Dirt Girl: Putting the bed to rest

Summer is over and the clouds have closed in like a blizzard of rain. Now is the time to consider harvesting the last of your vegetables and to get your garden ready for winter.

Many vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, celery, parsnips, kale, Swiss chard and leeks can handle frost. However, it is much easier to do the fall work before it gets too cold. Trust me, nothing is worse than waiting until the temperature drops to the low 40s to plant your garlic and shallots, or to collect seaweed. If you decide to hold off for that final bunch of kale, then consider prepping your other beds for winter.

After harvesting, clear out any vegetation to reduce disease and other pests that might overwinter. Potato plants and tomato vines should be bagged and discarded, as they can carry diseases that can affect growth next year. Weeds should be pulled to put a dent in the work you’ll need to do next season. You can add these weeds to your compost, but our climate does not allow compost to get hot enough to destroy weed seeds. Putting them in your bin causes the risk of bringing them back into your bed.

If you have perennials like asparagus and rhubarb, you’ll want to trim out dead or diseased parts now that the season is over. When the stalks become brown and brittle, cut them off near the ground and add them to your compost bin — unless you’re worried about the asparagus beetle, in which case add those to your garbage. Add a coat of manure or compost around the base of the plants before covering it with seaweed mulch.

Turn over the soil and add amendments in other areas of your garden. As you do this, you’ll be able to eliminate more weed roots and will also expose any insect eggs that are laid in the soil, allowing them to be eliminated by you or by other predators, or to be killed off by exposure.

This includes slug eggs. Adult slugs like to hibernate in the top layer of soil or under vegetation. This is also where they lay their eggs. The slug eggs I’ve encountered were white, round and gelatinous.

Raspberry plants only produce fruit every other year. The canes that produced fruit this year should be pruned, while those that only produced green leaves should be left alone, as they will be the raspberry producers next year. Also, clear out any old canes that no longer produce fruit or those that are too near the soil. Once you’ve done this, add seaweed to the bed and they’ll be fine for next year.

Seaweed collecting spots are as confidential as secret nagoonberry or morel locations. You probably won’t get anyone willing to tell you where to go. However, you’ll have better success is you go when it is low tide — the lower, the better. Collecting after a storm also increases your harvest.

We’re lucky here in Juneau that we don’t have restrictions on how much seaweed we can take. Up in Homer, they are only allowed a 5-gallon harvest each day. A good practice is to only take seaweed that has been washed to the shore and is not attached to a rock.

We also don’t have to worry about the salt in the seaweed that we collect. Even if we cover it with a tarp right away, we don’t have the issue of salt accumulating in our soil.

After supplementing the soil and adding seaweed, lay a dark colored tarp or plastic material down on the bed. The tarp keeps the soil warm and prevents nutrients from washing away on rainy fall days. Enjoy the end of the season as you dream about the possibilities of next year while curled up inside with a good gardening book.

• Corinne Conlon is a freelance writer based out of Juneau. She can be reached at dirtgirlgardening@gmail.com.

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