How to Prep Your Garden for Harvest Season
By Michelle Pugle
For outdoor gardeners, harvest season brings both bounty and a feeling of bittersweetness. As we see our hard work come to fruition, we sense another summer has come and almost gone.
Now’s the time when we’re simultaneously extra busy in the garden beds but also seeing such steady work slow as fall fades into winter.
What are we all doing out there? We’re prepping our gardens for a successful harvest season, using these simple methods.
Weeding to reduce competition
Many weeds will compete with your crop plants for essential nutrients required for a successful harvest.
Do your plants a favour and remove any weeds and their roots from your beds and edging areas. This will ensure your living soil’s nutrients are reserved for the plants you actually want to grow.
Pruning to promote growth
If you have an overly-bushy tomato plant or a squash variety that’s more leaf than anything else, it’s time to do some growth-promoting pruning. You don’t want all your soil’s nutrients working to feed leaves alone. This is particularly important if you notice crisping, yellowing, or rotting leaves and stems. It’s a waste of energy that could be much better spent on growing bigger vegetables and fruits.
Now, a word of caution. It is possible to pluck and prune too much and compromise the stability and structure of the plant. You can also send your plant into shock. Go easy on your plant and take some time to learn the proper pruning and plucking techniques for different crops.
Reinforcing to provide support
As your vegetables and fruits grow larger and heavier, they may need some extra support, especially if you have accidently over-pruned a few primary branches that helped support your harvest.
Be sure to re-tie, re-stake, and reinforce any vine-like varieties and check that your cages are still sturdy. Sometimes storms and wind gusts can knock things out of place.
Covering to prevent loss from early frost
In certain areas in Canada, frost can come as early as August, so it’s always good to be prepared. With the ongoing climate crisis, it’s also increasingly difficult to rely on past weather patterns and dates for reference.
For your later-harvesting crops, like potatoes and carrots, keep bed sheets or landscaping crop covers on hand. Put these over your garden beds after the sun goes down and remove first thing in the morning. Be sure that whatever material you use, it is breathable but thick enough to protect your harvest from frost.
Now, a lot of people will tell you that once you harvest your garden, you need to clean out the beds or boxes. While you certainly need to dig up any bulbs that cannot be overwintered, you don’t actually ‘need’ to do much else.
Sure, you can save some seeds, but it’s a nice gesture to leave dried pods and stems well alone so birds can still perch and snack during the harsher winter months.