Getting ready for winter

Let’s talk about winterizing. A lot of people, including myself, thought you could just let the garden go once you collected all you wanted from the garden. But I’ve realized over time that it would be like having a one way friendship with someone, it just doesn’t work.

First lets go into WHY winterizing your garden is important:

  1. By composting all your left over annual plants and vines it prevents the build up of diseases.
  2. It also gets ride of nasty bugs that would hang around in the dead plants waiting for next year’s vegetables. (Composting reaches high heat levels which kills off diseases and bugs that otherwise would live if left in the garden.)
  3. Cleaning out your annuals gives you a chance to build up your compost and get some great dirt filled with nutrients for next year’s garden.
This is about half of the garden scraps we have so far. All going into our compost bin!

This is about half of the garden scraps we have so far. All going into our compost bin!

How to winterize your STRAWBERRIES:

This was my first year growing strawberries and it was such a fun experience. We had about 20 plants that produced all summer and are still producing a few berries today!

JUNE BEARING STRAWBERRIES: One/two weeks after they have stopped baring fruit take a pair of scissors or use a lawnmower and go over your berry plants to cut them back. This will help increase your production for the following year.

EVER BEARING STRAWBERRIES: I’ve heard of a few people that will cut their berries back the same way they do their June Bearing plants, but most people recommend leaving them be. But make sure you cut off all the runners and replant them or compost them.

FOR JUNE BEARING and EVER BEARING STRAWBERRIES: Before the first hard frost sets in, cover your strawberries with 4-6 inches of straw and cover with a wire mesh of sorts to keep the straw from blowing away during the season.

This haven't been winterized yet, but should be sometime this week.

These haven’t been winterized yet, but should be sometime this week. (Lows in the 30’s this week!)

How to winterize your RHUBARB, ASPARAGUS, HORSERADISH, GARLIC, and other Perennials:

Mulch, mulch, mulch and more mulch.

Rhubarb: Mulch with organic matter and well rotted manure.

Asparagus: Mulch with 4-6 inches of chopped leaves, hay or straw. Remove the mulch in the spring.

Horseradish: Mulch only if you live in particularly harsh areas. Otherwise no mulch is needed.

Garlic: Mulch with chopped leaves, grass hay or alfalfa. Avoid grain straw if you can which can host curl mite that can attack garlic.

mulching

WINTER GARDENING AND COVER CROPS:

Instead of closing up shop after clearing out all the summer plants, plant something that can grow and keep your garden alive. Kale, collards, leafy greens, garlic, rhubarb, shallots and carrots are a few great things that you can start late in late summer and harvest in the fall. Your garden can also work as a great ‘root cellar’ of sorts, to store things like carrots, potatoes, onions and cabbage. Just burry in a few inches of soil and place a marker over the spot so it can be easily found once winter sets in.

Something else to consider are cover crops! I have never done a cover crop but I really want to try one this year. I love that they keep your soil healthy and in place.

Why cover crops?

“Cover crops help to retain the soil, lessen erosion, and decrease the impact of precipitation on the garden by slowing the runoff of water. They also reduce mineral leaching and compaction, and suppress perennial and winter annual weed growth. The top growth adds organic matter when it is tilled into the garden soil. The cover crop’s root system also provides organic matter and opens passageways that help improve air and water movement in the soil.” -Cornell University

Great cover crop options:

covercrops

 

Portia Westesen

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Turn your scraps into garden gold!

Let’s talk about compost. I LOVE compost.

Compost is like natures way of recycling. It’s good for everyone, so why not do it?! Composting feeds hundreds of thousands of organisms in the soil. Not only does it help improve your garden it improves the soil structure and makes it easier for plants to grow! The more variety you put in your compost the more diverse your organisms will be WHICH means more benefits for your compost and in turn for your garden.

When I say composting is easy, I really mean it.

Take all those used and smelly waste from your kitchen, garden or yard and, instead of just tossing it in the garbage, toss it into compost box. Don’t know what to use to hold your compost? Just use a large plastic tub, trashcan, or make your own out of wood! Nothin’ special.

