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No rest for gardeners planning for next year

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Well, it’s the end of another month and fall is sneaking in on us. I know each season has the same amount of months in it, but summer sure seems to go by quicker. Like a $20 bill, once you break it, it goes fast.
Those of us who garden big time are pretty tired by now. Unfortunately, our work is not done, and motivation is tough to find. So, let me help.
Picture a beautiful garden in full growth. Imagine yourself coming home from work and simply wandering through the plants, harvesting beautiful vegetables. You have no weeding or watering to do. Keep that thought.
If you put your garden to bed correctly this year, the only thing you’ll need to do next year is plant, lay down the drip system and mulch. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Just keep repeating to yourself, one year of weeds equals five years of seed. How’s that for a motivator? Clear out your garden bed as if it were new. No living green things allowed. Use weed seed-free grass clippings (2 inches thick) to fertilize for next year. Wait a week, then cover it with black plastic. Make it is a one piece blanket. Secure it so well that no storms can move it and expose the soil to wild seeds. That’s it.
 If you didn’t get the garden in this year maybe it’s time to build one for next year. If you have a spot of lawn that would work well for a vegetable garden (convenient to the house, a water supply and plenty of sun) then build it now. No digging required.
Start by laying out your perimeter with stakes and string. The size is up to you, but a 16 feet by 16 feet is big enough to feed two people. Mow the grass as low as you can get it. Use a weed trimmer to give it a crew cut if you have to. Then, lay down newspapers to cover the existing grass.
Most people skimp or do a poor job of laying down the paper. If you don’t lay it thick enough (1/2 inch) and don’t over lap well, you’ll get weeds and grass growing through the cracks or weak spots. Water the newspaper so that it is soaked well and won’t blow away. Now, put up your permanent fence around the perimeter.
The next step is to lay out your growing beds and walking paths. Beds should be 3 feet wide and paths should be 2 feet wide. Lay them out by using string and stakes. Now add compost to the top of the growing bed areas, over the newspaper. Make the compost 6 inches thick.Wood chips can be used for the paths. Make it at least 2 inches thick. Find a big roll of black plastic and cover your beds for the winter. Just make sure to anchor the plastic so it completely covers the beds and no weed seeds can be blown in or under.
Now, get out of the garden. It’s time to give your lawn corn meal gluten or ammonium nitrate because it needs nitrogen. Prune the old bramble canes and give your strawberries a mulch of grass clippings for nitrogen. We have about a month and a half to get everything done. Remember, you can sleep in the winter.
Happy growing!