In the garden: 9 things you can do now to prepare for next year
Raised bed gardens are a great way to make vegetable gardening more manageable. These beds, belonging to master gardener Eileen East, are 30 inches high. They also feature a low tunnel with deer netting to keep hungry critters from devouring all her hard work. KAREN CIMMS/TIMES NEWS
1. Clean up your vegetable garden to reduce the potential for disease next season. Pull out any plants that are no longer productive. Pick up leaf and other plant debris and prune unhealthy looking leaves from your remaining vegetable plants. Throw healthy material on the compost pile and bag any that show signs of disease.
2. Make sure you’re giving your vegetables enough water. The standard is an inch a week using soaker hoses to keep the plant leaves dry. Most spores can’t attach to a dry leaf. Check your mulch to see if it is properly covering the soil to help conserve water and keep the roots cool.
3. After removing annuals or vegetables, add two or three inches of compost or leaf mulch to the cleared area. This will help reduce weeds and prepare the soil for the season to come. The compost will also enrich the soil for fall crop planting.
4. Now is the time to consider changing to raised beds for your vegetable garden. Raising your beds is a great way to make vegetable gardening more manageable. My raised beds are 30 inches high and I don’t have problems with rabbits, chipmunks or groundhogs. However, I did have to put a lot of new soil in the raised beds to fill them up. A standard raised planter garden is six to twelve inches high, and that will be fine if you don’t have a back problem like I do.
5. Think of adding a low tunnel to your raised beds. This is a great way to extend the season. It’s easy to construct from flexible PVC conduit pipe and a thermal cover purchased from a garden center. With a covered garden, you can also plant fall crops like spinach, Asian greens, carrots and beets.
6. If you have a deer problem, it is easier to lay deer netting over a low tunnel structure than it is to lay it on the plants. I seem to get tangled in the netting every time I lift it to get to my plants. With the low tunnel ribs in place, I use clothes pins and landscape stakes to secure the net to the tunnel ribs and the soil. Then I unpin it and drape it back over the ribs when I want to work on the plant bed.
7. Consider fencing to keep out rabbits and groundhogs. I have plastic fencing attached to my raised beds. The posts are removable because they slide into brackets. I use it to keep deer away from plants that are too tall for deer netting. The poultry fence weave works best for me. It’s much stiffer than the square grid and has done a good job discouraging everything but a marauding raccoon.
8. Take pictures and make diagrams of your current garden for reference in the future. Note the varieties you really liked and which plants were productive. If you lay out your design right now, it will be easier to buy seeds next year. Also note what garden supplies you came to rely on, things like mulch and compost. Did you run short or are you left with too much at the end of the season?
9. Store opened containers of garden chemicals on a high dry shelf in the shed or garage where they are out of reach of children. Be sure to keep the products in their original containers with the directions for use. Remember to clean out sprayers according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
The Master Gardener hot line will be open until the middle of October to answer gardening questions. Call them at 570-325-2788 or email CarbonExt@psu.edu.