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By Garden Educator, Kathy Bego

As the winds whirl around the fallen leaves, it’s time to ready our gardens for winter. Before we embark on this task, let’s savor one last fresh autumnal feast: spinach, kale, and collards acquire a sweeter taste with a touch of frost. Additionally, you can continue to harvest root crops like beets, carrots, and parsnips during the early winter period by covering them with a thick layer of straw. Be sure to mark their locations! Fall also presents an ideal opportunity to plant hard-neck garlic and flower bulbs, which will offer early nourishment for pollinators come spring.

Before you start on your fall cleanup, take a moment to snap a few photos or sketch this year’s garden layout. This will serve as a helpful reference for planning next year’s garden and potentially implementing crop rotation. Then, to work! Cut off vegetable plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and peas at ground level and compost their leaves and stems. The decomposing roots will feed the soil. If plants were diseased or plagued by insects, pull them up instead and dispose of them outside of the garden. Tuck in perennial plants such as strawberries with a blanket of straw to protect them from wide temperature fluctuations and extreme cold.

Rake up those whirling leaves, run them over with a lawn mower if you can, and cover your vegetable garden or garden boxes with three inches of shredded or whole leaves. Leaf mulch helps to prevent soil erosion and to preserve topsoil. Those decaying leaves will also suppress weeds and provide habitat to overwintering frogs and beneficial insects.  Mulching with leaves enriches the soil with organic matter and feeds the micro-organisms. It’s part of Regenerative Agriculture!

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