End of season gardening tips

Getting ready for winter also means putting your garden to rest. Consider planting a cover crop and learn tips for winterizing your garden tools.

As the days become cooler, your days of weeding, harvesting and preserving are done and it’s time to sit back and enjoy some rest and relaxation. But before you curl up with your peach chutney on toast, your favorite beverage and your pile of seed catalogs for next spring, remember to put your garden to rest and take care of your garden tools.

While cleaning up your garden, be sure to remove any insect or diseased plant material. Do not compost these in your compost pile as many insects and diseases will over winter. After you’ve done this, consider planting a cover crop, which is a great way to revitalize the soil in your garden. Cover crops increases the number of microorganisms in the soil and the amount of nitrogen fixing, which frees up nitrogen to be used by your garden plants during the next growing season. Planting a cover crop is often referred to as green manure, which dates back to Ancient Greece where it was first recognized that these cover crops provided needed nutrients for the soil.

When selecting a cover crop, chose one that grows fast but can be easily discouraged next year. Oats or annual rye are easy to find and will not persist next spring. Michigan State University and the Midwest Cover Crops Council both have great resources if you’re interested in learning more about cover crops.

After you have planted your cover crop, it is time to clean and store your garden tools. Here are a few easy tips from Michigan State University Extension that will help you keep your tools in tip-top shape:

  • Rinse off dirt and dry thoroughly.
  • Wipe down wooden handles with linseed oil.
  • Hang tools indoors. Do not lean them against the garage wall touching the floor as moisture from the floor is the enemy.

If you have pruning shears, here are some special maintenance tips for those tools:

  • Use a scrub brush to remove sap and other residues. If necessary, use mineral spirits.
  • Dry shears well.
  • Lubricate the pivot point with a drop or two of three-in-one oil.
  • Sharpen shears with a whetstone or carbide sharpener.

With a little tender love and care for your tools, you can help them last longer and serve you better for many gardening seasons to come. Both Better Homes and Gardens and Oregon State University Extension provide great resources for those looking for additional tool care tips.

Now that your garden is covered and tools cleaned and stored, it is time to a-wait spring. Have fun dreaming of new varieties, fabulous flowers and tasty treats in your next gardening season!

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