Ammending/prepping soil in fall-prep for the spring garden

redley_gardener(5 - Golden CO)September 14, 2009

I know it's still a little early to amend the soil, however, today's hail storm made me realize that I need some education.

I've done a ton of gardening, yet never did anything to prep for the spring after my garden says hello to Mr. Winter.

What are the best techniques for prepping the garden for the spring? I garden straight from the dirt (no raised beds), just a large upside-down 'L' along the fence line.

Manure? (Chicken, cow, horse???)

Leaves?

Straw?

Do I pull up all the veggies once they are done for the season? Do I pull them up and leave them on the surface for compost? Do I turn everything under? Are there any "winter crops" like clover for nitrogen fixing that incorporate the turning under of the soil?

Then, what do we do in the spring? I've always had to get compost since I neglected to amend the soil in the fall.

Thanks!!!!

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kareng_grow

Hello,
You might jump over to the "winter rye?" thread regarding what to plant over the Winter to "fix" the nitrogen in your beds. I've enjoyed getting an education from some very experienced and knowledgeable folks concerning winter planting.
I will amend the soil in the early Spring with compost I've been cooking this Summer and Fall. You will want to pull the dead stuff now and start them composting with other brown and green matter. I recommend reading The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Pleasant and Martin. There are numerous types of composting outlined in this book which are all very good ways to compost but just depending on where you live will help you know what's best for you (ie. do you live in a subdivision with strict covenants or are you in a more rural setting). Good Luck!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 8:42AM
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bpgreen(5UT)

There are a number of things you can do. You can pull the plants and compost them, pull them and leave them there to decompose, mow them over to shred them so the decompose faster, etc. All will work and help to amend the soil.

If you don't mulch mow your leaves back into the lawn, you can put them directly on the garden. Any that don't decompose over the winter will be mulch next year. You can help them decompose by layering with manure, coffee grounds, grass clippings etc (basically any source of nitrogen). Some people call that sheet composting or lasagna gardening.

I used to till things in, but for a number of years, I just leave stuff on top and either plant directly in it or move some away to expose the soil.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 10:35AM
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rt_peasant(5 CO)

I had the same question about my soil. From the research that I did, I learned a few things.

1) If you get a soil analysis done by a lab (e.g. CSU Soil Lab), they will tell exactly what you need to add and how much, to have optimal soil conditions.

2) If you add bags of manure, you want to do it in the fall rather than the spring so it has time to mellow, and any E coli, etc., has time to die.

3) If you work too much undecomposed vegetable matter into your soil, it will inhibit seed germination and reduce the available nitrogen in your soil.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 12:16PM
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david52 Zone 6

Around here, the best advice I've heard about ground preparation is 'do it as soon as you can' because who knows what will happen further down the road.

Thats certainly held true the last few years, where we've had late falls, and I was able to get the soil prepped for the spring, which made life so, so much easier.

This year, I'm doing a 'garden makeover' with raised beds, broader paths, and a huge effort of adding organic matter for soil improvement. So, with my luck, it will rain all fall.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 12:38PM
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digit(ID/WA)

I returned this morning from what has become a twice weekly run to rid the yard here at home of organic wastes and prep the soil in a garden a few miles away. Today's haul was 7 5-gallon buckets of green "stuff."

I pulled the spent China aster plants out of part of 1 of the beds in the cutting garden, went to work with the shovel, and buried the asters and the green stuff under 8 inches of dirt.

Several weeks ago, I was busy doing this in a bed in the little veggie garden where the potatoes had been harvested earlier. That bed is now growing fall crops of mustard greens, bok choy and lettuce.

I like doing things like this even if it takes all that shovel work. There's no compost pile to move around - well, there's one at another garden. By digging out only about 25 square feet at a time, I make steady progress without killing myself and all the material is instantly gotten rid of.

Eight inches of soil is adequate for any small plant. By the '10 growing season, decomposition will be well underway and any plant will live for quite a good number of weeks in the top of the bed before its roots ever reach the 'o9 organic matter I've been burying. I'll add fertilizer to that top 8 inches in the Spring.

Also, by the time I'm done with whatever beds I can finish this year - the garden will have a well-cultivated look going into the snows of Autumn.

Steve

Here is a link that might be useful: from a few years ago, with a few photo's

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 10:01PM
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