By the end of summer, it’s easy to feel worn out. It’s hot. It’s humid. You’d rather just stay inside, read a good book and drink a tall glass of iced tea.

Front landscaping

Your efforts in the fall will pay big dividends in the next growing season.

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

But it’s not just you who feels sweaty and tired — take a look at your back yard! The long, hot summer has compacted your soil, flattened your beds and depleted those precious growing areas of nutrients and oxygen. Your grandmother’s zinnias dare not grow in that stuff!

But all’s not lost, because now is the time to prepare your fall beds!

Here are a few suggestions to help you off to a great fall gardening season (as well as a healthy yard):

  1. Add mulch to your beds. It’s important that your gardening soils are rich in organic matter (OM). Without sufficient OM, your garden will suffer from high pH (alkalinity), low drainage, deficient aeration and a loss of nutrients. Good OM is essential, and even the best native gardening soils should be replenished annually.
  2. Work your beds. Don’t be shy about using a tiller or shovel to turn over the soil. Just like you, your soil needs fresh air!
  3. Go to the mound. Add enough OM and native soil so that your beds are raised sufficiently to provide drainage and allow for shrinkage.
  4. Consider having a soil test done by your state Extension Service. To do so, call your local county agent’s office and ask for a soil sample kit. This test will reveal your soil’s deficiencies (most likely OM and nitrogen) and suggest additives. But be careful – don’t add what you don’t need or you may create toxicities, pollute your streams and rivers and may even prevent your veggies from fruiting. (Excessive nitrogen can do that to some plants.) Not good!

Once your soil is prepared, plant away! The book can wait – your planting beds can’t. And, hey, just think how much sweeter that iced tea will taste when you drink it overlooking your fall-ready yard!