Here is a list of things that can be composted: (this list is probably only the beginning, but it’ll give you a good start)

  • fruit and vegetables, skins and all.
  • eggshells (crushed)
  • farm animal manures
  • flowers
  • grass clippings (in THIN layers)
  • hay
  • leaves
  • oats and oat straw, and most other hulls, straws, moss.
  • peat moss
  • potato skins and vines
  • shells (from sea creatures, make sure they are ground and buried deep in the pile)
  • tea leaves
  • weeds

Two of the biggest elements in composting is carbon and nitrogen. You generally want 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith has a great article on composting, his trick to remembering what the difference is between the two is “30 parts brown (for carbon) and 1 part green (for the nitrogen).”

Composting BROWNS:

  • Straw-oats, barley, wheat and rye. (generally, most people prefer this type for composting)
  • Hay
  • Cornstalks and vines from pea and beans
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Wood Shavings and Sawdust
  • Pine Needles

Composting GREENS:

  • Any plant (fruit, vegetables, flowers) material as long as it’s not diseased
  • Grass clippings
  • Seaweed
  • Weeds (make sure there’s no poisons on it!)
  • Bird feathers
  • Manures
  • Alfafa hay

What NOT to compost

  • Meat and Dairy, mainly because they attract animals.
  • Diseased plants and the roots of the cabbage plants
  • Weeds that have gone to seed
  • Ashes
  • Manure from animals other than herbivores. Like cats and dogs.
  • Plants that have herbicides on them

This is my 2nd year really composting and I’m really enjoying all I’ve learned from it so far! Good luck and don’t be afraid to ask questions or google more about it! Composting is so easy and so beneficial for your garden!

Portia Westesen

Onions

I’ve run into some issues growing my onions this year. First year growing them and I’m definitely learning a LOT. Saying I love onions is an understatement. I remember hating fresh onions all my life until I was probably 16. I’m not really sure how it happened, somehow one sneaked into a sandwich and when I bit into it, it was like I never had an onion before! So for all you onion haters out there, just give your old potent, spicy, smelly friend a try one more time. Or maybe 15 times, I’ve heard it takes 15 or so times before your tastebuds get retrained to like something.

First lets talk about what onions love. Then we’ll dive into the many things I did wrong.

1) Make sure the soil is always moist for the first two weeks. This’ll make the difference between good and great onions.

2) Keep the weeds at bay. Onions grow so close to the surface and their roots are very shallow.

3) Sandy soil is the best for these guys. Keep it fertile and loose. 😉

4) Onions from seed take a long time to grow, so give them a head start. 8-10 weeks indoors before last frost date.

5) Like number 1, even after the first two weeks they need consistent water, if the top inch is dry give it a good water.

6) Spacing for onion plants. If you want bigger onions you need to space them 4-5 inches apart. If you want a higher yield with average size onions, 2 inches apart, and if you want scallions, 1 inch apart.

7) Spacing for onion sets: Remember, if you are buying sets of onions, smaller is better! They are already a year old and are ready to set out flowers, which isn’t what you want, so to prevent that from happening find the smallest bulbs and plant as soon as possible. If you are planting in rows, space them 6-8 inches apart.

Okay, now onto my experience this year with onions. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I started out growing from seed in February, but between my wonderful dog, and my baby girl they didn’t really make it. So I went down to our local gardening store and picked up some onion sets.

1) My first problem was I thought I should buy the biggest set of bulbs so I could produce the biggest onions. Wrong. Smaller is better. They are less likely to bolt, so look for bulbs about the size of a dime.

Everything was growing great and strong and the leaves had started falling over so I thought it was time to harvest. When I went to pull them I noticed that most of them were fairly small. I was expecting baseball size onions and instead got golfball sized onions. Major disappointment.

2) To much nitrogen. I’m not sure if this was the reason for the smaller size, but I’ve heard that to much nitrogen can produce lots of leaves with small bulbs. Next season I will test my soil just to make sure that levels are normal.

3) Spacing. I believe I was spacing for onion seeds not for sets. So instead of giving them 6-8 inches of space, I gave them 3-4. (I’m feeling a little embarrassed.)

4) Know where your plants are from. I’ve heard a rumor that sets are known to grow smaller onions anyways but also, I have no idea where my onions came from! It is best to buy plants locally, but if that is not possible find varieties that are known to grow great in your climate.

photo (10)  photo (11)  photo (12)

 

Portia Westesen