By late summer, our edible gardens can look a little-shall we say-untidy. Before planting a fall garden, you’ll have to tidy up the summer garden to make room. Here’s how I prepare my beds for a fall garden.
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I thought I would show you my raised beds for some comic relief, LOL. We’ll take a look at what’s growing in them, and how I prepared them for fall.
Growing Fall Vegetables in Raised Beds
I have two 4×8 raised beds on the driveway (you do what you can in a small space!). I sowed fall beets and carrots in July, but I’d like to plant some more crops, according to my plans for what to do in August.
First, I’ll have to do some damage control and see what kind of space I even have to work with.
Step 1: Clear Diseased Plant Matter
In Raised Bed #1, I had three tomato plants dying of blight, so I ripped them out.
Raised Bed #2 had three cucumber plants dying from a stink bug infestation, so I ripped those out, too.
If you discover that a pest infestation is going to wipe out the bulk of your crop, better to clear the beds of all the diseased plant matter ASAP. That way, the bugs will all fly away and look for food in someone else’s garden, LOL, rather than overwintering in your garden soil and coming back next year to haunt you.
Pests are a natural component of gardening, even in the best gardens. It’s important to think about why you might have gotten an infestation so that you know what to do in the following year. Was it a lack of crop rotation? Not enough compost/fertilizer/mulch? Stressed from drought? Inappropriate sun exposure? Take notes so that in future years you can try different things to get to the root of the problem.
I’m sure my plants were stressed from getting too little sun. Though my raised beds were in full sun several years ago when we built them, the looming trees have gotten bigger and now cast more shade.
THROW AWAY or BURN all diseased plant matter. Do not put it in the compost bin, where the insects may survive.
Step 2: Clear out Spent Plants
I sprinkle all of my beds lightly with calendula and coriander seeds in the spring to start out the season. These attract beneficial insects and pollinators, and provide some aesthetics, too. Oh, and of course the calendula has important medicinal properties and young coriander (cilantro) is delicious!
At this point in the late season, half of the calendula and most of the coriander has gone to seed. Great! First I harvest the seed heads so I never have to buy calendula or coriander seed again.
Then, I cut back the plant matter, leaving those individual plants that still have flower buds on them. I chop and drop the plant matter directly into the beds as mulch. This goes for spent crops, too. Rather than pull them out, I cut them back, and their decaying roots will feed the soil.
If I missed any seeds when harvesting, then I’ve just reseeded the beds for next year with little effort!
Step 3: Weed and Assess Space
Now I do any additional weeding that needs to be done. But don’t throw those weeds away! When I pull weeds, I lay them on top of the soil to decompose as fertilizer. Unless it’s something vine-like and invasive, in which case I get it out of there, pronto.
Now I can breathe!
So how much space is left? Take a look and decide what you’d like to plant, depending on what month it is and what your hardiness zone is. Here are my planting schedules for my zone 6 garden:
Step 4: Seed or Transplant
Once I decided on what to sow for fall, I set up a row for each seed type and sprinkled the seeds along each row. I watered them well, and will water everyday until the seeds have sprouted.
P.S. Don’t forget to save room for your fall garlic! In my zone 6, I will plant in October. My favorite variety, hands down, is ‘Chesnok Red‘.
Is your Garden Ready for the Cold Months Ahead?
- A cold frame or row cover can really come in handy.
- You’ll find excellent tips for year-round gardening in Eliot Coleman’s Winter Harvest Handbook.
How about you? Did you have to clean anything out to make room for the fall garden? Did you get everything planted?