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Once temperatures start to dip toward the frost point, cover your vegetables with old sheets or light blankets on cold nights to extend the season a wee bit longer.

  • • Leave root crops such as beets, parsnips, carrots, and garlic for harvesting through early winter. Cover them with a heavy layer of mulch and mark the rows with tall stakes so that you can find them in snow.
  • Pull up tomato, squash, pea, and bean plants. If they’re disease-free, compost them. If any are diseased, either burn them or discard separately. Pull up and put away the stakes.
  • Before the ground gets too hard, remove all weeds and debris to eliminate overwintering sites for insects and disease.
  • Once the garden soil is exposed, add a layer of compost, leaves, manure (if you have it), and lime (if you need it). Gently till into the soil.
  • Another option is to sow cover crops such as winter rye to improve your soil quality and prevent weed seeds from taking root.
  • If some areas have hopelessly gone to weeds, cover them with black plastic and leave it in place over the winter and into the spring to kill sprouting seeds.

So there you have it —the ABCs of how to toil in the soil. In addition to having fresh veggies from your own backyard, tending a garden offers opportunities to make exciting discoveries every season. So relax, think small, and—with a little help from your green thumb—let nature take its course!

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