Ah, fall! The air turns crisp, the days get remarkably short and the leaves fall off of the trees. With the pantry, root cellar and freezer full to bursting with preserved harvest, it’s time to put the garden to bed.
It’s important to clean up all plant debris and get the leaves out of the garden in the fall. This gives insects no place to hide over the winter.
Here in the East, we also need to lime our beds to keep the soil sweet. Liming can be done in the spring, but it is preferable to do it in the fall. A dusting is really all that is needed. Once the rain comes to wash the lime into the soil, it somewhat disappears so I always draw up my map for next year and put checks in the beds that I have limed.
The kale, Swiss chard and brussel sprouts live through quite a few frosts so they remain standing (usually until spring). The parsnips will definitely be left in the garden through the winter. Freezing actually sweetens them up and it is really nice to have a good-sized crop to eat in the spring.
I also have a row of spinach and wintering-over lettuce (rouge d’hiver) that I have covered with a cloth that lets in the Sun and rain but helps to keep them warm. Once it gets really cold, I will switch their covering to a clear plastic. I’m hoping to have this lettuce and spinach until Thanksgiving or Christmas. What I mean by “wintering-over” is that these crops will actually reappear in the spring. Not all of the plants come back, but a significant number do. These crops were planted in mid-August—I put them in the beds where the onions had just been harvested. Rouge d’hiver (French for “red of the winter”) is a favorite of mine for this reappearing act.
We had a surprise few inches of snow on the covered bed, so I decided to quickly put it under the plastic. The weather people started predicting first 8 inches, then 10, then 12 or more.... We ended up with 14 inches of heavy, wet, snow. So, it was a good thing that I put the plastic down.
Today, I brushed the snow off of the plastic and picked some beautiful lettuce!
Now it’s time to come inside, put some wood on the fire and begin to cook the treasure trove of veggies for which I worked so hard all summer long. I buy all of my meat from local farmers (highly recommended) so my freezers also contain chickens, turkeys, beef and pork. These animals were raised humanely—enjoying sunshine, fresh air, uncrowded conditions and appropriate food. The same cannot be said for most supermarket meats.
This is also the time to begin planning for next year’s garden. If you’ve never had a garden, start small. What are your favorite two vegetables? Tomatoes and cucumbers? Peppers and squash? I highly recommend beginning with just one or two beds. Or, if you live in an apartment with a patio, think about a couple of potted plants.
I will be posting information on different varieties of vegetables all winter long as well as sharing photos of my beautiful flowers. I think that gorgeous pictures can be quite uplifting when the outside is drab or just sparkling white. So let’s begin here . . .
Celeste Longacre has been growing virtually all of her family’s vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens.
Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer’s Almanac as their astrologer!
Celeste's new book on living lightly on the Earth is due out September 25, 2014.