Garden Clean-Up, Gardening Books, and Other Gardening Tips

This installment of a gardening tips feature provides advice on fall garden clean-up and ideas for gift gardening books.

| November/December 1979

November is the "in between seasons" time. On warm afternoons, in many parts of North America, drunken yellowjackets still circle the sticky sweetness of spilled cider, and then—one chill morning—you walk out and find that the leaves crisping under foot are covered with frost. Nature is slowing down and the year is dying, but there's still plenty to be done on nippy weekends in the November-December garden!

Garden Clean-Up

The coming of cold weather marks the time for the grand garden cleanup. The work that's done in the fall determines (to a large degree) the success of the next year's vegetable crop, so it doesn't pay to cut corners.

First, a thorough policing of the area is called for. Cornstalks, pumpkin vines, and all the other debris left behind after the harvest should be gathered up, shredded (the power mower does a good job on all but the toughest material), and either placed in the compost pile or set aside to be rototilled into the earth later. At this point, evaluate your garden's soil. Many county extensions offer complete testing services. And even if you don't have access to a full evaluation, you should at least run a pH check on the "brown gold." The ideal garden pH is about 6.8—slightly acid—and chances are that your loam will need some help if it's to reach this figure.  

If the soil is too acid, add about five pounds of lime per 100 square feet to "sweeten" it. On the other hand, those folks (mainly living west of the Mississippi) who have a naturally alkaline growing medium should incorporate agricultural sulfur into the soil for greater acidity.  

Next, cover your entire garden with a three-inch-deep dose of fresh horse, cow, or goat manure. Then top off the "nutrient sandwich" with the ground-up garden debris you set aside, and add lots of shredded leaves (mix in extra lime if you use oak leaves). Once that's done, rototill all the glorious nourishment into your garden soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Make sure it mixes in well.  

The final step in preparing the soil for the next season is to plant a green manure crop: winter rye or oats. (Seed for these living fertilizers is sold by Johnny's Selected Seeds. In the spring, simply till your cover crop under to improve both the fertility and the tilth of the soil.  

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