Friday, November 28, 2014

Last of the Chores - Done, Done & Done!


I have FINALLY finished my end of season chores & put the garden to rest for the winter.  Each year I say that I will get all of this done in a timely fashion….and each year I am rushing through the last of the cleanup while braving freezing temps.

First off, I topped the garlic bed with straw.  To keep the overflowing pile of straw in place, I lay the plastic trellis that I had used for the cucumbers on top of the straw & pinned it down along the edges.
Garlic Bed - Straw Covered & Netted
Back in the first week of November, I planted the potato onions.  Potato onions are a type of multiplier onion, like shallots.  I wasn't able to purchase actual bulbs due to border restrictions, so I had to settle for seeds.  However, potato onion seeds do not grow true to type – so I harvested a wide range of shapes, sizes & colours.  Now it’s up to me to choose the ones that I want to multiply in the conventional manner.

My original intent was to plant half of the potato onions now (apparently they can overwinter in the ground, just like shallots) and plant the other half next spring.  Unfortunately, quite a few of the potato onions showed signs of leek moth* damage, which wasn’t obvious when I first harvested them.  Most of the damage seems to be superficial, but without peeling the onions, I couldn't be sure.  I thought their chances of survival would be better if they were tucked into a bed over the winter rather than kept indoors, so they were all planted.  We shall see if I was right come spring.  I laid out the onions on the bed & then took a photo as a reference.
Potato Onions Ready for Planting
After the onions were planted, I covered that side of the bed with straw which was also topped with netting.

This year I also grew perennial bunching onions.  I harvested a few over the season, but the rest I have left in the bed to overwinter.  I have no idea how to deal with these – do you cut the leaves off or leave them in place?  I chose not to cut the leaves and then covered that section of the bed with straw as best as I could.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any netting left, so I’m hoping that the wet spell we had over the last week weighs down the straw enough that it stays put during windier days.
Perennial Onions
Tucked in for the Winter
Next up was the strawberry bed.  Most of the older leaves were brownish/reddish in colour and a bit ratty so I decided to cut them all off, together with removing as many of the runners as I could.  I made sure to stay at least an inch or so away from the crowns.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the bed, either before or after I cut the leaves off.

I really don’t know whether this was the right thing to do or not but the tangle of leaves & runners all over the bed just made me feel uncomfortable – I kept thinking that all those leaves would matt down over the winter and possibly damage the crowns.  I searched for any reference to removing excess leaves in the late fall but found nothing, so I'm taking my chances.  After I cut most of the leaves off (I did leave a few of the smaller, newer leaves on each plant), I topped the bed with a good few inches of straw.  Once again, with no more netting, I’m crossing my fingers that most of the straw stays in place.

In the brassica beds, I finally got around to pulling all of the spent broccoli plants but left the kale in place.  This fall I grew Russian kale and another variety dubbed “NCK” meaning Not Curly Kale - the packet said it was curly kale but when it grew to size, it was obviously not.   Nonetheless, it was delicious and I will be growing it again next year.  In the meantime, I thought I would try to overwinter both varieties of kale.  I’ve never tried this before, so I’m eager to see if it works.  I harvested all but a few leaves from each variety and, just to up my chances a bit, I decided to tuck them in with about 3-4 inches of straw.

Russian Kale
NCK
Then there were all of the empty beds.  I don’t like to leave them “naked” over the winter and last year I gave them all a thick covering of grass.  A bit too thick, as it turned out, since there was still a thick layer of matted down grass on the beds come spring.  I still liked the idea, however, of using grass on the beds over the winter - I would just use less than last year.  Unfortunately, we didn't get around to collecting the grass after our final mow of the season.  So I decided to give all the beds a scant layer of straw instead.
Next Year's Lettuce & Spinach Bed
Lightly covered with straw (and snow from this morning)
The bed shown above is where I plan to grow my lettuce and spinach next spring.  I placed rebar around the perimeter of the bed & plopped a bag of manure in the center.  This way, should the urge to get a jump on the season strike (which it often does, come March), all I have to do is put hoops on the rebar and cover with plastic to warm up the bed & manure.  Well, that’s the plan, anyhow.  We shall see if it actually works out that way.
The extra triple mix that was on my driveway for a good part of the summer is on the hilltop & covered with a tarp for the winter.  I’m all set for next spring, when I’m planning to add a few more beds there.

Triple Mix on Hilltop
All ready to go for next year

Lastly….and DEFINITELY least, when it comes to level of enjoyment anyhow….I cleaned up all of the cell packs, pots, trays and plant tags that were used throughout the year.

Pots, Cell Packs & Trays - All Clean

This is the job that I usually procrastinate on the most.  But at some point, I have no choice but to do it before the low temps require that all of the water to the outside taps be shut off.

