Is Your Soil Ready for Fall Gardening?

Getting your soil prepared is a very important step in the process for having a successful fall garden. Now is the time to start getting that soil ready. You will want the areas where you will be planting your fall harvest to be deep, well-draining and the soil should hold the moisture like a sponge. As soon as there is enough moisture in the soil, you want that water to drain out instead of pooling at the top.

You want to be able to grab a handful of soil, put it in a ball, and when you open your hand it will crumble into chunks. If it stays in a ball you most likely have too much clay.

Here are some helpful Fall Additions for you Soil:

1. First Layer – Gypsum (1/4 cup per square foot)

2. Second Layer – Manure/Organic Crumble (1 inch on top of gypsum) You will want High Organic Matter where at least 1/3 should be a nice organic living matter.

3. Third Layer – Mulch (4 inches on top of manure) However, the size of the chip will determine the top layer, the larger the chip the taller the layer. A good rule of thumb is to use the size of the chip and multiply that by 4 to get your height. For example a 1″ in chip x 4 = 4″ layer of mulch.

Use the current sun, heat, and humidity to improve your fall production. If you Have grass or weed seeds, now is a good time to cut it out and solarize the space for your fall garden. To do that, you will first want to mow the grass down as low as you can. Then bring in a sod cutter as deep as you can (usually about 3 inches) and roll it up. Those rolls can be used in hügelkultur if you desire. Then you can flame treat it, lay two layers of cardboard down, then you will be ready for the gypsum, manure, and chip mulch layering.

If you aren’t worried about grass or weed seeds – then you can water this section and cover it with plastic. This will superheat the soil and burn everything off. Let it just sit for a month with the plastic on. Hint: black plastic will keep photosynthesis from happening and the seeds will sprout themselves out, use up their carbohydrates and then die. You can then rake up anything that is dead under the plastic. If everything isn’t dead, then lay down cardboard and then continue on with the gypsum, manure and mulch layering. Then water it again to help build the soil.

Neutral pH should be close to 6 for the Fall. You can bring it down with using manure or soil sulfur. We like to to use a good acidic ph compost tea. You want more acidic in the fall and winter because it helps when you have moisture that sticks around for a long time. A higher ph could rot the roots and deactivates the roots to soak up the nitrogen. If this happens, the leaves will turn yellow. The acid will help manage that better. Ironite is another way that will help the plant uptake more nitrogen without burning the plant.

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