After a long and productive season it can be heartbreaking to say goodbye to those spend garden plants, but we must remove them to rejuvenate the soil for a new season of growing. Whether you are planning to grow fall crops in your outdoor beds or not (and we hope you are), now is a great opportunity to help to rebuild the soil and replenish the nutrients that are depleted over the course of the year. Here are 3 easy tips to help you rejuvenate the soil at the end of the season:
- Aerate the soil with a hoe, spade, or garden shovel. Over time soil becomes compacted. Breaking up the soil will not only increase airflow and oxygen to the soil, it also allows you to pull out any residual root that may have been left behind when you removed your spent veggie plants.
- Add compost to your beds in the fall, whether you are growing or not. In fact, if you aren’t using your beds in the fall you can add compost that isn’t fully broken down yet and let it finish the process right where the nutrients will do the most good.
- Plant a cover crop a.k.a. green manure when you aren’t growing food. Planting a crop like alfalfa not only helps to avoid erosion, it also helps to fix nitrogen in the soil, essentially rebuilding the nutrients from the top down. A few weeks before the next growing season, simply turn the crop under and allow it to compost beneath the surface.
One side note to a suggestion I made above: if you are growing in raised beds and plan to leave them unplanted either in fall or winter, you might consider cutting the plants off at ground level and allowing the roots to decompose naturally. This has been shown to help with aeration over the long term. You can still grow a cover crop by lightly raking the soil and sowing the seed directly on the surface.