4 Tips to Get Your Garden Winter Ready
The Indian Summer weather has provided me some much needed time to finish my fall cleanup and get my garden winter ready!
Before leaving on a last of the season camping trip in late September, we madly ran around the yard unhooking water hoses and draining water tanks - just the bare bones ‘must haves’ in case we returned to a snow that stayed until next spring.
It did snow in Cypress Hills AB where we were camped: 72 cm, and we were equipped with only a dustpan (and hammer to chip away the ice) to dig ourselves out! That’s one experience that we’ll remember for many more camping years.
Gardening was a popular topic with fellow campers around the picnic table. So I thought I’d share some of my fall gardening tips, and some that we picked up from our fellow campers:
1. Clip The Plants, Rather than Pull
I clip the plants, rather than pull the plants out of the soil leaving the roots in the soil. The roots provide food for the microorganisms in the soil through the winter, and the stubble above the ground holds moisture and snow.
2. Cover Your Garden Beds
I will also run the lawn mower over the plant material I haul out of the garden along with any leaves I have on hand. I then collect this mulch and put it back onto the garden beds.
If you are unable to mow the plant material you haul out of the garden - then put it into your compost bin. Leaves can just be applied 'as is’.
All the garden beds go into the winter covered with this mulch and/or leaves. No soil is left uncovered. Again, this supports the microbial life in your soil.
In the spring you can remove the mulch, or just plant within it (using the mulch as a ground cover).
Keep your soil covered over the winter and you will be amazed at the improvement in your soil.
3. Plant Cover Crops
You can also plant cover crops in late August and leave the plants to die with the frost, and leave as stubble over the winter.
If you didn't get a chance to plant a cover crop like annual rye this year, you can plan it for next season!
In most cases, you’ll be able to plant right into the stubble the following spring - giving you additional weed protection and better moisture control.
4. An Old World Tip to Ripen Green Tomatoes
From our new friend we made on our fall camping trip, whose 102 year old father still farms 10 acres in Lebanon:
Put green tomatoes in a plastic bag with an apple - the tomatoes will ripen quickly. (Avocados done this way will ripen in 24 hours and won’t be black inside!!)
He also recommended that if you take tomato plant clippings from a plant with tomatoes that are red and place these clippings under a tomato plant that isn’t ripening - it will hasten those tomatoes to turn red. (I’m going to try that one next year, for sure).
Planning for the 2018 Growing Season
With winter on its way and the garden going dormant for the season, it is almost time to start planning for next year's growing season!
If you are a garlic growing fanatic like myself, be sure to check out my microblog, 6 Tips for Growing Great Garlic, it's worth the read and a share to fellow garlic lovers
Until next time my fellow gardeners! And, as always, if you have any questions or would like to request a blog topic, leave a comment or send me an email, gardening is all about sharing knowledge!
So how do I grow powerfully flavourful garlic - often the size of my fist - that usually keeps for an entire year? Here are my 6 Tips for Growing Great Garlic:
1. Start With Good Garlic Seed
Start with good garlic seed, I cannot stress this enough. Like having a good foundation to build your home upon, having good garlic seed will be the difference between decent garlic and great garlic.
I always recommend getting your garlic seed (and any other seeds) at Seedy Saturday, an open seed exchange that encourages the use of open-pollinated and heritage seeds. Heritage seeds protect seed diversity and are not generically modified. If there isn't a Seedy Saturday near you, try your local farmers market or turn to the power of the internet to see if you can find heritage seed online.
2. Plant Your Garlic in the Fall
Fall is the best time to plant garlic.
You can certainly plant garlic in the spring, but fall planted garlic is ready earlier, and it also cuts down on the workload in busy springtime.
3. Don't Fertilize the Garlic
Garlic is a ‘light feeder’ so I usually don’t fertilize unless the garlic is planted in a bed that had a ‘heavy feeder’ growing in it that season.
4. Do Use Compost for Your Garlic
A little compost is good and I always add SoilPerfect Rx VIE granular.The difference between using fertilizer and using compost and/or humics is that compost and humics add organic material to your soil for the garlic to use when it starts growing in the spring. Organic material feeds the microbes in the soil, which cycles nutrients and water to your garlic.
5. Plant Your Garlic Right
My seed bulbs grow quite large and the soil is very productive, so I plant my garlic about 6-7” apart.
Push them down into the soil to about the depth of the knuckle on your thumb.
Give it a good water if the soil needs it. Mulch with leaves or clean straw.
6. Clear the Mulch in the Spring
In the spring, I will clear some of the mulch away - but leaving some on the bed will provide early spring ground cover helping with water retention and discouraging weeds.
Have more questions about growing garlic? Or questions about gardening in general?
Like every gardener, I love talking to people about their gardening experiences, sharing knowledge and tips to help our community grow good food. Post your comments below or send me an email directly will all your garlic questions, or requests for future blog topics.
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