I remove all the vines and dried up vegetable plants, then till up the soil and pile leaves on top and till them in to decompose over the winter. This year I got an electric leaf blower with a vacuum attachment which mulches them and makes it a lot easier to till them under. I have a compost bin but will save my limited supply for next spring. I will use the oak leaves that I have available to mulch my blueberry plants.
Shred the leaves before you add them to your garden and they will break down faster.
As far as composting, there are black plastic bins available that help with composting in cooler climates since they help absorb heat.
Check around and find some place you can get soil in bulk, it is much cheaper that way. I have found a place near where I live that sells a combination of top soil and compost by the cubuc yard. Its about half the price of buying it in bags if I pick it up myself. (truck needed)
Not sure if this will work where composting takes so long, but I compost in the bed during winter - dig in fresh garden/kitchen waste (uncomposted) and dry leaves, and shredded newspaper into my beds and cover with black plastic. It always composts down by spring, and seems to encourage a lot of worms that loosen and enrich the soil. Then about 3 weeks before I want to plant, I dig in some chicken manure.
Now is the time to plant annual rye grass. It will probably live through the winter and come up strong in the spring. Three weeks before you want to plant your raised bed take a trimmers and cut the grass down and then turn it under. It will break up your soil nicely and acts as a 'green manure'. I usually give it two weeks to break down some but you will probably need three. Before planting in the fall I usually turn under some leaves because I get so many.
So, this has been my first year attempting a garden and I have had mixed success (as I expected - actually, more success than I expected!). It is fall here now (in southeast Alaska) and the rain is falling, leaves are changing etc. I know that, besides pulling my dead plants, I need to be adding more nutrients to my soil. HELP?!! I am a complete newbie to all of this and have been adding seaweed and coffee grounds... but I don't want to add too much of one thing and not enough of another - suggestions? We plan to add more top-soil next spring as this is an above ground bed that we created and I got sick of paying for dirt this spring and just called it good - though it needs another 4 inches probably! I have been told that composting here doesn't work very fast here (more on the order of 2 years... from what I've been told), so I ruled out my first plan of lasagne gardening. I really need any suggestions and the how's and why's of it too :-) Thanks!
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