Growing Herbs at HomeNov 10, 2023

9 Tips for Fall Garden Maintenance

After the rush of summer harvest, most people are ready to kick off their tired, dirty garden shoes. But the work never ends for us farmers! Just like we rest our heads after a long day, gardens and the soil need help resting and replenishing before spring. Read on to learn how to put your garden to bed, and get simple fall tips that can make all the difference in your garden — especially when your bulbs start waking up in the springtime.


Seed Saving

Allowing some plants to ripen and then bolt (flower and make seeds), grants free seeds for next years’ garden. Let the fruit or seed pods start to dry up before removing them. Remove the seeds from the pod and allow them to dry completely before labeling and storing in a cool, dry place.

Pro Tip

For those without a seed stash, find seed companies that are in your USDA Plant Hardiness zone. These will give you the most success because the seeds are adapted to your climate. The next best resource is the Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit whose mission is to steward America’s culturally diverse and endangered garden and food crop legacy for present and future generations.


Plant a Cover Crop

Cover cropping is like playing the long game with your garden. Have questionable soil, compacted dirt or depleted beds from heavy feeders like Tomatoes, Corn or Kale? Planting cover crops in your empty beds can help smother out weeds, slow erosion, create more fertile soil, increase water availability and control disease and pests. Adding plants from the Pea family, known as Legumes, into your cover crop blend can help naturally increase nitrogen levels in your soil. Some of the fall-planted cover crops we use on our farms include Winter Oats, Rye, Peas and Daikon Radish. Let the plants grow to cover the bed. When they flower, cut the taller plants down near the base. Finally, scoop and flip the tops and roots right on the soil to decompose them.

Pro Tip

If you do not plan to save seed, you can also just prune, mow or let winter cover crops naturally decompose. It’ll add organic matter to your garden’s topsoil. Let the turned cover crops break down in the soil for at least three weeks before planting in that area.


Soil Testing

If you’re more advanced or want to nerd out on soil health, test your dirt. This deep dive provides valuable insight on the nutrient makeup of your soil and how to correct it for the next planting season. Testing can reveal alkaline or acidic pH, or unbalanced levels of soil’s essential nutrients: phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium. Tests can be done by DIY methods at home or by purchasing a simple soil kit. Using a soil testing lab service will give more information like levels of calcium, organic matter and more.

Pro Tip

Make sure to test before the ground freezes or after the frost in the spring.


Add Amendments

Nourish your soil on the regular without the overwhelm of finding the right nutrient proportions. Adding organic amendments to your soil will increase the nutrient uptake in your garden plants and improve the texture of your soil over time. An easy way to amend is to weed then add a four-to-five-inch layer of mulch on top and around established plants in the fall. Mulch will help insulate the plants through the winter and add organic matter to the soil. Mulch can be wood chips, sawdust, grass clippings, leaves, straw or even fallen Pine needles. Before planting in the spring, weed then mix in a two-to-three-inch layer of compost.

Pro Tip

Mulch can be free to inexpensive by using your fallen leaves, or by asking your local tree trimmers or ChipDrop.


Expand Your Space

When the air is a bit cooler, it’s the perfect time to get a workout by creating more in-ground or raised beds if you have the space. Sheet composting or lasagna gardening can assist in smothering grass for in-ground beds. While Hügelkultur, a centuries old mound technique, can help fill raised beds while creating more organic matter in your garden.

Pro Tip

Don’t have yard space? Look into community gardens in your area.


Plant Away

Aren’t planning on cover cropping in your beds? Plant some cold season veggies and herbs like Arugula, Radishes, Thyme or Garlic. Fall is also a great time to plant perennials, spring blooming bulbs, trees and shrubs before the first frost. The soil hasn’t frozen over yet, rainwater is dependable and fairly cool weather helps newly planted plants establish their roots before winter. Extend the season with cold frames, cloches or hoop houses.

Pro Tip

Plan to introduce new plant friends at least six weeks before the ground freezes so that they can acclimate. Check local nurseries as they may have end-of-season sales around this time.


Bring Nature Into Your Home

Gather trimmed branches, pruned or dried flowers, grasses or plants with seed pods to bring inside. Garden-inspired fall and winter decorating can be a fun way to cozy into that hygge lifestyle. Use them to do creative projects and spruce up the house.

Pro Tip

Freshen up your home and get into the fall spirit by using some of the plants trimmed for an herbal simmer pot. Put some small evergreen branches like Rosemary or Pine (needles or cones) mixed with citrus slices and aromatic herbs like Cinnamon sticks or Clove buds in a big pot on the stove, fill it with water, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. If you need some aromatic simmering herbs, order them from our sister company specializing in raw herbs, Pacific Botanicals.

It All Comes Back to Dirt

We know from our Regenerative Organic Certified® farms that everything starts from the ground up! The power of growing potent herbs and resilient plants lies in the soil. Healthy soil can feed your plants, help them flourish and reduce pests. Follow these tips and before you know it, you’ll become a garden pro in no time.

While these are general tips that are helpful in our area, always do your research about the specific plants in your space and what’s recommended for the zone you live in.

Want to learn more? See how regenerative organic practices on our farms support the Earth and lessen climate change. You can also read about what these practices mean to our farmers.