Preparing Summer Tools and Gear for Winter

It’ll soon be time to put away your summer tools and fun-time accessories for winter and they do need a little cleaning and care before putting away.

Garden Hoses and Outdoor Faucets – Remove hoses from faucets and drain completely.  Roll up the hose carefully and secure with tape or rope.  Hoses winter over best if hung, but don’t just hand them on a nail.  Cut the ends off a can and place the can on a nail or hook in the garage or shed, then hand the coiled hose over the can.  This prevents holes punched by the nail.  Finally, cover outdoor faucets with a fiberglass cone made for this purpose.

Pruners, Lopers, and Snips – All those wonderful hand tools that helped you maintain the garden will perform better next year if properly cleaned before storing.  Clean the metal parts thoroughly.  If you have some rust showing up, you can use steel wool along with white vinegar, baking soda, or Coca-Cola to remove the rust.  Oil springs with WD-40. When they are completely dry, store neatly off the floor.

Gas Powered Equipment – Lawn mowers, trimmers, and other gas powered equipment should be emptied of fuel before storing.  Leaving it over the winter can damage the gas tank. Sharpen and oil blades, replace strings, remove any rust, and store in a dry garage or shed.

Tents, Canopies, and Camping Gear – Make sure all tents are completely dry before storing over winter. Inspect them for rips or tears, and fold them up and place in their bags.  Keep in a dry area.  Check camping gear for wear and clean as needed.  For small items, place in plastic bins and label the bins for convenient identification when you need them again.

Improving Garden Soil in Fall

As plants mature, they use up a lot of nutrients from the soil, so putting back some of those nutrients for the next crop is one way to ensure successful gardening every year.  Fall is the best time to add amendments so they have a chance to be broken down by microbes over the winter.

Knowing What to Add

When garden beds are cleared away or perennials go to sleep, take a quart plastic bag, scoop a trowel of soil from five or six areas in your gardens, seal it up and take to your extension office for a soil test.  Or you can find a lab online that does these tests.  The soil test will let you know what you need to add to your garden specifically.

pH

Most plants will thrive in a soil pH close to neutral which is 7 on a 1-14 scale.  So anywhere from 6-8 pH works for many plants.  Some, like rhododendron, azalea, and hydrangea prefer more acid soil. Others do better in alkaline soil.  If your soil is too alkaline, you can add pine needles, peat moss, or elemental sulfur.  If your soil is too acidic, add lime to raise the pH level.

Adding Compost

Whether using your own compost or bagged compost, adding a 3 or 4 inch layer in the vegetable garden and around your ornamental plants will stimulate microbes and other beneficial organisms to refresh tired end-of-season soil over the winter.  You’ll also want to add some compost and a little fertilizer to the holes where you are planting fall bulbs, new shrubs, trees or other landscape plants.

Raw Organic Matter

In addition to adding compost to your vegetable garden, you may want to also add some raw organic matter like grass clippings and shredded leaves plus some manure for added nitrogen.  Cow, horse, sheep, and chicken manure will work.  It can be added fresh in the fall because the ammonia has time to dissipate over the winter.  Beneficial soil organisms will help decompose this material.

Nutrients

Some of the best nutrient amendments for fall application are kelp meal, greensand, rock phosphate, and bone meal.  You can mix these organic materials right into your garden or side dress around plants.  One way to accomplish adding all of the compost, raw material, and nutrients is to mix everything in a wheelbarrow and apply it all together.

This is the last gardening article this year unless you leave a comment below asking for other topics.  Here’s to successful gardens next year.