Now that the growing season is over, it’s time to put their Ohio garden to bed. Late in September, when the days get shorter and colder, plants are done for the season. Below are a few important tips for keeping your Ohio garden in good shape so you can get ready for winter.
Set the Brush Aside
The soil gets tough and crusty when the weather gets cooler in the fall. Get rid of weeds, dead plants, and anything else insects could hide in. Tillers that run on electricity or gas are easier to use, but if you always do things yourself, hand-tilling is a great way to get your hands dirty and work out simultaneously.
When you till the soil, you cut up things that live all winter, like weeds, Japanese beetles, and grubs. On leaves and stalks, bugs like beetles, aphids, and grubs lay their eggs. Fungi grew on decaying plants.
Fungal pathogens sink into the ground, stay alive all winter, and eat new plants in the spring. Dead plants inside the garden can be used to make organic fertilizer, but it’s hard to tell if they are free of pests and diseases.
Covering Garden Beds
Weeds can be a bother. If they still aren’t coming out after one or two rounds of tilling, surround the region with black plastic, paperboard, or a carpeting layer. Keep the cover until next spring. You will not get your hopes up just because many weeds will die. Weeds never completely go away. Weed seeds grow in late summer and fall so that seeds can germinate in early spring.
Using herbicides already when weeds develop helps keep them from trying to grow in the spring. Add a couple of centimeters of compost, leaves, straw, mulch, and animal manure to improve the soil. In different parts of Ohio, the first and last frosts happen at different times. By composting in the late fall, nutrients can soak into the soil over the winter.
The Berry Patches
We grow strawberries, berries, raspberries, and blackberries in Ohio, also known as the Buckeye State. Most berries are hardy, but they need a little extra care in the fall.
Raspberries: Trim them between the beginning and middle of the fall. Leave six strong, fruit-bearing raspberry canes for every foot of the patch. Even though raspberries grow on old canes and produce fruit in the summer, they do well in Ohio. In the fall, berries are made from new shoots in the summer. Cut the canes to the ground whenever the raspberries are done.
Blackberries: Plant blackberries in the fall in mounds of soil so that tough frosts won’t pull them out of the ground. Get rid of the blackberry canes that are hanging down. Cover with mulch.
Strawberries: Strawberries can survive light frosts, but your berries might die if it gets too cold. After the first hard frost, put 3 inches of straw over strawberry plants. It’s all about the timing! Straw leaves that have been finely chopped, pine needles, and thin wood chips help keep the soil around the strawberry plants toasty in the winter.
Blueberries: There are numerous kinds of blueberry plants, yet half-high is the best for Ohio’s cold weather. Blueberry plants have to go to sleep for the winter. Frosts and freezes can upset northern highbush blueberry plants when the temp drops below 20°F. Blueberries that are only half an inch high can live in temperatures that are colder than that. Put a thin layer of mulch around the base.
Putting Cover Layers
Planting cover crops like clover, rye, and vetch keeps the soil from washing. These plant levels add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. They also pull carbon out of the air to settle in garden beds. Ice and heavy rain don’t hurt the soil as much when cover crops are there.
Some gardeners want to change the soil in the spring, but fall is a good time, especially just after harvest when you are cleaning up. Add organic fertilizers like bone meal, fish emulsion, hemp seed, blood meal, manure, and compost. When you treat the soil in the fall, the nutrients can decompose before you plant in the spring.
Herbs have different lengths of life. Some perennials, like sage, can survive temps below freezing and will develop back in the spring. Thyme goes to sleep in the fall. Dig up your annuals and bring them inside for the winter. After August, avoid fertilizing herb gardens.
When you add nutrients to plants late in the growing season, they grow new leaves that will fall off in the winter. Cut back herbs after the first hard freeze. In the spring, remove the mulch when the herb stems start to grow.
The best way to give perennials a head start is to water and cut them back in the fall. After the first freeze, cut the stalks of perennials down to about 3 inches. Put a layer of mulch, dried grass, hemlock, leaves frequently, or straw on the ground. Heavy plastic won’t let weeds grow on it.
Healthy roses come back every spring but may need more care in the fall. Take off any dead or sick stems. Put approximately rose plants after the first frost. If your tea roses also have long stems they used to climb, lay people down before you cover them.
Other Garden Stuff
It may seem like there are always things to do outside, but before winter:
- Collect the leaves.
- Cover the compost pile with a creamy piece of plastic or a layer of straw.
- Garden tools such as tillers, aerators, and others should not have gas.
- If you keep empty containers outside, bring them inside or flip them over.