In the mountains of NC, fall comes early. Even though temperatures in the middle of the day might still be warm, you’ll notice a sharp drop in temperature as soon as the sun goes down. That means a lot of layering for you, and a little bit of TLC for your community garden. While the bulk of the growing and harvest season is coming to a close, there are still a few things to do to get your community garden ready for the cooler nights, and snow to come this winter. So, here are a few tips to help get your Asheville community garden ready for fall:
Plant your spring bulbs now
You’ll want to get any spring bulbs in before the ground freezes. So, if you like looking at tulips, daffodils, and other early-spring flowers, plant them now. Most of these bulbs need that long freezing period to jump-start the growing process, which is why they need to be planted in the fall. Your best bet is to get them in the ground sometime around mid-October.
Cut back dormant perennials
Once your perennials go all brown and yellow, that’s the time to trim them back or divide them. Plants that are overgrown or too large can be split and given to friends, or relocated to another spot in your garden. If you opt to replant them, be sure they have plenty of mulch around their bases to protect them from frost. Some perennials may not go dormant, and if you see any leafy green growth late in the fall, it’s best to wait to prune those plants until the spring if they really need it.
Get rid of any diseased leaves or plants
The last thing your community garden needs is pests or disease. So make an effort to get rid of any leaves, plants, or foliage that’s been eaten by bugs or obviously holds disease. Composting diseased foliage can cause major damage to your entire garden in the new year, and diseased plants that are just left alone can have much the same effect. Before you put your garden to bed for the winter, be sure you and your community members have taken out all the diseased plants you can find.
Water your evergreens well
While most of your perennials will have gone dormant, and won’t need water, it’s a good idea to keep watering evergreen plants and conifers well into the fall. Since they don’t go dormant, they need all the hydration they can get before the ground freezes and they’re essentially cut off for the winter. Be sure to continue watering them as long as you can, before the ground freezes.
Compost tree leaves
One of the best, most cost-effective ways to restore rich nutrients to your community garden is to have everyone pitch in their raked bags of leaves and compost them. Don’t just throw freshly raked leaves onto your garden as that can suffocate smaller plants, but instead, put the leaves together in a bin or confined outdoor space and allow them to compost for a bit before adding them to your garden. One word of caution: don’t compost walnut tree leaves. They contain a chemical that can be poisonous to some plants, and compost with walnut leaves can actually stunt or kill many plants, including a lot of your vegetable garden favorites.
Stake young trees
Fall winds and later winter storms can be hard on young trees. Do your best to stake trees that have been recently planted, or that will have a hard time with harsher weather. Staking will help keep them upright even with blustery winds and heavy snow.
Mulch and compost garden beds
Fall is a great time to add compost to your garden beds. If you add compost now, your community vegetable garden beds will be ready to plant as soon as temperatures allow, with little to no preparation necessary. Additionally, you’ll want to add a reasonable layer of mulch to your community garden beds before the really cold temperatures hit. Mulch helps to trap in heat from the soil below, keeping your plants’ roots a little bit more comfortable through the chilly winters, and ensuring they aren’t shocked by rapid temperature variations.
Don’t be afraid to plant!
Finally, know that fall is still an excellent time to plant. If you and members of your community garden were looking to add in more perennials, or even cold-hardy veggies like kale and certain legumes, fall is the perfect time. There’s enough warmth left in the fall for perennials to continue developing their root systems, and there are plenty of winter plants like snow peas and winter grasses that you can plant now, to help encourage more nutrients in your community garden’s soil come spring.
Just because winter is fast approaching doesn’t mean you have to hang up your gloves and trowel. There’s plenty of fall gardening you can do to prepare your community garden for the next growing season. If you’ve been looking for a place to live near Asheville, NC with a quality community garden, look no further than High Hickory. A sustainable mountain community, we appreciate and encourage backyard farming and gardening, and hope our residents participate in our variety of community gardens. For more information about the High Hickory community, call our office at 866-936-5263 or contact us online for more about our siteplans and pricing.