Your Autumn to do (and don’t) list
Take out the ‘trash.’ Gather up all the old vegetable plants left from the summer season. Add clippings from faded flowers, one planting bed at a time and add them all to a compost pile. Stakes and tomato cages can be stacked in a shed or corner of the garage.
Ruffle up the soil. With a garden fork or rake mix the old mulch in with the soil to hurry the decomposing process and rake everything smooth. Scratch and rough up the soil between plants with a long handled cultivator to further prevent weeds from sprouting in garden beds. That and any layer of mulch will pay off greatly when it comes weeding time in spring.
Rake a path. Rake any paths you have to keep them clear and to prevent weeds from sprouting. It’s surprising how raking the paths where you walk can neaten up the garden. Go ahead and try this. In fall, when flowers fade and trees lose their leaves, simple things like raking give the garden a bit of polish.
Dig up some manure. If you used fertilizer or manure on the garden last spring, it has been used up by your plants by now. Get more now to build up the soil for next season.
Have any friends with horses? It’s amazing how generous they can be. Look for their oldest pile of manure, and load up a few tubs to carry home. If no horsey friends can be found, a few bags from the store will do.
Don’t do these:
Throw out leaves you raked. Don’t bag them up for the trash. Gather up the nearest child for help and rake up leaves collecting around trees and on lawns. Stomp around on them a bit, and then add them to planting beds as mulch or to the compost. The fact that oak leaves compost so slowly is a good thing, adding air and breaking up the soil.
Leave the ‘cake’ out in the rain. Gather all your gloves and tools from the garden and put them in the shed or garage. A bucket of sand or fine gravel, mixed with some clean motor oil is the secret to clean and shiny tools. Keep the bucket in a corner of a shed and plunge your shovels, trowels and trowels into it to clean them, knocking any soil off and to lightly oil them preventing rust. Clippers can be sprayed with WD-40, to keep them in shape and rust free. Bring in lounge cushions, outdoor game equipment and anything that will be damaged by rain.
Cut down all the dead stalks. Leave some plants standing like sunflowers, coreopsis and penstamon, aster and blackberry whose seeds or berries feed birds through the winter.
Remove all the brush piles. Leave one or two small piles of brush for the quail and other local birds to hide in. When tree cutting, leave some logs for beneficial insects such as spiders, solitary bees, ladybugs and other beetles to live in this winter. I place at least one small ‘nurse’ log in each planting bed, just like in nature.
When your end of season puttering is done, let Mother Nature bring on the rain and snow. You’re ready.