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Life and living: Blooming into next summer

As you watch the last summer roses unfold, their vibrant beauty may tempt you to bid farewell to your gardening gloves until next spring. But don’t hang up that trowel just yet! Your garden is about to see its “fall potential,” and the work you put in now could yield a blossoming tomorrow.

You may be thinking, “Leaf it out; it’s far too early for next summer,” but as seasoned gardeners know, the secret to a thriving summer garden lies in the groundwork done in cooler months. Plant the seeds of success by starting your preparations in the fall. Here are eight cooler-weather garden tips that will reap a healthy summer garden next year.

1. Cleanup

A fall garden cleanup is an absolute must. It may feel premature to remove your summer plants, but removing old plant material can prevent diseases from overwintering and playing havoc on next year’s crop. Don’t forget to prune perennial flowers and shrubs, either. It will help them bloom even better next season.

2. Compost

Your garden worked hard all summer and deserves to be fully replenished with nutrients. Make a compost cocktail with a blend of green materials (e.g., grass clippings, vegetable peelings) and brown materials (e.g., dried leaves, twigs). Mix it well and work it into the existing soil. It will decompose over winter, providing a solid foundation for your summer plants.

3. Cover crops

If you live in a colder climate, planting cover crops, like oats, winter rye, winter wheat and crimson clover, offer better soil protection. They help prevent soil erosion, suppress weeds and enhance soil fertility.

4. Mulch

Adding mulch to garden beds is a great way to keep weeds at bay during your non-growing months. Mulch helps maintain moisture, insulate the soil and add organic matter to the soil for a healthier garden in the spring.

5. Bulbs

Planting bulbs in the fall is a typical gardening move that produces a classic spring show. But the fall is also a great time to plan summer-blooming bulbs like dahlias, lilies and gladioli. You’ll wait until spring to plant these, but choose your favorites now and make a plan for spring.

6. Garden bed maintenance

If you use raised gardening beds, the fall and winter months (before the snow, of course) are the best time to replenish the soil in the beds. Mix in compost at this time as well. If you’re in a snowy part of the country, you can also cover your raised beds with plastic tarps or even cardboard. Inspect your garden beds and make any needed repairs.

7. Seed prep

If you plan to have veggies in your summer garden, the cooler months are the best time to start planning. Depending on your growing season, you may start some seeds as early as January. Many vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, require a long growing season, so starting early is the name of the game. Dry out and prep seeds from your current veggie stash or order your seeds early.

8. Garden layout

What better time to plan next year’s garden layout while you still have the current season’s fresh growth in front of you? Identify the areas that need improvement and which plants thrived. It’s a good idea to rotate your plants so that different nutrients can be spread around the garden.

Do the work now—reap the benefits later

It may seem like prepping your garden for next summer is a chore. But it’s actually an investment your future self will thank you for. So, grab your gardening gloves and get to work!

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