veg_garden_empty.jpgQ: I notice some gardeners turning over the soil in their veggie beds. Isn’t this the wrong time for that?

A: Actually, this can be the perfect time to work and amend the soil in parts of your vegetable beds (the ones that aren’t currently growing vegetables, of course!). Here are some of the reasons you might consider amending your vegetable bed now.

Garlic
We’ve had a couple of articles on growing garlic in this blog:
http://peakgardening.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/growing-garlic-2/
http://peakgardening.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/growing-garlic/

If you’ve read these and are interested in growing garlic, you’ve learned that you’ll need to plant the cloves soon. Some gardeners plant as early as mid-September while others like to wait until some time in October (for most bulb planting, one accepted rule is to wait to plant until after the first hard freeze but before the ground freezes). So if you’re going to be planting this fall, you won’t have the chance to amend your soil later this year or early next spring. Now is a good time because you will then have a few weeks for the soil to settle and for the amendment to start breaking down and improving the soil structure.

Free Time!
If you just happen to have the time to amend your soil now, then that can be another perfect reason to do it! It’s amazing how quickly our gardening time fills in the fall (especially if you’re planting flower bulbs!) or in the spring (all gardeners know what I’m talking about, don’t they?). If you do amend now and aren’t going to be planting anything in the area, go ahead and mulch when you are finished. We still have a few weeks of warm temperatures, and mulching will discourage any new weeds at this point, as well as when the soil starts warming up next spring.

Available Amendment Material
Finally, another reason to amend now could be that you have an ample supply of compost or other good amending material available at this very moment. Soon you’ll be needing some of that room in the compost bin for your shredded fall leaves; they’re coming sooner than any of us would like to admit. So if your bin is full of good, ready-to-go compost, then go ahead and get it worked into your beds.

So feel free to amend your vacant vegetable beds now. Then come spring, all you’ll need to do is work in the correct amount of fertilizer (since soil amendments generally only improve soil texture and don’t add much nutrition).

Contributed by Carey Harrington, Certified Colorado Gardener

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