What is fall garden prep? It’s all about doing whatever you can do now so when the snow melts in the spring you have as little to do as possible before seeds and seedlings can go into the ground.
On our homestead, this has traditionally meant pulling out leftover plants, gleaning seeds, and preparing beds with compost and manure. This year those plans stand but we are also including building out more raised beds, filling them, and covering both the beds and the walkways in fresh mulch.
So Step 1a: Start pulling out plants! It’s as easy as it sounds. Walk up to a plant and carefully pull it out of the ground.
I try not to disturb the topsoil and mulch too much – it’s an ecosystem after all. Mother nature in her infinite wisdom has designed this system.
Let’s pause here for a moment. When’s the last time you paused and looked at how Mother Nature builds our planet. Take a walk in the woods – what do you see? Trees, scrubby plants, fallen and rotting timber and leaf litter – everywhere. How do you suppose this all works? The tall trees need food and have deep and penetrating roots. The scrubby plants roots reach out but not so far down. Then there’s the bugs and creepy crawlies. So the leaves fall from the big trees onto the ground. They sit and rot. Bugs walk and munch on them. Worms squirm and then they POOP. Yes, I said it. I have small children. I say POOP a lot. It’s that poop that breaks down the leaves, creates manure that heats the leaf litter and cooks it to compost and then to fresh dirt. There are also the fungi that root in the fallen timber and at the base of standing trees. They all depend on that layering of fresh soil, decomposing organic matter, and fresh leaf litter (plus a bit of straight nitrogen courtesy of herbivores and carnivores).
That’s how nature works. Why not replicate that in your garden? Remember when I spoke about Back to Eden Gardening? Go check it out. The how-to video is legally FREE TO WATCH! Go watch it. You don’t even need to believe in Eden – it’s about how the world works. How the Mother works.
While you are pulling out those plants – take a look around. Are there any plants you can eat? What about ones for your animals? Set those aside. My goats and pigs LOVE corn stalks. The lettuce and spinach that has bolted – once you take the seeds your goats and pigs won’t turn their noses up at those bitter greens.
The ones that aren’t edible (e.g. nightshade plants) can go into their own pile to be checked for disease and if clean to compost. Everything in your garden can be consumed directly or indirectly. This year’s green bean plant is Grandma’s Green Beans and Ham meal this year and next year’s ham once the piggies finishing processing it for me!
Step 1b: While you are busy pulling out plants, did you miss any possible seed sources? Sure it’s probably frosted a time or ten. But those seeds are built to deal with frost. They are little DNA vaults, waiting for the perfect time to unleash their own brand of chaos in the world. In this instance, the chaos they unleash provides food for us!
Next Fall Garden Prep Post: All about Raised Beds