Catching up with Mother Nature: planting the winter garden
by muddy feet mama
Every year our Fall planting gets postponed into November. This year – like last year – Food Rescue’s fall harvest is largely to blame. We also tacked a wedding onto our busy late-October schedule. But honestly I think our very common Northern California ‘Indian Summer’ is also big factor. By late October what’s left of the summer garden should just be tossed to the chickens, but with 80 degree weather how do you wrap your head around planting a winter garden? I have yet to master the art of seasonal planting unless the Mother Nature reminds me.
A few months ago we tore out a lot of our puny beds and replaced them with much larger beds to maximize our garden space. We built three 4×12 beds and moved the four 4×4 beds from the front yard to the back. There they sat waiting for the fall fruit harvest and the wedding to pass until they saw any action. Last weekend they were finally tended!
We lined the bottom of the three large beds with cardboard – a material we had lots of since we replaced the Food Rescue boxes with collapsible plastic bins. We then placed tree trunks and branches on top of the cardboard, chicken coop hay and kitchen waste compost on top of that, then topped it off with a lovely top soil mixed with finely ground wood mulch. There’s been much attention paid to Hugelkultur these days, and I suppose these beds are a kind of hoopty version of that method. Certainly using materials that decompose at different rates makes sense to me – almost like a slow release vitamin. Also having materials that can retain moisture for later use by the bed makes sense to me, especially in California. We chose not to employ this method in our smaller beds partly as experiment controls, partly because of what we plan on growing in some of them (potatoes, for instance). I’ll keep you posted as the crops come in!
We also built a tepee forest for our beans and peas. Maybe now the kids won’t trample them so easily… :)
Today finally feels like the weather is turning towards winter. I can imagine this weekend stacking wood for the stove instead of sweating in the garden. We will move the last of the dirt and push seeds into the soil, can the last of the pantry stores (sauerkraut and chutney), and hopefully toast the end of the fall rush with friends.
I understand now why people celebrate with Harvest festivals. I’m ready for the quiet season to begin.