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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

November 24, 2014 - 3:37pm --

The 2015 garden year is about to begin.  Many folks think of next year’s garden as beginning next spring but, it really should begin in the fall of the previous year for the most success next year.   Here are a few ideas to get ready for next spring:

  • Soil Testing:  Fall is a great time to send soil samples for analysis.  If you find out now that your soil needs help you can apply those recommended amendments in the fall and they have all winter to work their way into the soil.
  • Fall Garden Clean-up:  Rake this year’s garden litter.  Those old vines and stems provide overwintering sites for insects and diseases.  Discard foliage from diseased plants.  Other foliage should be placed in your compost pile or tilled back into the soil.
  • Fall cultivation:  I always try to till my gardens in the fall.  Fall tilling disturbs the life cycles of insects by exposing those underground grubs, and pupae to sun, birds and freezing temperatures.  Fall tilling keeps your soil loose and friable and is a real help for an easy till in the spring.  Winter's freezes and thaws will break up any churned-up clods.
  • Sowing fall cover crops:  I sew some of my garden areas in winter rye.  Cover crop roots improve soil structure and provide spring compost material that can be mowed and then tilled back into the soil in the spring.
  • Love your tree leaves:  I rake my fallen leaves onto my gardens that do not have a cover crop.  I often layer them over a foot deep.  This is sometimes called sheet composting.  Leaves rot very quickly, and it’s amazing how many leaves you can work into your soil.  In the spring, I till these rotted leaves into the soil as a leaf mulch that encourages beneficial earthworms and soil microbes.  I also pile up leaves to use as mulching material or composted leaf mold.  I use these to enrich my garden soil the next year.
  • Fall is a great time to tend to tools:  Round up your garden tools, clean the dirt off with a wire brush, if needed.  Oil them with vegetable oil to keep them from rusting and store them in the garden shed.  Drain and store your hoses, watering cans and sprinklers before the first freeze damages them.  Drain or run out all the gasoline from lawn mowers, and tillers.  This will prevent water from condensing in the gas tanks over winter. 
  • Winter and your container gardening pots:  Don’t forget your clay pots especially. To store your pots, empty them completely, let them dry out and store them under cover.  Terra cotta containers absorb water, which will freeze and could result in surface flaking and even broken pots.  All of your containers (clay, wood, plastic, metal or fiberglass) will fare better if they are clean, dry and stored in the garden shed for the winter.
  • Saving seeds and digging up tender bulbs:  Remember to save seeds from your favorite non-hybrid plants.  Tender bulbs including cannas and gladiolus need to be dug up and stored where they will not freeze.  I pack mine in boxes of sawdust and keep them in an area that does not get cold enough to freeze.
  • Bring your garden journal up to date:  I keep a journal of my garden year so I know what I want to try again and those items that I want to remove from my list.  Think about all the joy your garden has given you this year.  Reflect on your successes and what you could have done better.  Then, close your eyes and dream about those seed catalogues that will be arriving in December and January for next spring!

For more information on home, lawn, indoor, or outdoor garden care and tips, as well as other garden topics, visit and click on the Yard and Garden link, or call the OSU Extension, Butler County, at (513) 887-3722, or in Middletown at (513) 424-5351, ext. #3722.

News Release provided by Richard Sunberg.