Putting Gardens to Bed

We’re trying to coax food out of our fall gardens, with mixed success so far.  But even though those gardens are getting the most attention these days, there’s work to do on the others as well.

Our spring gardens are sowed in a winter cover crop–a mixture of winter rye, Austrian winter peas, oats and crimson clover.  Cover crops help us maintain soil health and fertility.  Once the cover crops are established, then there’s nothing more to do on those gardens till next year.   They’re tucked into bed for the winter.

The summer gardens aren’t as far along.  The garden that gave us watermelons this summer has been tilled and soon I’ll be planting garlic and onions in it for overwintering.  The peas and beans are still producing, so it will be awhile before I can start putting those gardens to bed. Yesterday I began taking down the fences from around the sweet potato gardens.  With harvest just a couple of weeks away, I’m actually inviting the deer in to to eat the vines, thus saving me the trouble of pulling them all up and hauling them away.

I also spent a lot of time yesterday working in the now-expired tomato gardens, and I’ll be at it again today.

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We use the Florida Weave method to support our tomatoes.  That means we drive in metal t-posts after every two plants and weave baling twine among the posts to create support for the growing plants.  The method works great and is much better than individually staking and tying each plant.  But at the end of the season, after the plants have all died, it’s necessary to go back and remove all the twine and pull up the t-posts, a process that takes many hours. Hopefully today we’ll finish up.

Gardens become unruly messes by the end of the year.  It’s a satisfying feeling to have them all cleaned up and tucked into bed for winter.  I’m actually kind of looking forward to those long dark days of winter.

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10 comments on “Putting Gardens to Bed

  1. shoreacres says:

    It’s interesting to see the support system in detail. Now, I think that’s exactly what “my” farm used, not only for their tomatoes, but also for their blackberries. There’s no question it’s strong and durable, and perfect for a you-pick-it farm.

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    • Bill says:

      It works very well. Takes far less time than individual staking and tying and works better. And taking it all down is easy as long as you put it up correctly in the first place. The downside is the expense of buying the t-posts and baling twine. The posts are expensive but last forever. The twine is expensive and only lasts a year. But that would be the case with the other method too. I’ve never liked the way they grow in cages and those are also expensive. All in all this is the best way, hands down, in my opinion.

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  2. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, I too am in the process of cleaning up garden beds and putting them down for their long Winter nap. I’m looking forward to planning next year’s garden and seed starting in February. It’s time to start saving those yogurt, cottage cheese, other plastic containers for seed growth transplants. This year I’m going to try to use my seed starting area more than last year. Especially for the fall planting. I’ve not really tried to do much in the fall planting area. Not many folks in Nebraska think about planting any thing in the fall so fall plants to buy are non existent. Interval planting is another thing I want to do next year. Instead of planting all the plants at once, plant radishes or lettuce every two to three weeks for a continuous harvest. I’m trying to get more out of the same garden area. I’ve learned that in order to do that the soil must be rejuvenated between plantings. If multiple crops are to be grown in the same year, amending the soil with compost is a must between plantings. I have an unlimited source for horse manure that I haven’t really tapped into yet but that would be a great help to keep the soil filled with nitrogen.

    Have a great fall garden day.

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    • Bill says:

      Horse manure is great for the soil. You just have to make sure it’s composted fully if you’re going to apply it within 120 days of taking any food out of the garden.

      Fall gardens do very well here but most folks don’t plant them. They only plant summer gardens and nothing but a patch of turnip greens in the fall.

      I’m going to try to be better about interval planting next year too, especially with green beans. It’s just too much work to have a entire garden of those all come in at once.

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  3. bobraxton says:

    does “plowing” mean an actual molboard plow and mechanical tractor?

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    • Bill says:

      No, that’s just my shorthand way of saying it. First I mow the garden with a bushhog (unless it’s not too overgrown, in which case I skip that step). Then I till it with a rotary tiller that operates off the tractor’s power take off. In the fall and winter I’ll go over the garden with a type of harrow that we call a “jitterbug” or I’ll run over it with a chisel plow/subsoiler. That helps break any subsoil compaction. Then I’ll till it again. The point is to incorporate the biomass from the cover crop into the soil to increase its organic matter and microbial activity.

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  4. My favorite gardener (my wife Peggy) is pulling off the last of the tomatoes. They do go on, however— for which we are thankful. Like your approach with the sweet potatoes. Do you have a come and get it bell for the deer? –Curt

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