The Winter Garden
By Jay North
Reproduced with Permission
Planting the Fall Garden or Preparing for Winter Dormancy
Something about late fall and winter weather makes some growers just want to stay inside rather the play in their gardens. I can relate. Heck, even bears have the good sense to stay in bed. Fall and winter can be an excellent time to allow nature to do its thing and for the back yard gardener to relax or take off to the South Pacific. But many adventurous gardeners and commercial growers who don’t want a break--or who can’t afford to take one--plant winter gardens.
Depending on where you live, you have the choice to plant in the fall for winter harvest or to prepare your soil for next spring’s plantings. People throughout the world who are fortunate enough to live in mild climates that don’t get heavy snow or frost have the luxury of long growing seasons, while folks in Montana and Alaska are lucky to have three good months for planting, cultivating and harvesting of crops from their gardens and fields.
Summer Is Nearing Its End
And You Just Don’t Feel Like Letting Your Garden Plot Go Fallow
Well, fine you don’t have to. There are plenty of plants that will do well in the months to come and that actually prefer cooler weather over the hot days of summer. Arrugula, dill, cauliflower broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach, and coriander are just a few of these. There are many more. If you want to grow crops for income, consider unusual crops or plan to plant what few other growers in your area are planting.
Here’s how to extend your season and plant and harvest these lovelies in the winter, fresh from your garden plot: Clean out the remains from the summer harvest. This means everything, including plants way past their producing prime and any weeds that managed to come from God knows where. Turn the soil as you did when you prepared for spring planting. Add new composted mulch, organic fertilizers and re-create your beds. Pretty simple, yes?
You will want to add little extra nitrogen to the soil to help your plants along, but again, not too much all at one time. Give your plants a little boost once they are established, say with, blood, bone, hoof, and horn and a good shot of fish emulsion and they will give you treats in the late fall early winter.
How do you know if you live in a climate that will produce late season crops? Go outdoors. Is it cold in the fall--or mild? Check with your local nursery person and ask about your zone. Or locate a map of the country or the world that displays climate areas, or zones. Your local professional should be able to guide you on what is best to plant in late summer or early fall in your home town. For the commercially minded grower, it’s probably not a good idea to ask a nursery person, “What can I grow to make money?” If they knew that they would be growing it themselves. No, it’s better to do your own research and come up with a plan to sell what you grow before you plant it. (See chapters on marketing your crops.)
Pest control will be less of a problem for the late season garden, as white fly, Japanese beetle and many others die off naturally when cooler weather comes. For the pesties that remain to bother your plants, use the same natural methods for controlling them as you did during the summer. Pick off the big ones and stomp on umm and use insecticidal soap, liquid garlic and Pyranone.
And if you are not able to grow a garden in the late summer, fall or winter? Now is a good time to prepare for next year’s crop by removing debris, weeds, and leftover plants, including all vegetables, flowers and herbs. By removing them you are cutting the risk of depleting the soil by keeping plants that are no longer useful. After removing these materials, I add compost that is ready to use. Either lay it just on top of the soil or till it in very shallowly, near the surface. That way useful components can leach into the soil at the top, where it will be needed by next year’s crop. If you till into the soil too deeply, the nutrients may be too deep to be of any use or value next year. Lay straw or a heavy layer of manure on top and there you have it: Soil that will rebuild itself over the winter and is protected while lying fallow. It’s also a good idea to lay in some earthworms and let them help take care of the soil.
Another thing one can do to build the soil in the off-season is to plant a cover crop. This is a great way to protect soil and re-build it at the same time. And does not require a lot of time and labor on your part. I sow red bean, clover, barley and African marigold seeds. These plants help build the soil by adding essential minerals and nutrients plus organic materials that will be helpful to next year’s edible or flowering plants.
Be prepared to till your cover crop in before the combination grows in too thick and before it flowers. It’s easy to do this planting by simply scattering seeds by hand, covering them with a little soil, and watering.
Jay North author of Getting Started in Organic Gardening for Fun and Profit is an organic farming and organic marketing consultant; he is one of the worlds leading authorities and originators in organic growing.
Jay North is a pioneer in the organic farming industry. He authored Getting Started In Organic Gardening for Fun And Profit , as a means of sharing his philosophy of renewal and self-sustained living. He is an internationally recognized authority in organic produce. Contact Jay at JayNorthIs1@sbcglobal.net and his book is available on his website, www.GoingOrganic.com.
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