Thursday, November 10, 2016

November Update


The end of the season is here.  I don’t know what it is but every year, I think that I’ll be done cleaning up the garden and getting things organized for next year by the beginning of October.  And then it’s mid-November and I’m still at it.  We’ve had a relatively mildish fall with some chilly days and some warmer days and we’ve taken full advantage of any good weather to get as much done as possible.

There are only a few beds left in production:

Lettuce - still quite small so I keep waiting...

Perennial Bunching Onions

Leeks

Broccoli

The fall broccoli has been stellar this year once again.  I did a pretty big picking of side shoots last week and there are still lots of small shoots as well as this guy - which is bigger than most main heads I've harvested:


The kale bed has been ripped out.  All fall I was looking forward to harvesting some frost sweetened kale leaves, but it didn't work out the way that I expected.

Kale with some sad collards in the rear - all ripped out last week

All of the kale, with the exception of Starbor, was discarded due to a bad case of powdery mildew:

Powdery Mildew on Kale Leaves

I've not had this happen before, as far as I can recall, so it came as a bit of a surprise.

The voluminous and billowy asparagus ferns are starting to yellow and I'll be waiting until they turn brown to cut them down.  Then I'll be adding compost to the beds and topping them with a protective covering of straw.  The weather will likely be quite cold by then so I’m placing tubs of compost beside the beds now so that I don't have to worry about lugging them around once temperatures are not nearly as hospitable.

The asparagus ferns are crazy lush...
hopefully a sign of bountiful future harvests :)

I also plan to move a bale of straw beside the bed so that it’s ready to be applied to both the asparagus and garlic beds once temperatures really dip.

I’ve sheet mulched the area behind the asparagus beds (beside the blueberry bed).  This is where the old (i.e. unconditioned, non-productive) straw bales were this year.


I’m thinking that I’ll be building a couple of skinny beds here, just like the blueberry bed (i.e. 2’ x 8’ each) and using them for ornamentals.  I’m hoping for a more laid back year in the garden so I will build and fill the beds over the course of the summer, but they won’t be used until 2018.

Speaking of flower beds, I’m really looking forward to planting up the new bed that I created beside the shed:

New flower bed beside shed

There's a large gap under the shed as it's elevated on concrete blocks so I used rocks, both large and small, to prevent the soil from being washed under the shed.  That little pile of rocks at the lower right of the photo are the leftovers that have to be moved back to the official "rock pile" - a pile of rocks that grows every time we dig a hole.

This new flower bed will be the perfect spot for zinnias and tithonia; I'll also have some fun picking out a few more ornamentals to try out.

I still have to clean up the area where the properly conditioned straw bales were placed:

Conditioned bales - practically disintegrated

I really liked this spot and will be placing new bales here again next year.  It’s at the top of the hill, but in an unused grassy area where the vines have lots of room to sprawl.

As you can see in the photo, my idea of using chicken wire to keep the bales upright and in place was a big ol’ fail.  The bales decomposed so well that they ended up being a good few inches shorter than the chicken wire by the end of the summer and so the top of the chicken wire was bending over and cutting into the vines as they scrambled over it onto the lawn.  The whole point behind this idea was to get 2 years out of the bales – which is obviously not possible when they are conditioned properly.

Instead of adding the used straw to the compost pile, I've decided to apply a thin layer to the beds that have been cleared out for the season:

This bed has been "put to bed" for the winter

I don’t like to leave the soil bare over the winter and I’m thinking the decomposed straw may work out better than the new straw or grass that I’ve used in the past.

I also added a good quantity of compost to the beds before topping them with the straw.  I like doing this in the fall so that the beds are ready to go come spring although some beds - specifically those that are still occupied - will have to get their top up next year.

Another fall task completed in the past couple of weeks was planting the garlic and shallots.

Garlic bed laid out with 7 varieties of garlic

This year, my garlic harvest was appreciably better than last year but I think I can do even better so I upped the amount of compost and chicken manure pellets when preparing the bed.

Still on the to-do list is the annual cleaning/disinfecting of seed starting equipment - cell packs, pots, trays, labels, etc.  This is a necessary step in minimizing the incidence of damping off in the spring, a lesson I learned the hard way several years ago.

And that's it - we are then done for the season (other than the remaining harvests).  But that doesn't mean the gardening fun is over.  I've already started planning out next years beds, a task I really enjoy, and look what I found on the doorstep yesterday:

Winter reading...

Perfect timing :)

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

18 comments:

  1. Margaret-I just LOVE the photo of the garlic, all lined up neatly like soldiers. You crack me up. We are so much alike---tidy tidy!!!
    And you harvest rocks too! Aren't we lucky???? I don't know how people garden without rocks. So cool to line beds, etc.
    So sorry about your Kale. Mine is still going good and I'm hoping Thanksgiving dinner includes some fresh cut from the garden. I could spare some, so come on over for pie and coffee and I'll load you up.
    Tempting, isn't it? Darn the distances between us!
    Enjoy the quiet season. I've got lots of books on my "To Read" list for the library. Let the fun begin!
    :)

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    1. TOTALLY tempting...what's a few hours in the car, especially when you mention kale, coffee AND pie :) And you are so right - we ARE very much alike - I have a "To Read" list for the library on my desktop...what are the chances?!

