The fall months are a great time to improve your soil! The season is just about over for most of us and like most of us, we say "Okay gardening is over with for this year"...but wait it's not really. There are many things you can do and one of the best ones on the list is improving your soil, if you need to. As many organic gardeners know, it's not the time to be lazy; it's the time to get to work on that soil whether you are planting vegetables, flowers, perennials, bulbs etc.
So, what should I do to my soil this fall?
Add Organic Matter to Your Soil Your veggie garden will most likely be lying dormant for the winter months unless you are in an area where you can garden year-round. (you lucky person!) So, take this opportunity to boost your soil by adding some organic matter. Shredded up leaves from fall raking is a good choice. You can also use animal manure (not domestic animals like dogs or cats) or you can buy them from your local garden centers. The organisms in your soil will help decompose the matter, however, you must add in some nitrogen, or the decomposing process will use the nitrogen in your soil. Just sprinkle in some nitrogen rich manure or granules of organic fertilizer.
Compost It! Remove (pull) the spent veggie crops or mow down your wildflower areas to about 4-6 in. in height. Use a garden rake to lightly loosen the soil. While it is still warm the soil temperatures also will be so the nutrients in the compost that you mix into your soil will stimulate microbes and other beneficial organisms. When spring starts your soil will be richer for it! Where ever you might have had annual flowers, dig them out and put in some compost. This is also a good idea if planting bulbs. For perennials, cut them back and then add a good 2-4 inches around the base of established perennials and shrubs keeping it back approx. 2 inches from the stalk. If you are planting some new stuff, mix in some compost with the soil you refill the holes with!
Amend the Soil (If It Needs It!) Many organic or non-organic fertilizers release the nutrients slowly over months, so using them in the fall helps ensure the soil and amendments you've made will be ready for your plants next spring. Bone meal and green sand are great choices. Mix them up with the soil already in your garden or add them along with shredded up leaves, manure or compost as you go along. You can also add in an all-purpose fertilizer to help keep nitrogen levels up as amendment material is broken down.
Test Your pH! The best time to correct any issues with pH in your soil is in the Fall! Add lime to raise the level of pH or acidifiers to lower the pH. Great acidifiers are pine needles and peat moss. Make sure you do a soil test first and not just think it might be this or that!!
So.....What are the benefits of better soil? - Water Retention - Healthy Plant Growth - Ward off Diseases, Pests and Plant Stress