The smart gardener is one who not only feeds their plants but also feeds the soil they grow. Fall is the perfect time to start thinking of spring when you’ll be deluged with soil preparation chores, like lawn care and bare root planting. In those muddy days, preparation and planting can be a sticky mess—tilling tools get sucked down into the quicksand-like muck and yet the earth is still so cold the helpful microorganisms that help your plants germinate are still sluggish from the winter. To relieve yourself of this overwhelming spring task is easy: work the garden soil in the fall. Ultimately there are three main reasons why shifting your soil prep to fall can set you up for an amazing spring:
Reason 1: Tilling opens up the soil, allowing oxygen to reach the deeper layers after a long season of production.
Reason 2: Adding your organic matter, humus and manures to the soil in the fall gives it an entire winter and spring to become biologically active. When you add them to the soil in spring, there will be a delay of many weeks, even months, before the soil functions at peak levels.
Reason 3: You won’t have to touch the soil until just days before you’re ready to plant your first seedlings. Often just a single tilling or forking-over at the top of the season is all that’s required.
How To Prepare in Fall for Spring
How you perform your soil preparation will depend on the type and size of the garden but from kitchen plots to large colourful beds, there are just a few simple steps to fall soil preparation:
Step 1: Dig out the roots of problem weeds and remove any others with seed still on the plant so they don’t infest next year’s garden.
Step 2: Spread amendments—compost, manure, fertilizers, etc.—evenly over the area. You’ll need a lot of manure and/or compost to feed microorganisms and help the soil remain open and well-drained. Then boost fertility with materials such as bone meal for nitrogen and rock phosphate for phosphorous. An easy way to achieve this is to buy a complete organic fertilizer in pellet or granular form, which is easy to transport and apply.
Step 3: Till deep into the soil to increase the oxygen within, relieve compaction and improve water drainage. Add clumps of mulch to the entire surface to prevent erosion, and the ground will flatten out considerably by spring.
Do all this and come spring, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it will be to put the garden in without all that hauling, spreading and tilling. And best of all, it will be in top biological form to feed your plants with Herculean energy.