October marks the month of the inevitable end of summer. Frosts and falling leaves remind us that winter is not far off. With the hot and humid days we experienced this past summer; a lot of people are ready for the cooler days.
The garden may still be vigorous but by Halloween only the hardy bloomers may still be going strong. We have already experienced a light frost as it was evident on the roofs of homes in our area.
It’s time to finish the garden and put it to bed for another year.
There are still some vegetables that can be harvested like the cool weather carrots, cabbage, brussel sprouts and turnips.
When raking leaves in the fall you can use them in different ways: add them into their own compost pile to decompose into leaf mould or mow over them and then pile them onto flowerbeds. If you would leave them whole, the leaves can become matted together, encouraging fungal disease.
This is a good time to amend your soil and improve it by lightly working in the amendments. By planting time next spring the amendments will have been further worked in by the actions of worms, other soil microorganism and by the freezing and thawing that take place over winter.
One of the best additives for any type of soil is compost. Compost can be purchased at most garden centers. You can easily make compost in your own garden. Though garden refuse and vegetable scraps from your kitchen left in a pile will eventually decompose, it is possible to produce compost more quickly.
Compost decomposes most quickly when there is a balance between dry and fresh materials. There should be more dry matter such as chopped straw or shredded leaves than green matter, such as vegetable scraps and grass clippings.
Layer the dry and the green matter and mix in some garden soil or previously finished compost.
Compost will not decompose properly if is too wet or too dry. Keep the pile covered during heavy rain and sprinkle it with water if it is too dry.
To aerate the pile, use a garden fork to poke holes in it and turn it regularly. Finished compost is dark in color and light in texture. When you can no longer recognize what went into the compost it to ready to use.
Compost can be mixed into garden soil or spread on the surface as a mulch.
Compost can be mixed into clay soil to loosen the structure and allow water to penetrate.
Elemental sulfur, peat moss or pine needles added on a regular basis can make all alkaline soil more acidic.
Calcitic or dolomitic limestone, hydrated lime, quicklime or wood ashes can be added to an acidic soil to make it more alkaline.
After our hot summer, I’m sure you will all agree, it’s time to put the garden to bed!
Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.