welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Sunday, September 27, 2009

readying the garden for winter

Yes, there is still time for fall crops like radishes, lettuce and other salad greens, but I was in a mood and decided to go ahead and prep the garden for winter. With the exception of some peppers, carrots, and a small salad patch, everything got mowed down. Woody remnants that refused to be shredded by the mower were burned. Those that resisted burning got put on the compost pile. A shallow tilling came next and then cover crops were sown. In the beds where there will be root vegetables or the brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) next year, spring oats went in, everywhere else large purple-top turnips were planted. Since turnips are in the brassica family, it's best to not plant them where next year's crop will go since they share pests and disease.

So why plant turnips at all? Because the sheep love them! If the weather cooperates, the turnips should be ready for grazing in mid-November and hopefully through the end of the year. Frost won't kill them, but a good hard freeze will. So depending on the weather, the sheep could get as much as six weeks of eating off of them, saving quite a bit on hay. Along the same thinking, I've stopped mowing the grassy area around the garden, to create stockpiled forage. It should balance the the turnips nicely in terms of nutrition. The first year I tried this, it worked great, but last year was pretty much a bust. The turnips got planted late and then we had an early hard freeze. That one-two punch meant the sheep barely saw any benefit at all. It's all a gamble, but not an expensive one, so definitely worth trying.

I also prepped the garlic bed. It is tilled, raked, spread with chicken litter, and planted with oats. The garlic will get planted into the oats in late October, having just enough time to put out some roots before resting for the winter. The oats will grow until winter-killed, and will then provide a handy protective mulch all as well as a weed barrier next spring. All I need now is for the garlic to arrive in the mail. I ordered a second variety this week, called music. It should be interesting to see the differences between it and the red russian.

The last big garden project before winter is to prep the cut flower garden. I've been putting it off until I can get a nice fence put up around it to keep the dogs out, but probably a temporary fence will have to do for now since time is running short. A dog barrier is essential because there will be manure spread on the beds. Dogs + manure. Need I say more?

The greenhouse is still in the planning stages (yikes!). Hopefully next week that will move forward.

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