growing, eating, sharing

November Glory- Clean up, compost, and sheet mulch

November Glory- Clean up, compost, and sheet mulch

Today was one of those days that I just have to be in the garden, sunny and beautiful, soil moist and easy to work with, and lots to do to finish up for winter.  After those heavy rains, it felt like winter was here but no, we have had some of our nicest weather yet.  I finally pulled all my tomatoes, even though there were still some ripening.  Pretty much the summer garden is all out, and the winter garden all in.  With all this warmth, I have done some later than normal planting.  Just stuck the last of the fava beans and garlic in.  I have to say that the most amazing plant in my garden this year was the Trombocino summer squash, from one plant I got an amazing amount of food, it is still producing.  I like them as they taste good even when they are quite big as they start to turn towards winter squash.   They are more like a winter squash in that they vine all over the place and take up a lot of room.

I think of this as clean up time, the wild summer garden is tamed and the perennials cut back.  I get a sense of the space again and enjoy the tidiness of it.  The early rains started the weeds growing well also.  Hoe and rake, pull and prune, and then make sure you either mulch or cover crop so it doesn’t get too full of weeds by spring planting.  There is a lot of plant matter coming out of the garden also.  Make a big compost pile for spring use.  I chop up sunflowers for the bottom of the pile, they allow some airflow into it.  Then layer the plants, chopping up woody or large plants.  I try to make the pile at least four feet by four feet, so you get some mass that creates some heat.  I often place a fall compost pile somewhere I want to garden late spring, it mulches out the weeds, the nutrients that leach out go into the soil, and it is pretty much ready to go after I use most of the compost.   You can add grass clippings, manure and leaves to mix.  And water it as you build it.  Cover the finished pile with straw or a tarp so the winter rains don’t just wash it away. 

Fall is a great time to sheet mulch a new area for spring planting.  See our resource "Transforming your lawn into a food garden", we describe sheet mulching there.  Basically cut down the weeds or grass, layer manure, compost, any old plants, lawn clippings, then put down a layer of cardboard as a weed barrier then top it off with a mulch of straw or leaves.  It can be anywhere from 6 to 18 inches depending how much material you put down.  In the spring it will all be broken down and ready to plant (though it is often still covered in straw which makes direct seeding hard to do). 

If you have a drip irrigation system, before it freezes it is good to take in any timers and pressure regulators, so they are not damaged by the weather.  Also hoses last longer if not left out in the winter. 

Slugs and snails can be a real problem with the cooler moister weather.  I use Sluggo on any young plantings.  My sweet peas were getting munched down as some of my lettuce plants, so I sprinkled Sluggo around them.   There are two Sluggos, one is organic certified. 

I ditto Wendy that you should take down some notes on how the season went, did you have enough tomatoes, how many did you plant, map out where things were planted so you can rotate your crops, things like that so you can keep track of what worked and what didn’t. Take advantage of these gorgeous fall days to really cleanup the garden, then when the rains come take a well earned rest.