I may be a bit of a laidback gardener, but I love to exercise outside in the cool autumn weather. Besides, there are still things I can do in the field that will save me time next spring. So here are my end of season gardening tips.
Of course, I don’t collect my dead leaves on the lawn, because we run the mower over them. I do, however, shred them where I have an abundance of leaves and put a 5 to 10 cm layer on my vegetable garden and the flowerbed in front of my driveway. But I sometimes need to renew this mulch during the summer. So I need a lot of dead leaves, which are only available in autumn. I also need dry leaves all year round to balance the “green” matter in the compost. So I keep at least 8 to 10 bags behind my garage and in a box next to my composter.
Fortunately, there are some very brave gardeners who put them in bags at the curb. The trick is to weigh the bags to see if the leaves are relatively dry, because if they’re too wet, they’re likely to decompose in the bag over the course of the year and will be harder to spread. Ideally, you should find someone who shreds them before bagging them, and make a friend out of it!
Do You Plan Your Vegetable Garden?
If you haven’t already done so, make a plan of your vegetable garden before you forget how you’ve organized your vegetables in 2023, because you need to rotate every year. This is particularly important for demanding species such as tomatoes and squash, which deplete the soil to a greater extent, but also to avoid the spread of diseases and pests that are specific to each plant. Ideally, we suggest 4-year rotations before planting a particular species in the same spot.
Permaculture suggests leaving everything on the ground until next spring: wilted vegetables and their roots, so as not to disturb the soil. Then sow or plant directly through all that the following year. I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work well for me. Firstly, because I still get weeds despite the mulch, which I try to keep everywhere. Secondly, because there are crops that require us to disturb the soil quite a bit at harvest time, like root vegetables and potatoes, for example. So I remove weeds and vegetables at the end of production and mulch the whole vegetable garden before winter. In spring, I use the broadfork to prepare the areas where I’m going to sow root vegetables.
Some Vegetables That Enjoy Cooler Temperatures
Obviously, when gardening at the end of the season, I leave the vegetables that resist the cold well in place as long as possible, such as leeks, parsnips, kale and a few lettuces like escarole and lamb’s lettuce. I’m going to cover the latter with canvas, just before the first frost, to harvest as long as possible, and the lamb’s lettuce will be “reborn” next spring before going to seed.
Parsnips overwinter very well in Quebec soil. They’ll even be sweeter in spring, but I haven’t had any success with leeks and carrots, which rotted in spring.
Many vegetable plants resow themselves if allowed to go to seed. So, rather than have chervil, oregano or dill appear in unsuitable places next spring, I’m going to sow them in November wherever I decide, just before the frost. With the good advice Mathieu gave us recently, you can sow many species before winter.
For my part, I keep at least one parsley and parsnip plant each year to let them go to seed the following year, as the seeds of these 2 species are only viable for one year, so I don’t need to buy new ones every year. What’s more, these two species produce pretty umbels that attract thousands of beneficial little parasitoid wasps during the summer.
And of course, don’t forget to plant your garlic before the ground freezes!
End-of-season gardening makes for a busy autumn… But it’s less expensive and closer than going to the gym!