Looking at the ginormous winter squash growing in the garden I am awed by its gargantuan growth and filled with gratitude for the flavor and nutrition it will provide for me this winter. I am also slightly baffled by it's seemingly miraculous appearance from what what just bare soil and a small seed a few months ago.
OKCG Members with one of their pumpkins (Each family has their name carved into one)
It makes me want to ensure that the alchemy that plants perform daily will be able to continue next year so I can have another season of beautiful, delicious, and of course nutrient rich vegetables.
Since my plants do most of the work here is my little piece to set them up for success (it's actually providing for their partners underground, the microorganisms, worms, and other decomposers who we have learned hold the real secret to gardening success.)
Thanks to Brooke Frazer, the Manna Soup Kitchen Garden Coordinator, who walked us through the science and how to of winterizing our gardens!
I used to amend my bed every spring but I learned from Brooke that there are
Benefits to preparing your bed in the fall:
- Give your "soil food web" a head start!
If you give the soil microorganisms and earthworms the organic matter they need to survive they can work through the winter improving your soil.
- in the spring your bed will be ready to go!
The microbes and decomposers will have done a lot of work so you can get right to work getting your plants and seeds in the ground.
What you need:
|As Brooke reminded us last night, "if you build it they will come!" Give your microorganism organic matter and a conducive home to develop healthy soil.|
- Food for the microbes and nutrients to replenish the soil
(This comes in the form of organic materials like compost, leaves, manure, etc.)
- Shelter for the microbes and other decomposers to protect them from the elements and keep them warm and moist.
(This means mulch like straw or leaves.)
What you do:
|TIP: Remove all tomato debris and put in the trash as seeds and the many tomato diseases may not be killed in the compost and can return to plague your next season.
- Clean up your garden.
Remove plants by pulling out or cutting at base if the roots are not thick/fiborous. Removing all plant matter will help eliminate pests and disease that might over winter.
Break up soil clods with your hand or tool.
- Add compost or other organic mater (1-3 inches depending on how high demand crops you grew. See Brooke's handout.)
- Mix in to the top few inches of your soil with your hand or digging fork.
- Mulch with leaves or straw (TIP: Use non-certified straw since "certified" means "Certified Weed/seed Free" and could have some herbicide residue that would hurt your plants). You may want to put large sticks or other objects on top if you use leaves to keep from blowing away. If you use straw flake gently into 1 inch flakes which will also help it from blowing away.
- Water so that the mulch is very moist and the water has started soaking into the ground. This will also help it from blowing away.
In the spring:
Plant! Pull back straw for seeds, plant transplants right in using the straw as a mulch a second time. If some of the straw has started to decompose you can gently incorporate it into the top few inches of the soil.
No need to till as this will disrupt the wonderful, complex soil food web you have created to support your plants.
Brooke's awesome handout with a more in depth look at the ins and out of winterizing your garden.
Brooke Frazer, the Manna Soup Kitchen Garden Coordinator, has a varied background in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and farming. Brooke started a successful SPIN inspired urban farm in Durango and is excited to be growing food downtown at Manna Soup Kitchen. Brooke enjoys playing roller derby, mountain biking, snowboarding, and remodeling her house when she isn't in the garden.