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Tomato Garden Fall Cleaning Checklist 3

Burn Debris, Turn Soil, Spread Mulch

Since 2010, Tomato Dirt has garnered 4.6+ million views, making it the web’s leading online source for growing tomatoes in the home garden. Award-winning writer and Tomato Dirt owner Kathy Widenhouse has helped thousands of home gardeners grow healthier tomatoes. Be one of them when you get Tomato Dirt’s Growing Guide here.

This Tomato Garden Fall Cleaning Checklist 3 helps makes it simple to prepare your veggie garden for the winter. 

After you’ve cleared out the tomato plants, removed the tomato stakes, cleaned them, and stored them, it’s time now to turn your attention to the garden itself. (Download a full copy of the checklist here.)

You may not work in your garden during the winter, but don’t believe for one minute that your garden is not busy.

There’s a lot going on underneath the surface until the soil freezes.

Earthworms and microbes in the soil process leftover summer’s remaining mulch and other organic material. You can help things along.

Step A: Burn Before You Turn
Fall Cleaning Checklist 3

Pile discarded leaves, straw, grass clippings, and other yard debris in your vegetable garden. Then burn them. 

Burning adds wood ash to your garden.  Trace minerals are in the ash, thereby replacing those nutrients in the garden. Burning also destroys weed seeds, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms that overwinter in the soil. 

3 Tips about Burning Garden Debris

  1. Be sure to obtain necessary local permits for burning. 
  2. Have a working garden hose on hand to contain the flames. 
  3. Retest soil in the spring to determine its adjusted pH after burning. 

(Here’s how one Tomato Dirt-er does it.)

Get your garden soil ready for winter with Tomato Dirt

Step B: Turn the Soil

Fall provides an often-overlooked opportunity to add fresh organic material and mulch to the soil in preparation for next season. You can use well-rotted manure, compost, peat, leaves, or straw.  Micro-organisms and beneficial insects will help incorporate these materials into the soil before the ground freezes and in the spring after it thaws. 

First, break the ground deeply. Cultivating hardened soil allows winter rains to be deeply absorbed. This step will greatly improve the quality of the soil for your upcoming crop as it will allow wood ash and other organic matter to be restored. 

Then spade or rototill all these materials into the soil, mixing well to a depth of 8 to 12 inches.

Step C: Add Straw, Leaves, or Mulch

Should you mulch your garden for the winter? It’s a matter of personal preference. 

While straw, compost, or mulch on your planting areas and paths in between rows won’t necessarily keep the soil warm, the mulching helps the garden maintain an even temperature.  

But the biggest benefit arrives next season, particularly when you have a wet spring. During rain, covered planting areas are protected from becoming a muddy, clumped mess. When you’re ready to plant, you can pull back undecomposed mulch, straw, or compost and get your crop in the ground on time. And you can re-use the mulch around your newly-planted tomatoes.

More about Fall Garden Clean Up

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How to Get Started with Tomato Garden Fall Clean Up ...

Free Download: Fall Cleaning Checklist for Your Vegetable Garden ...

How to Winterize Your Garden: It's More Than Just Fall Clean Up ...

Tomato Garden Fall Cleaning Checklist, Part 1: Remove Tomato Plants

Tomato Garden Fall Cleaning Checklist, Part 2: Remove Tomato Supports

How to Take End of Season Notes about Your Tomato Garden ...

3 Mistakes to Avoid When You Prepare Garden for Winter ...

More tips on our Fall Garden Clean Up Pinterest board...

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