Monday, 12 October 2009

Transition time in the garden

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Living in the Cascade foothills of the Pacific Northwest, gives us a little leeway in gardening. We normally don't get slammed with weather extremes. Our seasons are defined, but moderate, and if you ask a webfooter - they will most likely say we have 9 months of rain, and 3 months of summer. As a general rule, when the fall rains come, that is it - you can expect that it will pretty much be wet until April, May or July 4th.

Ever mindful that I need to be moving into gear for winter, I can still allow for others to make the transition too. We are totally sick of broccoli, the freezer is full, we have gorged on it fresh, and finally have turned our backs on it. But, to the delight of the insects still in the gathering mode, every sunny day and a bit of pollen and nectar helps a little. This is the time we start to eat from the hardier brassicas in the garden, kales and cabbages are rounding out the diet now. So each day I pull a broccoli plant that the bees are done with, and feed it to our hens. The few aphids that have taken up residence will be demolished by the layers, to be turned into eggs. We grow a lot of brassicas, and feeding the plant residues to the hens, or sheep gives us another "rotation" if you will. By letting the animals' digestive system work it wonders on the plants and turn the plant material into nutrient rich manure, we are spared some of the disease that plagues brassica growers who turn the plant residue into the ground as a way to get rid of it.

While I may have soft spot in my heart for the bees, the deer that like to munch in my garden are another story! For the most part, my Australian Shepherds are pretty effective at keeping the deer at bay. But, with the days getting shorter, the lap dogs guard dogs much prefer to be in the house with us during dinner time, and it just so happens that deer dinner time is the same as ours. So we have to employ a little ingenuity. In our climate, we can store a big share of our root crops in the row where they grew. After frost has killed the tops of the plants, I mulch the rows with soil to prevent freezing and dig as needed. However, until that time occurs, I need to do something to deter the deer. The easiest and most cost effective solution for us has to been to use deer fencing as a barrier on the ground. It is lightweight and easily moved and thwarts the deer enough to cause them to look elsewhere for feeding. When it is time to do my soil mulch, I can fold the netting back, mulch and then replace the netting just for good measure for the winter. The deer do not seem to dig through the mulch, but the elk will, so this allows us to keep our root crops relatively safe.

None too soon, as you can see, the deer are ever present.

While I would dearly like to get my cedar bean poles stored, I want to leave the pods on the vines as long as possible for seed saving.

My flint corn is also drying down, so in areas like this, I under-sow a cover crop. The cover crop gets established, and I am not in a hurry to harvest immature plants so I can get the cover crop in.

In areas like the potato patch, I wait to sow the cover crop after harvest. Winter rye is very hardy and even can be frost seeded. By breaking up the tasks of putting the garden to bed, we aren't so harried, and can harvest crops at the peak of maturity.

This is also the time to put away any garden tools, and other equipment that will not be used until spring. We clean and put away tools, and set items aside that need repairs over the winter. Nothing is more frustrating than to pick up a tool next spring and find that you have to start out with a repair job. Kind of like cooking before you have your kitchen in order, it takes the enthusiasm right out of a job for me.

I feel better being somewhat organized in the rush of winter prep - what do you have to do to prepare your garden in your area for winter?