Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fall Garden Clean-Up (and Winterizing the Hopsyard)

Time is flying. You can already sense the days getting shorter and nighttime coming sooner. Last week, we had our first hard frost of the year. That meant the end of the summer garden. Bye-bye tomatoes. Au Revoir banana peppers. With just a little bit of work, we transformed the summer dregs into a small Late Fall garden. Hello beets and leafy greens!

Goodbye Summer Garden!

Pulling tomatoes action shot


We found this article by Our Garden Gang to be a useful and straightforward checklist of how to thoroughly clean up a summer garden. It is common sense, really, but we wanted to make sure that we covered all our bases. Especially since we plan to garden in the location year-round, we must keep the soil healthy and fungus- and pest-free. And make sure that weeds and pests don't overwinter in the compost bins. Here's what we did:

  1. Harvested everything that wasn't too frost-bit
  2. Pulled up all tomato, pepper, broccoli, cabbage watermelon and cantalope plants
  3. Cleaned all the tomato and pepper stakes and stored for next year
  4. Wrapped up all hoses and pumps so they wouldn't freeze/crack and stored them for next year 
  5. Moved the herbs into the 4-tier starter greenhouse now set up the sunroom
  6. Weeded the fall vegetable plots - kale, spinach, onions and the interplanted beets and lettuce
  7. Anything with evidence of aphids didn't go into the compost bin
End-of-summer harvest: peppers, beans, tomatoes, dill and one eggplant (hidden)

Why are you still blooming?

Frost bit pepper
We will mulch in some compost and cover with grass clippings before the ground freezes.We plan to build 2-3 raised beds and cover them with old window frames we found in the barn to create cold farms. The garden site is a perfect place for winter cold frame gardening because it is a south-facing slope that gets full day sun now that the leaves have fallen off the trees in the yard.

We also winterized the hopsyard. That was a more involved activity that took a couple afternoons during a chilly rain. The hops got planted in a cold rain, so only fitting that we winterized them in the same weather. Hops are a perennial bine (hop vine), which means they will grow every year from the same rhizome. We weeded around the rhizome mounds and offed any dormant insect pests we came across. (Hey, it's law of the jungle out there.)

We'll try to save the coir for next year's harvest, so we untwisted the bines from the coir and cut them 3-4 inches from the ground. In Rich's trellis design, the coir twine is attached to the cables by hooks. So, we gathered the 5-8 loose-hanging coir strands in each section and wrapped them around the poles. This way, they should stay protected and usable next season. Finally, we cleaned up the cut bines and hauled them to the compost bins. (No signs of pests, just deer teeth marks.) We just purchased a lot of organic mushroom manure that we will use to cover the rhizome mounds for the winter.

This was a test garden and we learned a lot from it. We only spent about $30 on produce total this summer. We got so much produce from that we gave most of it away. Note to self: try succession planting next year, so everything doesn't get ripe all at once. We have taken notes on what works and what doesn't and we'll analyze that for next year's crops. We plan to double the size of the garden, plant some more variety and do more storing/root cellaring to stretch the garden's use into the colder months.
Healthy hop rhizome





This guy made a home in the herbs




















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