Around here it’s time to get the garden ready for winter. We’ve had several killing frosts, so all the tender plants are done for the season. I’ve been taking advantage of the warmer days to work outside whenever possible. And we’ve certainly had some nice weather lately, though once again we could sure use some rain. We got less than an inch total in November, which doesn’t bode well for replenishing our supplies after the drought this summer. I would gladly give up a work day if it got rained out by a good all-day soaking rain!
One thing on my to-do list is getting the cold frames ready for winter. This summer I covered them with bird netting, to keep out the wildlife but let in sunlight and rain.
That worked out well, so I decided to leave the netting on this winter and put on the polyester row cover material right on top of it. I’m using Agribon 19 material to cover the cold frame lids, which normally gives the plants plenty of winter protection in our area. You can read more about how I build my cold frames in this article.
In front of the cold frames you can see the cardboard I am putting down on the paths and around the edges of all the beds. My goals is to smother the weeds, while recycling the cardboard. As long as it doesn’t blow away, it will definitely keep the weeds down. Once it gets good and wet it should stay in place. I pick up the cardboard boxes at the kitchen where I volunteer. They don’t recycle them there, so I am helping out by doing my own brand of recycling. I also bring home rotten produce sometimes for the compost pile. I just hate to see organic material go to waste.
We’ve been eating lettuce from one of the cold frames for a couple of months now, but there’s still plenty in there. I will be replanting some of it soon with some transplants I’m growing in the greenhouse. If you look closely you might see some chickweed and dead nettle in there too. Looks like I need to add weeding to my to-do list too!
Another chore I started this past weekend was shredding up our leaves. We don’t have a lot of them, but what we do have are like brown gold to the garden. Shredding helps them break down much quicker. I put some of them in the compost bins, and others went directly on garden beds. I don’t like to put whole leaves on the compost pile because they tend to get matted up and resist breaking down. I’m also shredding a few other items when I use the shredder, like some trimmings from our shrubs. I pulled up the dead basil plants and ran them through, and that bag really smelled great!
I always think of my dad whenever I use the shredder. He always shredded his leaves and gave them to me to put on my garden. Raking leaves always brings back memories too. When I was a kid we would rake them up into big piles and then jump in them. Back then we burned them, in the days before we knew about global warming or air pollution. These days I value them as free organic material.
It’s also time to give the garlic beds a protective covering of straw. I haven’t seen any sprouts yet, except for the ones I planted for green garlic. Some of them were already sprouting, so they had a head start. I won’t cover the garlic bed too deep. A couple of inches of straw should be enough to keep weeds down and moderate temperature fluctuations. The straw I’m using has been aging all summer, so hopefully it won’t be adding too many weed seeds to the beds.
About a month ago I planted a few dozen or so of the Asiatic type garlic cloves (Chinese Pink, Maiskij, Uzbek) for green garlic. They don’t last long in storage, but they are also the earliest to mature, so they are a good choice for green garlic. I planted these closely together, about 2 inches apart, since they will be pulled up next spring before they are mature. They will give us a nice taste of garlic before the main crop is ready to dig. Green garlic is so useful in the kitchen, and planting some is a great way to use those smaller cloves of garlic, or the ones that have started sprouting.
I have plenty of other garden chores left to do, like pulling up tomato vines, eggplants and peppers. I generally try and shred them too before adding to the compost pile. But the big project this week will be some new fencing for the main garden. I’ve got a contractor coming to do the hard work of digging the holes, setting the wooden posts, and putting up the new fence. But I’m going to tear down the old fencing myself and get rid of it, and that will take some time and effort. And I can’t do that before the new fence goes up, so I’ll have to be working along with the contractor. I’m expanding the garden a little bit too, so I am really looking forward to having a little bit bigger garden, plus a fence that really keeps the wildlife out!