Fall and Winter Gardening at The Garden of Eden

About this time of year I am often asked if the garden is over. After all, the first frost is imminent, winter is just a month or so away, and the growing season is over. We can rest now. Right?

Certainly anyone asking is jesting! The garden continues, albeit in some areas not as actively, during the cold months.

The Garden of Eden grows cool weather crops. Broccoli and cabbage, for instance, thrive in cool weather and can endure light frost. It is amazing how well chard and some kale do during the winter. Radishes and lettuces grow just fine in our cold frames. We try to harvest twice a month during late fall and winter in order to supply the food pantry.

Our work actually increases in the fall. To wit:

We just put plastic on the cold frames. The cold frames act as a greenhouse during the winter months. Crops inside the cold frame grow when the sun’s rays warms the inside. If it snows or is extremely chilly, the plants suspend growth until warmth returns. (During the active season we remove the plastic and use the frames to grow regular crops.)

We finished planting about 150 cloves of garlic. The garlic needs cold in order to trigger growth. The garlic scapes will be harvested probably in June and the garlic themselves will be harvested probably in early July.

We are taking down fences and arbors and storing them until we start planting spring/summer crops. The berms and beds are currently being seeded with cover crops which will grow during the winter months and replenish essential soil nutrients. The reason the fences need to be down is so, come mid winter, we can crimp and then cover the cover crops with black tarp for a few weeks. The cover crops will die and form compost for our to-be- planted seeds and seedlings. This procedure is called no-till.

All our gardening tools and implements need to be washed, inspected, and, if need be, repaired. All our equipment needs to be safely secured.

We are digging out obnoxious weeds so they won’t get a head start come spring.

Our irrigation system needs to be protected during the winter months and need to be available should we have a long session of warmer days. Additionally, we are expanding our irrigation system this fall/winter. It takes time to work out the logistics of installation and implement them.

We have asked the clients and volunteers of the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry for feedback on the crops we grow. The survey should be completed soon and we will analyze the results to better plan our planting and equipment needs in the 2018 season. We are greatly indebted to Judy Berkowitz, director of the food pantry, for her assistance.

We will be perusing garden catalogs, websites, and experiences of local gardeners to learn what worked or didn’t work for them in order to plan our seed and seedling purchases for next year. Nearly all our seeds and plants are organic and thus we need to know what the growing requirements are for each one. All ordering is completed by mid February.

We will very shortly begin to plan what to plant where. Crops are continually rotated in our garden in order to confuse insects and also not to deplete our soil of essential microbes and nutrients. This task is not easy!

Mychorrhizae has been ordered and when it arrives, it will be embedded in the soil. An explanation of mycorrhizae will be in a future post.

We plan activities for next spring and summer’s youngsters who come regularly to the garden. A tremendous amount of planning goes into making the garden a fun and meaningful learning activity for them.

The compost needs to be regularly stirred so that the greens and browns in them can readily decompost. We transfer the compost from our bins to the garden as soon as they are ready.

Soon we will ask our volunteers for clean eggshells. We plant them under tomatoes and peppers to alleviate bottom rot and under peanuts to provide nutrients.

When we pull the tomato stems we will be bagging them in contractor trash bags and disposing them. Tomatoes are not allowed in our compost as they contain harmful pathogens – even after three years. Woody plant stems will be disposed in a similar fashion as they do not decompose quickly enough.

Acht! Thinking about the fall and writing about what we have to do is tiring! I need a rest!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *