After your harvest is complete you will want to clean up your beds and get them ready for a long winters nap; that is unless you are lucky enough to live in a spot where you can grow year-round.
In order for your next years' crops to grow and produce high quality vegetables you need to remove any diseased soil and plants, get rid of any bugs that might want to hang around until Spring and replenish the nutrients and organic material in your garden.
· Bag up and toss in the garbage any plants that may have had a disease, like blight or powdery mildew. Many diseases will overwinter and affect your next years’ crops. DO NOT COMPOST diseased plants.
· If you have access to chickens or ducks, put them in your garden. They will eat all of the bugs hiding in your soil. If you have elevated beds, you may want to dig around the box looking for grubs and beetles and remove them if you see any.
· Grow a cover crop to add organic material to your beds.
What I like to do, after the beds are all cleared out, is gather all of the outdated seeds that I am not going to use and broadcast them into the bed. I let them germinate and turn into a carpet of sprouts. I will then turn them over into the soil, thus making a “green manure”. Cilantro makes a great green carpet if you let the seeds overwinter and sprout in the Spring.
(Cilantro Carpet in the Spring) (Chopped cilantro, green manure)
Soil takes time, years, to build. Mother Nature has a fabulous way of making a fertile soil if you learn how to build your soil by adding organic material. Organic material can be in the form of compost, leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and coffee grounds. Over the winter much of the added organic material will breakdown, or it may sprout come Spring and leave you with green manure, and a lovely soil!