Sometime each year in October or November I put my garden to bed. I pull a fleece blanket over it, tuck it in real tight and say goodnight. Just kidding.
Putting the garden to bed is just a layman’s term for cleaning the garden at the end of the season and preparing it for the upcoming season. This cleaning and preparation can be as simple, or as in-depth, as you would like. I offer one caveat. Whatever you don’t do in the fall you will do in the spring.
How to Put Your Garden to Bed
Personally I prefer to do as much as I can in the fall when the soil is malleable, there is a crisp breeze and beautiful leaves to look at. If you would rather put your garden to bed in the spring you can, but the soil will likely be frozen or very soggy (think April showers). Gardeners take many approaches to put their garden to bed. This is my approach:
• Remove Annual Plants: Anything that will not overwinter should be removed. When removing your plants be sure to remove the entire root system. A large shovel can help with this. If not diseased, these plants can be composted.
• Weed the Garden: Yes, I know. I’m so sick of weeding by fall, too. But if you have any stragglers, now is the time to remove them as you put your garden to bed.
• Amend the Soil: I honestly attribute much of my gardening success to this step. During the growing season, plants suck the nutrients out of the soil. If you continue to plant a garden year after year and do not amend the soil it’s possible your plants will struggle to flourish due to nutrient depletion. Fertilizer does help, but I also use this natural amendment process. Usually I will add coffee grounds, bone meal, cow manure, grass clippings and leaves to my garden beds.
• Double Dig the Soil: Looking for a real workout? Double dig your garden beds in the fall. This process helps bring nutrients deep in the soil closer to the surface to be more easily accessed by next year’s seedlings. It also helps loosen and aerate the soil. I like to amend the soil and then double dig with a digging shovel (so aptly named), to help mix everything in. The Garden Weasel Garden Claw works wonders for mixing, too.
• Top Dress the Beds: I add about one to two inches of grass clippings to the top of the beds. The dressing helps keep soil from blowing away in the wind and I also find it helps with weed control in the spring when I plant seedlings.