pretty much stopped flowering.
Despite the challenges of the last few months, there are some things you can do to make this upcoming season more beneficial and even exciting for your garden.
Here are some tips:
Condition Your Soil
If you perpetually have dirt under your fingernails, you probably know how important healthy soil is to your plants and vegetables. After all, there are millions of microorganisms and larger creatures making up the soil food web.
These beneficial organisms need oxygen to live and thrive. A light, fluffy soil provides the oxygen. Compact dirt, on the other hand, squeezes out the oxygen and kills the organisms meant to feed your future plants.
So how can you help your soil? Feed it.
Compost and natural mulch provide a food source for microbes by allowing a new batch of fungi and bacteria into your soil. The microbes feed on it and excrete the nutrients into your soil.
Here’s something you might not know.
Microbe species vary by region. Locally made compost and mulch–even the stuff made in your own backyard–provides the most fungi and bacteria needed for your specific garden. Sure, compost products shipped from out of town are beneficial. Local products, however, can give your garden an extra boost.
For a shelf-bought product we love Fertilome Granular Humic Acid, “which does many things to reactivate the soil. One of those things is it excited the microorganisms in the soil and causes them to multiply. Many of these microorganisms help in holding in water and nutrients and releasing it to the plant as they need it”
Plant Cover Crops
As you probably know, cover crops help to add organic matter in the soil. They also improve drainage while reducing erosion and weed growth.
Want some great tomatoes next year? Some planning and cover crops will help.
First off, make sure you plant your tomatoes in a different location than you did last year. They take a lot of nitrogen from the soil. Also, planting tomatoes in the same spot may lead to root knot nematode–a disease that may drastically reduce your next harvest.
Figured out where to plant your next batch of tomatoes? Now is the time to plant cover crops in that part of your garden. Several varieties are available. Avena sativa–commonly known as oats–is a great choice for early season tomato planters.
Try Preparing for Halloween
If you weren’t happy with your melon or winter squash yields, all is not lost. Why not try planting some pumpkins? If the weather stays hot, smaller varieties of pumpkins–like the sugar baby–may be ready just in time to enjoy pumpkin pie and jack-o-lanterns.
Of course, if the hot season isn’t very long this year, you may have to change plans.
So what can you do?
Get Started on Your Fall Garden
The weather has been weird this year. So, in the next couple months, we should be prepared for anything. If the cool air comes sooner than usual, why not be ready to plant some of your fall crops?
Turn over that dirt and get a few inches of that beneficial compost mixed in. Begin planting some lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, peas, radishes, or any other favorite fall crops. It’s also a great time for planting flowers like coreopsis, black-eyed susan, and bulbs like daffodils, anemone, and lilies.
Every year has its own set of challenges for gardners. Taking a proactive approach when the weather is unexpected will help your garden thrive.