Time to put the garden to bed

Cleaning the garden

Now that we have had several frosty nights, it is time to think about getting the garden finished for the season. I have been reading some press releases from Richard Jauron a the Hortline at Iowa State University to remind me of everything I need to accomplish this week . If you want to speak with Richard directly, you can call him at 515-294-3108 any weekday between 10 to noon or 1 to 4:30.

I plan to follow his directions for getting my garden ready for winter. I will need to mulch my strawberry bed to prevent damage to the plants from repeated freezing and thawing. Temperatures much below 20 degrees F could kill the flower buds or damage the roots of the plants. I do have some time to get my mulch prepared as the advice for mulching includes letting the plants acclimate to the cooler weather before mulching. I plan to use chopped cornstalks as they are more readily available to me than oat, wheat, or soybean straw.

I have been trying to get all the garden debris cleaned out of the garden between rainstorms this fall. Removing garden debris helps control the spread of disease and prevents insects from overwintering in the dead plants. I took the tomato plants out when they stopped bearing tomatoes. The plants didn’t look very healthy at that point. The potatoes were dug early to prevent them from rotting in the ground. The onions were pulled early for the same reason. I’ll get everything else out later this week, but with a late harvest, I’m not sure my husband will be able to till the garden yet this fall. If he is able to get that done for me, the garden will dry out and warm up a bit earlier next spring.

If we have a warm weekend, I hope to clean up my garden tools. Richard advises removing that caked-on soil from shovels, hoes, and rakes. Wash the tools and coat with WD-40 to prevent rust. Blades and edges of hoes and shovels can be sharpened. If I have lots of time, and energy, I can sand the rough handles on both of my hoes. Both hoe handles are very rough and I don’t like the way they feel when I use them. Richard says that linseed oil will prevent cracking and drying of the handles. I have already put my hoses away for the winter. I drained and coiled them carefully to ensure that they will be in great shape next spring.

Hopefully, the time I take this fall to get things cleaned up will make gardening in the spring more enjoyable.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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