By the time autumn arrives, many gardens are looking a bit spent and shabby. Gardeners themselves may feel a bit spent and shabby, too, but now’s the time to muster energy and prepare for next year’s growing season.
Bruce Shultz, a long-time gardener and volunteer with Fair Food Matters, spoke at Oshtemo on Sept. 14 sharing tips for how to put the garden to bed. At this time of year, we should clean up debris from annual plants, but leave parts from perennials in place. Add amendments to the soil — compost, fertilizers, leaves, lime or the like — so these nutrients have time to settle in over the winter. Autumn is the time to plant cover crops or relocate bulbs and spring flowering perennials. Pruning, too, can be accomplished now.
But Shultz also encouraged us to think about gardening year-round, not as an activity between Memorial Day and Labor Day. “Why put the garden to bed at all?” he asked.
Extend the growing season with protection. Row covers, cold frames, tunnels, cloches and straw can give you an early start in spring and fend off autumn frosts. Another way to extend the growing season is to bring it indoors. Shultz starts his garden by planting seeds and letting them get a good start under grow lights. He’s out planting peas in March as soon as the soil is soft. When the weather turns cool, in comes the large potted rosemary shrub. And, they may be old-fashioned, but they definitely work: root cellars. They store produce at a cool but not freezing temperature.
To read more about gardening year round, check out these books by Eliot Coleman.
Bruce Shultz, Fair Food Matters volunteer