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Summer is coming to an end and we can already feel a nip in the air early mornings. The sun is rising over the trees 20 minutes later than it has been, the days are getting shorter and the temperatures at night are already getting below what we keep our thermostat set on, so it’s time to open up the windows at night. Spring and fall are my favorite times of the year because I love having the windows open. I love the feel of a cool breeze when it blows through, I know the house getting aired out and the pleasant feeling of knowing another season is coming.
Fall also means it is time to get to cleaning up the garden and the whole homestead getting it ready for the winter. The barn with goats, at this time, is still a dream so I don’t have that to do, though I desire to be, the garden does have to be taken care of. The vegetables are all gone with the exception of the okra and the beds are in need of added soil and compost to help the microorganisms living in the soil to continue their work on making the soil much healthier. I’m can’t decide if I will be planting a fall garden or not, if I do, I will need only 1 bed to plant spinach and nothing else. I’m not sure if I will at this point. I only have another week or so to make up my mind though.
This year when I put the beds away for winter, I am definitely going to be trying something different. Since I have only been gardening 2 years now, I am still very much in the learning stages of what is best practice for our homestead. I can remember my parents planting a fall garden but of course I was young and could care less what how they were doing. I was just wanting to get it done so my brother and I could go play. Now that I am 50 years old, I am reading all that I can get my hands on and attending any educational trainings that I can. I recently graduated the University of Tennessee Master Gardener program in May and I have been able to learn more this year than before. I’ve also met new friends who are avid gardeners and I am taking in all they will share.
Since we do have all raised beds, I always questioned how I could do cover crops and things to naturally fertilize our beds over winter and this week I learned something new while attending the UT Gardens Fall Festival in Crossville, TN. There was a wealth of knowledge there and I am grateful for getting to go. On a side note, my sweet husband was home pulling our well pump out of the ground because we woke up to no water – he sent me on to the festival! How awesome is he? I’m so glad I was able to go!
I attended a Soil Health and Weed Control Without Herbicides class and man did I learn that I have made the mistakes! Last year I physically pulled up all the plants, leaving great big gaping holes were they stood, leveled all the soil back out and simply placed crushed leaves over the soil for winter. This did feed the microorganisms a bit but leaves only were not really beneficial at all. Basically everything I did last year was not beneficial.
It was all just cleared and looked really sad. This year, I’m doing a couple things differently. I will not be pulling up the vegetable plants, I will be “cutting” them off at ground level and leaving the roots in the soil. They will continue to decay over the winter adding green fertilizer back into the soil. Secondly, I well will be planting a cover crop in all the individual beds to protect the soil and provide an additional source of organic matter and improve soil structure. Cover crops also help with recycling nutrients (especially P and K) and adding nitrogen back into the soil as well. Growing plants takes nutrients out of the soil and it is necessary to add it back in if you want next season’s garden to produce well. And an added benefit too, is when I look out the kitchen window in the dead of the winter, my garden will look much nicer and happier with a green carpet over it.
So with all this said, I will be posting the journey to take you along as we try something new this season. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram to see instant photos. What do you do to prepare your beds for winter?