It’s Time to Put the Vegetable Garden to Bed

Mike Hogan
Extension Educator and Associate Professor

With winter quickly approaching, it is time to complete some final steps this season to complete the 2020 garden season.  The weather this fall has been ideal for extending the season for both warm season vegetables as well as cool season ones.  Many Ohio gardeners this year harvested tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other warm season vegetables later into fall than is typical in Ohio, and the weather has also been ideal for planting and harvesting cool season vegetables such as lettuces and other greens, radishes, carrots, beets, and other root crops.

And while the glorious fall weather also has been ideal for working in the garden this fall without winter clothing, days are getting noticeably shorter now, soil temperatures are declining and it will not be long before we start using that dreaded four letter word—SNOW!

So take advantage of the Indian Summer weather we are experiencing in much of Ohio to complete the following tasks in the garden, which will prepare you to have a successful garden season in 2021:

  • Test your soil – fall is one of the best seasons to test soil and apply phosphorous and potassium as well as lime if ph needs to be adjusted. OSU Extension offices in most counties provide soil-testing services to assist with this task.
  • Remove dead crop residue– now is the time to remove any dead plant material or unharvested vegetables.  Pathogens can survive over winter in crop residues and can cause plant health issues in subsequent years. Crop residues which show evidence of disease should be discarded and not composted with other crop residues.
  • Control weeds – if you have a flush of winter annual weeds or perennial weeds such as dandelion or thistle in the garden, consider cultivating, pulling weeds by hand, or even the use of a contact herbicide on a warm day. Any mature weeds with seed heads in or around the garden should also be removed with care to avoid spreading seed.
  • Apply soil amendments – if you did not plant a cover crop, consider adding compost and mulch to keep the soil covered and add organic matter and a small amount of nutrients. Fallen leaves make an excellent winter mulch for garden beds. Straw and even shredded newspaper or cardboard can also be used as mulch.
  • Don’t trust your memory – be sure to make written (or electronic) notes of what was planted where in the garden, what worked well in the garden this year, and the name of that tomato variety that you simply must plant again in 2021!

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