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Garden problems such as disease and insects can thrive on late season gardens and fields that are unattended. When you are finished with the garden for the year, it would be beneficial to remove the tomato cages, stakes, trellises, etc. from the field. On a small scale you may choose to remove and compost plant debris such as spent tomato plants, corn stalks, etc. For large areas, the plant debris can be turned under the soil to destroy the crop. This practice is commonly done for warm season and cool season crops. At this time, lime could be applied and a cover crop could be planted. A soil test will determine if lime is needed, and if so, the proper amount to apply. You can apply lime any time of year, but it may be easier to get lime spreading equipment in the field right after a crop is terminated. It may be best to conduct a soil test a few weeks before terminating a crop so you can have time to make arrangements for applying lime. It takes time for lime to change the soil's pH. If you have a low pH, it would be best to apply the lime well in advance of planting the cash crop.
If you think you may grow vegetables in the future, it would be beneficial to go ahead and soil test the site and start planting cover crops. Summer and winter cover crops could be planted on the site years before planting the cash crop. Some popular winter cover crops include crimson clover, oats, rye, wheat, tillage radish, and canola/rape. Some popular summer cover crops are iron clay cowpea, sunn hemp, sorghum-sudangrass, and buckwheat. Maintaining the proper pH and nutrients in the cover crops will benefit the future cash crops by building organic matter and reducing erosion. Other uses of cover crops can include breaking through compacted soil, reducing compaction, attracting beneficial insects, reducing weeds, etc. If you have any questions about cover crops or soil testing, give us a call here at your local Extension office.
Regional Ext. Agent, ACES
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