Get the Garden Ready for Winter
There are some folks who walk away from their garden in fall and let it snow all over the dead, decripit, lifeless tomato plants, squash, weeds and everything else. This is not necessarily a terrible idea. Those plants provide cover. The have roots that prevent soil from washing away. The can and may compost. And….. you can always just deal with the aftermath next spring.
I don’t like to do that. I like a to start with a clean garden and I like to finish with a clean garden. I blame my dad. His garden winters as a beautiful, blank slate ready for spring planting.
I am not perfect, but I do try to clean up my garden every fall. This involves pulling up all the plants, weeds, flowers and torching the beds. I’ll show you………
First, I pull out all the plants that are done making food for the year. It isn’t complicated or time consuming. I just yank everything green out of the garden and toss it into a wheelbarrow.
Most of the life will be tossed to the chickens or pigs and complete their circle.
I’m going to leave these lettuce plants in the garden. They aren’t done making me food. There’s a few more salads coming this fall.
One of the fall chores is to cut the asparagus ferns off at ground level. I have been letting it grow giant ferns all summer and it is time to cut it back for winter. To read all about asparagus go here.
There is not a right or wrong way to empty the beds. I do try to shake all the plants well so I leave some soil behind for next years crops.
The goal is to get all the old plants and debris out of the garden. We want to remove any diseases, fungus or other icky-ness. We also want to eliminate any potential homes for little garden destroying critters. The old plants need to be long gone. If sick plants are left laying around it is a breeding ground for problems.
We hauled everything off and dumped most of it to the chickens. Any plants that could be harboring disease were dumped deep into the woods (like tomatoes). In the past we have thrown all the plants into a pile & attempted to burn them. That is good in theory, but around here fall is a wet time of year. Good luck burning a pile of ‘green’ plants in the rain.
If this is your situation, just load them onto a trailer or wheelbarrow and take them far away & dump them.
After the plants are gone, gone, gone, it’s time to heat thinks up a bit.
This is a Weed Dragon. The kids call it the “Flame Thrower.” DH hooks it up to a propane tank & basically sets fire to the entire surface of our garden beds.
We have found this greatly reduces the amount of squash bugs I must kill, destroy, and annihilate in the summer. It also extinguishes and tiny weeds, bugs or tomato leaves that I missed during the pulling and dumping.
This also burns up all the excess debris that may accommodate bugs over the winter.
Once everything has been torched it is time for a little top dressing. We use whatever we have. This usually includes debris collected when we clean out the chicken coop. It also includes manure from under the rabbit hutches. We are not picky when it comes to topdressing: cow manure, leaves, mulch, even old bales of straw. All of these will stop weed seeds from germinating, and provide some nourishment to the soil.
All clean & covered for winter.
Till next year, my friend.
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