Northern & Central Midwest
Prepare Beds for Spring
As each garden bed or area is finshed producing for the year, remove any plant debris and mulch; then spread manure or compost and work it into the soil. Working the beds now saves time in spring, especially for those early crops such as lettuce and onions. Also, turning the plant material under now gives fresh materials plenty of time to decompose over winter.
There's still time to start a compost pile if you don't have one, and the weather is still warm enough for the pile to heat up. It will give you a place to put your garden waste. Remember to layer fresh green materials with brown materials such as dried leaves and to water the pile so it's moist but not soggy. To jump-start the pile add some manure or compost.
Mulch Root Crops
Get straw mulch ready for the root crops. Before the ground begins to freeze, cover carrots, leeks, parsnips, and beets with a 12-inch layer of mulch to protect them from freezing this winter. Straw bales work well, and you can lift the bale and harvest your crops even in the snow.
Shredded leaves make great mulch. As leaves fall, run over them with the mower a couple of times to shred them into small pieces. Put on the lawn mower bagger to collect the leaf mulch and spread it around perennials, trees, and shrubs. Don't be tempted to use unshredded leaves because they will mat and shed water, causing plants to rot or dry out.
Clean Potting Supplies
Wash and sterilize your pots and flats in preparation for spring seeding. While the weather is still nice outside, bring all the pots close to a water source, scrub them clean with a brush and soapy water, and then dip them in a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. It will be one less chore to do next spring.