The second week in September has brought with it a chill reminiscent of October. While most of us are all still busy harvesting and processing the fruits of our labor, now is also the time to begin thinking of fall soil amendments. In the fall, after you have removed plants from the soil is a great time to add nutrients back into the ground.
Some amendments, like lime, peat moss, pine needles, and elemental sulfur are especially important to work in during the fall, as they all requires a bit of time to work their magic and adjust the pH of the soil. Lime will raise the pH level of your soil, while pine needles, peat moss, and elemental sulfur will all help to acidify alkaline soils.
In flower and vegetable gardens, adding compost in the fall helps to ready your soil for great growing early next season. Work in a few inches of compost anywhere you have harvested from during this growing season to get microbial action going before winter lulls everything to sleep.
Fall cover crops are also a great way to get organic matter into tired old soil. Planting them while the soil is still warm in the fall will ensure a great germination rate in the spring. The cover crop will help hold the soil through out the winter and will need to be tilled into the soil in the spring. A few of the cover crops High Mowing Organic Seeds sells that can be planted in the fall are :
Hairy Vetch – Planted in the fall, Hairy Vetch fixes nitrogen in the soil.
Oats – Sown in the spring as a grain crop, or in the late summer as a cover crop, Oats’ thick roots work great to hold the soil over the winter.
Winter Rye – Planted in the fall, Winter Rye continues growing longer into the fall than any of the other cover crops, and is up earlier in the spring holding soil from possible spring erosion. Winter Rye adds tons of organic matter to the soil due to it’s extensive root system.
Field Peas – The King of Nitrogen Fixers, Field Peas can add 170 lbs/ acre of nitrogen. Field Peas can be planted in the fall for overwintering in cold climates, but make sure they are planted 6 – 8 weeks before the first fall frost.