Sep 27, 2018
By Ryan Mahoney, ACUA Communications Assistant
It may be the end of harvest season, but you can always tend to your garden all year round. Cleaning up and preparing for next year will improve the quality of your soil and is important for growing healthy plants. Here are some great gardening tips that will keep you busy this fall and winter from our final talk of the summer with the Atlantic County Master Gardeners.
Test Your Soil
When closing up shop on your garden, it is a great idea to use a soil testing kit. Soil fertility testing will help you improve the productivity of your garden. Soil testing kits will teach you how to best enhance the quality of your soil. This process allows gardeners to learn the proper amount of fertilizer necessary in their garden. Excess amounts of fertilizer can lead to nutrients reaching streams or groundwater which is not good for the environment.
The results of soil tests will help determine if your soil could benefit from added nutrients or adjusted pH. Soil test sampling kits are available for a fee from most Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s county offices. You can click here for more information on soil testing kits.
Start Plotting Your Garden for Next Year
During the off season you can make use of a garden plotting map to plan out your garden for next year. It is important to separate plants three to four feet apart so all your crops have room to grow. Always take note of which way the sun rises so plants that need more light will benefit. Crop rotation is also a factor that should always be taken into consideration because it will discourage pests and diseases from spreading. Any annuals in your garden should be rotated.
Grow Garlic in Your Home Garden
Take advantage of the fall weather by growing garlic in your garden. Garlic needs nine months to fully mature. The climate during October in New Jersey is perfect for harvesting garlic because it requires a period of cold followed by a period of light and heat to reach a harvestable size.
Garlic is a great option for your garden because it tends to have far less pest and disease problems. It also requires very little space and can be planted in the fall after your other crops have been harvested.
During autumn and winter, gardeners can always continue composting for soil that is rich in nutrients. This time of the year also brings us an abundance of one organic matter that gardeners can take advantage of… leaves! Using leaf compost as mulch keeps soil warmer in colder weather and can help control weeds. Gardeners can practice composting during every season.
Lay Cardboard Over Your Garden
The winter can be a rough time for gardeners. Spending less time outside will cause weeds to overgrow and the cold weather will dry up your soil. One simple solution to this problem is cardboard. Laying cardboard over your garden soil as a protective layer will keep the soil moist. You will have fewer weeds because they will have a tough time growing underneath.
A hazard for your garden is freeze thawing, which will kill plants and does not allow living organisms to thrive. Creatures like earthworms are important for making your garden a fully sustainable environment. They create tunnels in soil to make it less compact, allowing air and water to reach the seeds and roots of plants. Using cardboard will keep everything happy and healthy during the cold winter months.