Putting Your Garden to Bed.

gardenBEDIn the past couple of weeks I have had several newbie gardeners ask me what to do with their garden now that the vegetables are picked and the colder weather is coming. Today I heard that freezing temperatures and snow are expected in our area this week, so I guess it’s time.
Because we grow in raised beds, we do not have to wait until everything is harvested to begin cleaning up our garden; we are able to work up one or two beds at a time, but the basic principles are the same.
1. Clean up the garden.
Pick the last of your late crops or if you plan to overwinter some things…get your cloches or mulch in place. Remove all of the old plants and any rotten produce to prevent any diseases from spreading into next year’s garden. Pull up the weeds and/or till to prevent the weed seeds from sprouting. Now is also a good time to add some fresh manure, leaves or other organic matter-this will compost down over the winter and replenish any nutrients lost this year. Roll up your pea fence, pull up the tomato stakes and put away all of your row markers.
2. Time to tally.
Now is a good time to take stock of how your garden produced and begin to plan for next year. These are the things I make notes on from year to year: How much seed did I use? How many beds did I plant? What did each bed produce? Each spring I make a map of my garden and keep track of how many beds I planted in each particular vegetable/fruit and how many seeds or plants it took to fill each bed. As I harvest my produce, I write on my calendar how many bushels/pounds of produce I picked and how many jars/bags I was able to preserve for the winter. At the end of the season, I tally up the total amount of food in my larder and freezers along with the amounts. This helps me to apportion out the produce for our monthly meals and I don’t end up with only beets and pickles left in March.  🙂  This also helps me to plan for next year when I am ordering seeds, planting my sets and deciding if I need to build more beds.
3. Check your equipment.
Do you need a better fence next year? Did your shovel break while digging those last potatoes? Is the gasket worn out on your pressure canner? This is the time to go over your equipment and decide what you need to repair or replace before next growing season.
Even though we would all like to forget the work of the planting, weeding, watering harvesting, and preserving there are still a few more chores to be done before the first seed catalog arrives in November.