Freezing opportunities

By Gregg Eyestone

My tomatoes, peppers, beans and melons have been killed with the freeze. That area is now available for soil improving operations. Adding organic matter is critical for good plant growth next season. Fortunately, there are lots of organic materials available at this time of the year.

The first step is to chop up the existing plant tissues. I first chop standing plants down. A blade on a string trimmer works slick but I’ve also used a sharp corn knife. Then I run over the material to make it smaller with the push mower. The smaller the tissues, the quicker it will breakdown over the winter.

If there are badly diseased materials, it can be removed. Options are to compost it or bag it up. I can rotate crops so I’ve never had a problem by compost diseased tissues in place. Diseases are specific to their host. Tree leave diseases have no affect on vegetables and flowers. Any kind of organic matter can be applied to the soil.

A few inches of organic matter on the surface of your planting site can be easily worked into the soil. The spading fork is best but a tiller is faster. To reduce damage to soil structure, your soil should be crumbly when working. Too wet of soil will create clods. It will be hard to mix the organic matter evenly through the soil.

Additional organic matter can be added and worked into the soil as it becomes available over the fall. Keep the soil moist for the soil biology to breakdown the organic matter. A light layer of mulch will keep the soil from blowing or washing over the winter.

Finished compost is another source of organic matter that can be added now. Approximately two inches of compost is sufficient to spread over the garden site and work into the soil. A mix of fresh organic matter and compost can be added. Adjust the amounts of fresh and finished compost because you could add more than needed.

A third combination is possible. Planting a crop that will grow fast can aid in building your soil. I’m going to try tillage radishes. Winter wheat, grain rye, and barley are otWhichever organic source that you use, it will be well worth the effort come planting next year.

You can find out more information on this and other horticulture topics by going to the Riley County, K-State Research and Extension website at Gregg may be contacted by calling 785-537-6350 or stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or e-mail:

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