The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

November 28, 2012

Amanda Stone: Time to put gardens to bed

JOPLIN, Mo. — Try to remember what spring is like. Everything is happening at once. The first signs of green are so exciting. Do yourself a favor by preparing your garden now so that you don't have to mess with clean up when all you want to do is start fresh with new seeds and plants. That being said, your garden is dead. Let it go. It's time to put it to bed.

One chilly fall afternoon of garden maintenance will save you lots of back-breaking work in the spring. If you haven't already, go ahead and pull up all of those dead plants. They have given you all they can, and now it's time for them to decompose in your compost pile to become food for their brothers and sisters next year.

Ideally, your compost pile is a goldmine of rich, black soil ready to work into your garden. It's time to put that compost pile to work; it's been a mountain of muck for months. If your compost pile is fairly new and not yet decomposed, it is worth every penny to buy a few bags of compost. Throw it on your garden and work it into the soil a bit. Cover it with a blanket of chopped up leaves and it will be all snuggled up for winter. Or you can plant a cover crop of rye or oats and buckwheat. The crop will die at the first hard freeze and become fertilizer for spring while simultaneously combating weeds. You've got to love a crop that can multitask.

My 4-year-old daughter "helped" me put our garden to bed this year. As I pitched the compost pile onto the garden, she had an unending string of questions. "Why are we feeding the garden? Why are you taking my leaves? Why do the worms live in dirt? Do worms have eyes? Hey! That's my jack-o'-lantern!" When she goes on her "why" sprees, I have to go into a zen-like state of calm in order to address the questions or I might snap. So I put a shovel in her tiny hand and told her to get to work. Now is the time when the kids can help you in the garden without worry that they're going to trample seeds and tender young plants.

Root vegetables don't mind cool weather, so now is a great time to find carrots, potatoes, turnips and parsnips at farmers markets.


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