Take pictures of all your vegetable and flower beds before you start fall cleanup. Having a reference to where you planted everything this year will make rotating crops much easier next year. For flower beds, you may want to put in something new next year or plant the same thing again, and having a visual record makes remembering where everything was planted much easier.
Pull Them Out
Vegetables and annuals will soon be reacting to cold temperatures and when they are done, it’s important to remove them and put them in the compost pile or the trash. Taking care of this chore now rather than leaving it for next spring gives the soil time to recoup for another season. Plants left in the ground over winter are subject to pests and diseases that you’d rather not have in your garden.
When the beds are clean, it’s time to add compost. Resist the urge to till the garden. If you’ve built your gardens with dedicated growing beds and walkways, tilling only brings up weed seeds that will plague you all next year. Garden beds that are never walked on or compacted don’t need to be tilled. Tilling just leaves the soil exposed to harsh winter weather.
Cover the Cleaned Beds
Cover cleaned beds with some compost and/or manure, and mulch like shredded leaves, straw or hay, or green cover crops (see video below). You can plant annual rye or other green manure cover crops and just cut it back in the spring and plant right through it. This living cover puts much needed nutrients back in your soil.
Clean The Tools
Finally, clean garden tools, tomato cages, stakes, trellises and other objects used with plants in the garden. Using a mild solution of water and bleach will disinfect any fungus or disease that may have hopped onto your supports. For tools like shovels, rakes and hand tools, clean off all the dirt, rinse with water, dry completely, and rub a bit of oil over the metal and wood parts before hanging for the winter.