Tearing down garden tough, therapeutic

I might have jumped the gun a little on cleaning up my garden. I just couldn’t stand to look at the droopy, lifeless former jungle, emaciated after the hard frost.

In a way, tearing down those tall okra trees was depressing, but it was also therapeutic. It felt good to know the season is coming to an end, and it’s a relief to be finished with what many gardeners have remarked is one of the most challenging summers they’ve experienced.

Before you rip everything out, it’s a good idea to jot down where you planted everything this year, and how it worked out for you. Successful gardeners practice crop rotation, meaning you don’t want to plant tomatoes in the same spot every year, because it encourages disease. Also, different vegetables require different amounts of nitrogen, and legumes (like peas) actually contribute nitrogen to the soil, so it’s good to move them around, too.

Just make a quick note (I put mine in my seed collection box) of what was planted where, and you can save yourself time and guesswork in the spring.

If you have a garden spot that hasn’t proven to grow much, it might be time to get a soil test. The Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service offers these, and you can get one by simply taking a plastic bag of soil (about a cup full) to the office at the Mesa County Fairgrounds.

Cleaning up the garden in the fall also is a good time to reflect on what you’d do differently next year. That’s the great thing about gardening, you always have a next year and you can start planning now.

Next year, I would love to not drag a hose around to water my garden. Next year, I will not plant the heirloom tomatoes that barely blushed before they froze. Next year, I will win the war on squash bugs. Riiight.

It doesn’t hurt to pile some leaves on your garden and turn them under, so they can decompose a bit over the winter and add organic material to your soil. I know the hard clay I have needs a lot of that good dead stuff. But, I don’t recommend keeping around weeds, anything diseased or something that obviously hosted pests that you don’t want overwintering in your garden.

The squash bug army that decimated my poor Chioggia squash is probably lurking in its rubble, so it has to go in the trash, because I don’t underestimate the power of squash bugs. I want them far, far away, in a landfill 20 miles from my house. And I’ll still be watching for them.

Everything else, I’ll tuck under a bed of leaves and say nighty-night, don’t let the squash bugs bite, until springtime.

On another note ...

Do you know anyone who goes all-out for Halloween? I’m looking for folks who decorate their front porches in an interesting way, set up booby traps in their yard, or wow trick-or-treaters with some surprise.

Please send me an email if you know someone or if you don’t mind sharing your ideas.

Erin McIntyre is a writer, apprentice master gardener and owner of the gourmet pickle company, Yum Pickles. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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