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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Winter Prep

I had hoped that growing hops would be the gateway plant by which I would successfully suck Steve into gardening, but it didn't happen.  I did marginally better by turning over the strawberries to his care this summer.  It seemed like the thing to do: his being home during the day meant that he was getting the lion's share of the strawberries, and frankly, his back is more suited to the constant bending over that harvesting strawberries requires.  I basically said, "you're getting all the strawberries; here's an article in the Mother Earth News about growing strawberries, so you can do it."  To my surprise he agreed.

Yesterday was a good day for readying parts of the garden for winter, and one of the things we did was to put the strawberries to bed for the winter under a blanket of straw.  We stuck applewood cuttings about every foot and a half along the sides of the beds to hold the straw in place.

I had to laugh when Steve said, "it's good that we're getting the strawberries ready for winter, but I think we'd better leave the Franken Berries and Boo Berries where they are until after Halloween."

Next I picked up the potato bags one by one and lugged them over to the big plot, which is where I'll put next year's garden, and dumped their contents onto the soil.  They all contained a mixture of compost, shredded leaves, and pine bedding that I used for growing potatoes this year and I wanted to compost that in place.  They also contained a bunch of potatoes, which is what I'd hoped would happen when I left them where they were this summer when I harvested some of the potatoes.

I'm pretty sure I'll have potatoes next year because I didn't bother with picking out the teeny tiny potatoes, and if they survive the winter, well then they deserve to grow.  If they don't, I'm still going to try to grow them, but I'll use Nita's method over at Throwback From Trapper Creek.  She dry gardens, and she also produces most of what her family eats, so I'll see if her method works for me. Someday, when I grow up, I'm going to be able to produce food like Nita does.  She's a for real homesteader, and I'm just a rank amateur.

The next step was to pull the buried chicken wire out of the big bed so that it (the bed) can be dug up next spring.  I read that gophers and other pesky ground-burrowing varmints love garlic as much as we do, and the only way to keep them out of the garlic is to grow it in a metal basket.  I managed to get the first one out, but had trouble with the second one, and Steve had to finish yanking it out after I'd tweaked my back.  It was't the soil so much as the clover that grew into it that made it so hard to get out.  But we finally did it, and I further raked out the potato bag contents, and then we covered that with more straw.

I hope to install sides to this bed to keep the grass from growing into it and to keep the contents from spilling out of it, but that will have to wait until later this winter.  The next time Steve mows the lawn, the clippings will be strewn in there as well any leaves we pick up. Supposedly, you can improve clay soil this way, but it's going to take a long time and I'm not kidding myself about it.

We also moved the compost bin to the end of one of the raised beds so that we don't have to travel so far out into the yard this winter.  Part of the reason I want to garden in the big bed is to give the raised beds a rest, and maybe even get some cover crop in them this winter.  I only have four total that I can rotate crops among so we'll see.  But having the compost bin over the end of the raised bed seemed like a good idea, logistically speaking.

Yesterday I also harvested the last of the tomatoes, and got a bunch of small green tomatoes off the two volunteer tomato plants.  Enough that I'm making them into pickles even as I write this.  Dinner last night was one of my favorites: fried green tomatoes.  I have enough of them to do it again this week. We also got a bunch of red serranos picked, which I'll string up into a ristra, and then once they're dry I'll break them into crumbled chili pepper flakes for sprinkling on pizza.

So the garden wasn't a complete and total flop this year, in fact, I did get some good out of it.  There are still turnips and celery out there and hopefully I'll get parsnips this winter, too.  I just have to keep at this gardening thing until I learn how to get it all done.


Daisy Farm said...

I staked some black plastic around the edge of my garden. It was there for about a year. Finally, after it became a little tattered, I pulled it up and nothing has grown there since! I also use a mixture of bleach, TSP and water to kill any weeds that are stubborn and try to grow right where the fence meets the ground. It's cheaper than RoundUp. This method is nice because it keeps your grass about 10 inches from the garden. When I want to add more space to my garden, I put a black plastic tarp over the new area (grass) in April. This kills the grass and then I till it under in May.

Miriam said...

Oh, reading your post makes it difficult to stick to the "No gardening" orders issued by my physio! Maybe I can find some things to do one-armed... Thanks for the reminder to cover my strawberry plants, although it means I'll have to evict the mouse family living in the bale of straw I saved!

Holly House said...

You sure are one busy bee! Our potatoes this year were a total bust, Erick had forgotten to drill holes in the bottom of the buckets, you can't unsmell something as rank as swamp potatoes! This was our learning curve year, hopefully when I grow up I can be a real homesteader like Nita, I need to try that dry gardening!

Leigh said...

Looks like you've got "real" straw. I mulched with oat straw one year only to realize it was full of oats, which grew, and tried to take over where I didn't want it. Consequently I'm leary of straw these days.

We didn't do well with potatoes either, great foliage but few taters. Bermuda grass has taken over both strawberry beds. That's been a battle and I'm about ready to pull my hair out.

Daisy Farm's mention of homemade weed killer along the fence line is of interest. That's a problem spot for sure. I use cardboard for mulch and that keeps the weeds down very well, except DH says it's very ugly!

click clack gorilla said...

Nice work. I was just getting started on winterizing things in my garden yesterday, though with this big ole belly I'm finding bending over to get all the weeds out incredibly difficult all of a sudden. Ah well, am half finished and have been harvesting some of the herbs that are still growing at the moment and hanging them up to dry inside for winter teas.