This summer has been a great one for the garden!
Happy Thanksgiving! Autumn is here again, and now is the best time to prepare your garden beds for next year. We remove any weeds and fertilize our soil with organic matter from our farm, from grass clippings to old animal bedding or any composted organic matter. I try to chop or shred the material before applying it, and then work it into the top few inches of the bed so the worms can then do their thing. Before the snow hits it is important to cover any bare ground with a layer of mulch, or plant some kind of a cover crop to protect from the wind and cold of winter. Just like us, gardens need a blanket when it gets cold!
In an effort to control our pesky pests I came up with an idea for a row cover over the strawberries today. Using some old page wire I cut and bent a section over our plants to act as a scaffold for the garden cloth. I am hoping that this will deter any curious deer that may try to indulge.. we shall see..
The benefits of mulching in the garden are great, especially when growing food without the use of harmful pesticides. The first obvious reason for using a mulch is probably for weed control. Any bare soil that is left in the open to the elements is at risk of becoming overwhelmed with a variety of native plants that are well-suited for extreme and varied soil conditions. By covering the ground, the mulch serves as a barrier between plants and the environment above the soil, reducing weeds.
Another great reason to use a mulch is so that the garden plants do not require as much water from external sources. Water will eventually be lost from the uncovered soil as a result of evaporation, wind and the sun. A blanket of mulch will keep moisture as well as temperature levels constant for the plants roots, which means less time and energy spent watering.
The last big reason for mulching would be the benefit of constantly improving on the soil’s tilth and fertility. Worms & microorganisms will work to bring down the mulch layer below the surface and use it for food, creating a rich compost from its organic matter. More worm activity means greater worm holes and worm castings in the soil, which in turn help feed our plants above ground.
Mulch can be made from any organic substance, and is probably the best tool a gardener can have in his or her arsenal!
One of our projects this year is putting in a fence around our veggie garden. We thought that a fence may help in keeping our garden protected from any rabbits, deer or the occasional wayward dog that may happen to visit. With our new fence plan underway, we also decided to reconfigure the garden beds, making them easier to rotate in a condensed layout. No more sprawling rows in the field, just a nice easy to manage plot all in one area! Stay tuned – Spring is busy 🙂
Today I managed to plant the Garlic that will grow in 2013 into the Earth! What a nice day to be out digging and scratching at the dirt. I made raised beds as I always do for planting Garlic, and plan on topping it off with a nice blanket of old straw from the barn mow sometime next week. The straw mulch will hopefully protect the Garlic cloves when the frosts arrive shortly. I love planting and working with Garlic – it has become one of my most favorite things to do here on our farm. Garlic is an amazing plant. Be sure to drop by our farm for fresh Garlic, Chicken, and Eggs! Have a Happy Thanksgiving from our family at Russwood !
It’s already time to start making the beds for next year! This time of year we start to make preparations for next year’s garden by pulling out the weeds, fertilizing and covering the beds with mulch or cover crops. It is also time for the important task of saving seeds from the garden. The seeds that are saved from our land and planted the next year should yield a stronger plant which becomes more resistant to pests and drought conditions as they evolve.
Things are unmistakably moving right along on our farm now that May has arrived! Seedlings are emerging after a rainfall, and the Garlic is showing some nice growth as I walked the beds today. I will need to tend to my Rye Grass experiment that I planted before winter, as it now looks to be growing at a rapid pace. I will chop it down and turn it under the dirt, hoping for what the old timers call a “green manure” The leaves and roots of Rye soak up nitrogen that will release into the soil, while also serving for a mulch to plant into. Our broiler chickens are doing well in the great outdoors, enjoying the fresh air, pasture and sunshine of the land. I also tried my hand at building a couple of Mason Bee houses in order to attract our native bee population. They are excellent pollinators! Stay tuned, Summer is around the bend… 😉