Vegetable Garden Wrap-Up

Vegetable Garden Wrap-Up

The end of October calls on vegetable growers to move in several directions. It’s time to clear the heat-loving plants out of the garden while still harvesting the cool-weather crops. It’s also the perfect time to prepare your vegetable beds for the coming season. Here are the things you can do in November that will improve your growing experience next year.

  • Clear out any tomatoes, eggplant, squash, peppers and other crops that have stopped producing or have closed up shop. Remove the foliage, stems and immature or spoiled fruit from the garden; if it’s disease-free, put it in your compost pile. If leaf diseases were an issue, place the refuse in a brush or burn pile.
  • Pull up any weeds that have germinated this fall. Dandelions, chickweed, and bittercress tend to sprout in the fall and grow all winter…removing them now will make your spring gardening easier.
  • If you have raised beds, check to see if the soil has sunken over time. If so, and there is a good amount of the framework showing above the soil line, this is the perfect time to add more loam. Think of how pleased you’ll be next spring when your garden is filled and ready to plant.
  • After your garden is cleared (you can leave any remaining organic mulch such as leaves or hay) it’s a good time to add organic matter such as compost, composted manure, or chopped leaves by spreading these on the top of the soil. This is usually easier for home gardeners than planting a fall/winter cover crop. You can spread that organic soil amendments right on top of the remains of your mulch. (If you used landscape fabric or plastic as mulch you’ll need to remove that first.)
  • If you sowed fall crops in late-August you’ll still be harvesting these. Kale, mustard greens, lettuce and carrots can be cut well into December in this region. Chard lasts a long time too but will finally die in a very hard frost.
These were planted in late August in the space where garlic grew in 2020. These arugula, chard, lettuce and mustard greens will be fine through several light frosts, although if a heavier freeze is predicted they would do even better with a covering of Harvest Guard, floating row cover.
  • Make a list now of the crops that you especially enjoyed this year. Put the list where you’ll find it, or start a file on your computer for the vegetable garden.
  • If you haven’t had your soil tested recently, take samples and send them to the UMASS Soil Testing Lab. The information about how to take a sample and send it in is on their website. This is helpful because you’ll find out just what to use for fertilizer next spring. (Do not spread fertilizer in your vegetable garden at this time of year…only compost or composted manure.) If your soil test shows that you need to add lime, that can be done either in November or early spring. Never spread either fertilizer or lime over frozen soil, however, as it might wash off. Similarly, don’t automatically fertilize without knowing what nutrients are already in your soil.
  • If you already have seed garlic and haven’t planted it, be sure to do so soon.
There is still time to plant garlic if you have it. If you didn’t get some this year, be sure to put on your calendar in early September of 2021 to buy your garlic before supplies run out.
Compost doesn’t have to be turned into the soil although you can if desired. It can be spread on top of the vegetable garden and left to amend from the top down, or turned into the ground next spring.
  • If you planted Tuscan kale (aka dinosaur kale) last spring you can continue to harvest it though December by cutting the older leaves off the bottom and letting it grow taller. If you didn’t plant this variety of kale, but think you’d like to try it next season, make a note to buy seeds in April next spring.
Tuscan kale grows to four feet tall and will keep producing from June into January if you harvest the older leaves off the bottom and let the tops grow.
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