      Hurray for our winter down time! No more feeling guilty that I should be doing this, that or the other thing outside while I tackle all the indoor projects that keep piling up. And nothing feels better than cuddling up with a blanket and a good book while the snow blows outside...very much looking forward to that as I'm sure you are :)

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  2. Powdery mildew was awful here this year too, and still is. It's been difficult to keep ahead of it on one of my kale plants. It must be a really nice feeling to be able to clean up the garden and get it put to bed for the winter. The chores never end in my mild climate. Now that the rains have started I have to start battling weeds. But I can't complain too much, I'll be able to eat salad from the garden through the winter.

    Rocks rock! I have piles of them everywhere. And they do come in handy.

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    1. I've never seen PM on kale but I guess it's an equal opportunity disease when conditions are right!

      Yup, pros and cons when it comes to our winter break - I love the rest but I will be envious of that fresh salad on your plate! Ha - rocks rock...I like that! There certainly is no shortage of them around here!

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  3. You're certainly on top of things. I always had good intentions when I had the allotment, both with having veggies to harvest through winter and getting all the preparation done ready for spring, but it never seemed to work out, I was always lagging behind. We had our first snowfall yesterday, there was quite a bit on the ground but it didn't hang around long, thank goodness. It's quite early this year so I'm hoping it doesn't mean we're going to have a bad winter.

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    1. Wow - snow already??? We sometimes get a dusting by this time, but not this year. According to the forecasters it's going to be a particularly cold, snowy winter around here - I have a feeling once it starts, we will be in the thick of it until the spring.

      I always feel as if I'm behind as well, especially when it comes to those jobs that I don't particularly like as I tend to procrastinate. But all it takes is one really cold day to remind me that if I don't get a move on, I'll be doing them in much less favourable conditions!

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  4. Oh, that little flower garden bordered with rocks will be fabulous! You'll have many butterfly visitors! I'm so impressed with your late harvests. That lettuce looks so yummy!

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    1. This will be my first proper flower bed in our current garden so I'm very much looking forward it. I even have enough room to place a little bench in that area, perfect for a bit of a sit down to take in the blooms and the critters that are enjoying them :)

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  5. The miserable, damp weather has caused us to abandon our tidying for a while. We were doing so well too. Maybe we will pick it up again later.

    That's a lot of garlic - I'm not growing any this year as we have had two poor years making it not worth the effort.

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    1. At this time of year the weather is so unpredictable - you have to take advantage of any bit of nice weather when you can!

      Oh, that's too bad about the garlic...it's one of my favourite crops - the hard work is done when not much else is going on in the garden and it stores so well too. I bet you will try again at some point in the future - us gardeners do tend to have a bit of selective amnesia after a few years have gone by and the bug to give it another go hits :)

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  6. All those varieties of garlic - sounds like a garlic-lover's dream. (I am a garlic-lover.) Nice that you have asparagus - freshly picked asparagus is one of the most fantastic things that can come out of a home garden.

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    1. I started the asparagus from seed last year so we haven't harvested any yet as it needs to bulk up over the first couple of years...can't wait for that 1st taste!

      Oh, we are a family of garlic lovers around here. Friendly fights have broken out over who gets that last bit of roasted garlic at the bottom of the serving dish ;)

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  7. My kale is about to be pulled out as well, but not because of any disease ... it seems to be affected by the frost which was a bit of a surprise for me (last year, my kale lasted well into December). Your broccoli is just so amazing, Margaret! I think I'm giving it up after this year, never quite works for me.

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    1. Thanks Susie! Each of us have our challenges in the garden, don't we? That is strange about the kale - perhaps it all depends on how long it's frosty for or how many frosts it can endure before it gives up.

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  8. Your asparagus plants look great. It certainly seems like you'll have some good harvests in your future. I wish I had some nice rocks like that to edge my flower beds, but I'm very glad I don't find them every time I dig. That new flower bed will be beautiful with zinnias and tithonia.

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    1. Thanks k - I have high hopes for our future asparagus harvests!

      Yes, we are in a very rocky area, which is a bit of a shame as our soil is otherwise really nice around here. On the plus side, I think all the rocks are a good vole deterrent as I've not seen any vole holes in the beds in the main garden whereas they are apparent on the hilltop, where it's not nearly as rocky.

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  9. I've been wondering what to do with my asparagus (I just planted the seeds this spring). I remembered something about cutting it back but wasn't sure when. Now I know. Thanks so much.

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