Many a landscape and garden chore can be done in the fall of the year.

One of those is preparing for plantings that may not happen for weeks or even before spring.

Tilling, spading or turning of soil in fall is a tried and true method of having an area ready to plant in spring. Incorporating some lime or minerals into the soil ahead of the actual planting time is usually a good thing, but it's not recommended to add nitrogen fertilizer ahead of time.

Also, for areas that may erode and wash your loose soil away, fall tillage isn't recommended. Planting of cover crops makes sense in such circumstances, but will delay spring planting if it must be tilled into the soil. Things like barley or wheat can simply be mowed in spring and you can start planting in the stubble.

Those not planning to dig or till should consider other options to keep weeds and grass from growing in the spots they my wish to plant fruit trees, shade trees, or create a garden bed for early plantings.

For some, the solution is to let it be, and spray weed killer in spring and plant soon thereafter.

Organic or natural treatments of future planting locations could include some of these options, using materials that are easily available:

Mulch: Cover your future planting area with mulch.

Compost: Applied to a thickness to smother weeds and grass. Chopped up leaves and/or small limbs that have been through a shredder or chipper--such makes a fine soil conditioner and as the leaves and limbs decompose they add a lot of nutrients to the soil and rob very little nitrogen from your future trees or plants.

Obviously, if you have some manure, some greensand or Azomite or rock phosphate, these can be added either under or on top of the mulching material. Rain and snow will carry many of the nutrients deeper into the soil and condition it for greater workability and tilth in the coming years.

If you are doing your plantings this fall, it's possible you'll plant first and then add some of these treatments on top of your planted trees. Fall plantings of all larger shrubs and trees is highly recommended in our area--small plants not so much, as frost heaving may uproot them in winter.

Adding a couple other bits of advice you should note; don't put mulch or compost right up against the bark of your new plant, very little or no mulch should sit against the trunk of your new tree or bush.

Don't use any high-nitrogen or quick release fertilizers in the fall, save those applications until late winter or early spring when the sap begins rising and buds begin swelling in preparation for spring growth.

Fall treatments can encourage new growth or productivity from an old tree in many cases, too.

But, today's topic is to prepare now to plant later. Adding minerals and organic matter to cover your future planting spots helps condition the earth for a better planting experience. And it's easily raked aside when you get ready to dig holes and plant at a later time, this is especially helpful if you plan to plant dormant bare-rooted trees or shrubs in early spring.

The author is a landscaper. You can reach him at rockcastles@gmail.com Web:www.rockcastles.net

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