Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Soil potpourri, organic matters!
There’s still harvesting to do, perennial, tree, shrub and bulb planting; but this is also a good time to start preparing a new garden bed. Maybe you want to expand your vegetable garden or start a new perennial bed, add some shrubs. Starting a new garden bed requires some prep work. You need to kill the existing grass and weeds. Chemicals are an option but for those of us who would rather not use them, there’s a cheap, organic way to do it but it takes time!
You can lay old carpet, tarps, cardboard, thick newspaper down on your garden bed and let nature do it’s thing. It doesn’t look pretty but works well. The coverings hide the sun, squelch the oxygen and don’t allow for much water to pass through, thus killing any vegetation underneath. The challenge is to keep covering in place. Do this now and by Spring, you’ll have a good start.
Whatever your plan is, make sure you mix in plenty of organic matter. Fallen leaves are usually abundant and certainly cheap. Run your lawn mower over the pile of leaves a couple of times to chop them up before mixing them in. If you have pine trees, scoop up those dried needles and gently stir those in.
We used to tell you to till organic matter into the first 6 to 8 inches of soil. Now, I would suggest using a garden fork or just lay the “ingredients” right on top of your existing bed!
If you’ve been composting, good for you! Check to see how decomposed your material is, if it looks like dirt then you’ve got black gold. If there are still some small chunks in it, that’s okay it will break down further over the fall and winter months. But leave the big stuff to decompose longer. Fold in your grass clippings and if you’re really into it, buy some manure. Your local nurseries will have bags of composted poo that’s safe to use. Never use fresh manure in your home gardens, it’s just not worth the risk. Adding organic materials will add some minor nutrients but, more importantly, will fluff up your soil, improving the texture and drainage capabilities.
Leaf mold (it’s just decomposed leaves), grass clippings, kitchen compost and composted manure do wonders by adding micronutrients but, more importantly, fluffing up the soil. There’s always Creekside Soils! They have several products to consider.