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Preparing the vegetable garden for next year
Lauren Fick

If there are areas of the garden that are done producing, chop and shred residue in preparation for tilling. If soils are wet, wait a few days so the soil is no longer muddy. Tilling in residue allows plant material to decompose and helps reduce insect and disease problems for the next year. 

Also, consider using a cover crop to hold the soil and increase the organic matter content of the soil. Small grains such as wheat should be seeded at 3/4 to 1 pound of seed per 1,000 square feet from mid-September to late October. Spring oats can also be seeded until mid-September but the rate should be 2 to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Spring oats will winter kill and can be tilled under in the spring.

Legume cover crops such as hairy vetch, alfalfa, and sweet clover provide an additional benefit by “fixing” nitrogen, thereby increasing the fertility of the soil. Each of these should be seeded at about 1/4 to ½ pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet of garden. Sweetclover should be seeded from August to early September and hairy vetch and alfalfa from mid-August to late September.

Lauren Fick is a Cottonwood Extension District Horticulture Agent. Hays Office: 785-628-9430. Great Bend Office: 620-793-1910.