Embrace Your Inner Squirrel

It's harvest season, and that means our focus should be on eating and enjoying what we can and storing away what we can't. Forget the weeds, roast those tomatoes!

This week, we'll cover some easy strategies for preserving produce in bulk so you can enjoy it later. We'll also discuss how to prep bare garden beds for winter and next season, and share more options for including native shrubs in your gardening experiment to feed you year after year.

Preparing Your Soil for Spring

Fall is the perfect time to seed cover crops into bare garden beds.

Nature will fill bare spots with "weeds". By planting a cover crop instead, you control what plants move in and how they impact soil health.

Why plant cover crops, you ask?

· To keep the soil moist and productive, improving soil organic matter and fertility

· To act as a living mulch, suppressing cool-season weeds and preventing erosion.

· To create a better seedbed for spring planting.

We don’t want to till the soil that we have worked hard to build up because tilling would kill our friendly microorganisms! So the best way to plant cover crops is to:

1. Loosen soil, if it is compacted, with a garden fork but don’t turn it over

2. Sprinkle seeds over the top of the bed and cover with a thin layer of soil or straw

3. Water daily until it germinates, then weekly as needed.

What kinds of plants should I use? Grasses or Legumes!

Oats and crimson clover are our favorite.

Oats will germinate in the fall, then die off in the winter, leaving you with a light coating of straw to plant into next spring. Meanwhile, it will hold some nutrients and increased organic matter in the soil. You could also add in some field peas to increase nitrogen in the soil.