Garden Groove: Putting the Garden to Bed for the Season
Getting in the Garden Groove with John Schroeder: "Putting the Garden -- and this Blog -- to Bed for the Year"
The gardening season -- which for me started in late April this year -- is nearing its end. I continue working in my garden most years pretty late into the fall.
I’m still pulling a few late tomatoes and peppers at this point. I have beets in the ground yet. Our second/fall plantings of spinach, lettuce, radishes and turnips have begun to yield. Kale will continue for a while, as it can also tolerate cooler temperatures. Believe it or not, I have one late head of cabbage still to harvest. I’ve barely touched my long row of leeks and will soon begin pulling those for fall soups. And I’ve only dug a handful of my carrots so far, as it always seems that they get sweeter the cooler the soil becomes. So while it seems like it’s past the time when a lot of people think about gardening, I continue to plod around in mine and I won’t be entirely finished working it for a month or more yet.
Still, as I continue to harvest late-season crops, I also do things to get the garden ready for its long winter nap. I pile up dead pepper, broccoli and cabbage plants and will later drop them all into a pit (with dimensions roughly 10 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet deep) that I will dig. This version of composting puts nutrients back into the soil and prevents me from having to get rid of quite as much plant matter at the end of the year. I do, however, use St. Cloud city yard waste bags for my tomato plants. I don’t throw them into the pit with those other plants, as the tomatoes usually end up with a fair amount of blight on them and I like to get as much of that out of the garden as possible.
As we cut our grass the last few times in the fall we tend to bag a lot of the clippings and throw them into the garden. Next spring those clippings will add further benefits to the soil when they’re tilled in. I’ve talked about this before but I only add grass to our garden because we tend to not use an excessive amount of weed killer on our yard. I usually just spot-treat the limited amount of broadleaf weeds we seem to have most years so I feel like I can add that grass to my soil without being concerned about incorporating things I wouldn’t want negatively impacting the food I grow.
In the past I would usually turn over our garden soil at the end of the year, but I’ve stopped doing that now. I just don’t want to work that hard at the end of the season anymore. But I also ended that practice because I don’t believe there’s a real good reason for it. If anything, loose unprotected soil is more prone to wind erosion during the winter. So I just leave the soil untouched now before tilling it once again the following spring.
All in all, it was another productive season in the garden. I had huge yields of tomatoes and peppers, which for me is the gold standard and the reason I spend as much time in the garden as I do. But it was also an above-average year for beans, various greens, scallions and several other things. The carrots I’ve pulled so far also look big and beautiful.
In the very first of these twenty articles I wrote this year, I talked about how part of the joy of this hobby is being able to share produce with friends, neighbors and coworkers. It was a year of bounty and I was able to do quite a bit of that. And I’ve enjoyed being able this year to share some thoughts and acquired wisdoms about gardening in this weekly blog, as well.
They say it was a record year for gardening activity, as so many people confined to their home turf by the COVID crisis decided to try their hand at this activity. I hope if that was you and if you read any of these articles that you found some benefit in them and that you also had a successful year in the dirt. Let’s all recharge our batteries now and begin dreaming and scheming about what new crops and what new tactics we might try in 2021.
P.S. – Thanks to Tim Lyon, our digital content manager for Townsquare Media in St. Cloud for his assistance getting these weekly writings posted through WJON.com. I owe you a jar of salsa, Tim!
John Schroeder is a sales guy at Townsquare Media St. Cloud, but in his past life, he was an on-air personality specializing in sports. But what really turns his crank is getting out in his 28 x 15 foot vegetable garden several times a week nurturing, eventually harvesting (and sometimes sharing) homegrown food.