And just as I was finishing off my chores, look at the reward I had waiting for me in the mail:


2015 Whole Seed Catalogue
from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
I would not normally pay for a catalogue, but I received an e-mail a couple of months ago about a pre-order sale for the Baker Creek Whole Seed Catalogue – only $5 including shipping…and that included shipping to us Canadians which is pretty unusual.
This is more of a beautiful seed book rather than a catalogue.  Baker Creek actually has a separate "regular" catalogue that they send out for free.  Unfortunately, it is only shipped within the US - those of us north of the border have to rely on their online catalogue when placing our seed orders.
Inside Sneak Peak
So when I got that e-mail back in October, I just couldn’t resist.  355 beautiful, glossy pages of heirloom seeds, plus numerous stories, seed histories & recipes….yup – pretty much heaven.

Till next time…

*I originally thought that the alliums were being attacked by onion maggots but have subsequently realized that, in fact, I was dealing with leek moths so have adjusted this post accordingly.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

12 comments:

  1. I bought that catalog from Baker Creek last year and it was worth EVERY penny! Gorgeous. Sure helps on those LONG winter days.
    I got my first seed catalog today. It's getting earlier and earlier every year, isn't it?
    I remember when they didn't come out until March.
    Have a good weekend

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    1. Catalogues do seem to be coming out earlier than they have in the past...not that I'm complaining ;) btw, just loved the snow photos you took recently - what a winter wonderland! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving...have a great weekend too!

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  2. I have one of my catalogs this year. I keep waiting for the rest to show up. Where oh where are you?

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    1. I received the Stokes catalogue in early November but that's the only other one so far. Unfortunately, Stokes is the one seed company I will probably not be ordering from - they are just too commercial/hybrid based. They are good for supplies though and I did pick some up from their storefront in St. Catherines a few months ago; my daughter, of course, couldn't help but buy a packet of flower seeds at the same time.

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    2. Stokes is the only one I've received so far - and I don't plan on buying veggies from them either. But it's still fun to see other veggies to look for when the others arrive! Mind you, I still loved the African Tall Marigolds that I got from Stokes ...

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    3. That’s right ! I made a note about those marigolds. I just love leafing through that first (and 2nd, & 3rd…) seed catalogue, regardless of which seed house it comes from.

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  3. You've been very busy Margaret! Well done for getting all those chores done. It's intersting that you have to cover everything up because of the harsh winter. I haven't seen the long term forecast for this year but it's certainly started out rather wet here.
    Our catalogues come out late summer! I mainly order from the Organic Gardening Catalogue. I get 10% off for being a Garden Organic member, which is nice.

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    1. That is so funny that your catalogues come out in late summer! I guess with your mild winters, you can probably do a bit of year-round gardening without much trouble.

      The straw does give some protection against really cold temps, but it's main purpose it to act as an insulator. In our area, the biggest threat to overwintering veg like garlic, etc., is the freeze/thaw cycles which cause the ground to heave, dislodging & damaging the veg. The straw gives some assurance that the ground stays frozen until early spring when I remove it.

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  4. Enjoy drooling over that catalog this winter! What do you do with all the straw in the spring that you take off your beds? I had never heard of potato onions! Good job cleaning up all your pots. I usually neglect to do that chore. Ugh. It will be interesting to see how your kale does. I have just a plastic box and pillowcase over my little bit I planted. Doesn't get much sunlight this way so probably not a good idea. I wish I would have planted more in the cold frame. I guess it would be hard to succession plant kale as it gets so cold too quickly. I am not sure how to take care of my bed of strawberries either so will be interested in learning more about that. Enjoy your winter break. Looks like you are ready to roll in the spring!!! Nancy

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    1. I'm ready for a nice winters rest, but by spring I will definitely be antsy to get things going....or should that be "growing"? ;)

      We have an old semi-enclosed shed that we call the "rabbit shed" because apparently some previous owners used it for their rabbits. The shed is used primarily for firewood storage but one side of it is reserved for straw bales & piling up straw that is removed from the beds. Some of the straw stays on a few of the bed during the summer, acting as a light mulch. Of course, over time the straw does break down into the soil but I purchased three bales when I started the garden, 3 years ago, and didn't need to purchase any more until now.

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  5. That Baker Creek catalogue does look good - and $5 seems very reasonable - I will have to invest in one. I love their seeds.

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    1. I ordered from Baker Creek for the first time last year & was more than happy with their seeds & service. The $5 cost was a pre-order price (i.e. you pay for it a couple of months before it comes out) & unfortunately it is now back at the regular price of $7.95.

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