Now that the vegetable gardening season is winding down, it's time to think about soil preparation for next year.
To improve your soil, incorporate organic materials such as leaves or similar refuse directly into the soil. Put 3 to 4 inches of organic material on the garden and till or spade it in as deeply as possible. Repeat the process in a few weeks. Fall is an ideal time to till soils because they are usually dry and easier to work than in the spring.
If possible, it's best to incorporate fertilizer into the soil in the fall. To help choose the right fertilizer and amendments, you may want to have your soil tested. The Douglas County Extension Service has information on how to take a sample for a soil test.
Fall soil preparation means that your work next spring will be easier. All you will have to do is lightly till the surface before you plant. In years when a wet spring prevents adequate early spring tillage, you'll be glad you prepared your garden in the fall.
For optimum flavor, don't harvest parsnips until after several moderate freezes. Frost induces some of the starch in the roots to be converted to sugar, and the plants develop a better sweet, nutlike flavor.
Harvest horseradish after several freezes. Use the larger roots and leave the smaller ones (less than pencil diameter) for next year's crop. Another option is to store them in the ground all winter. In this case, mulch with straw and dig when needed.
-- The Garden Calendar, sponsored by the Douglas County Extension Service, is written this week by Dottie Daugherty, master gardener. For more information, call the Master Gardener Hot Line, 843-7058, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.