Preparing the garden for winter

Plant crocus bulbs. Check.

Put away tomato cages and garden stones. Check.

Pull out dried-up tomatoes, marigolds, beans and other spent plants. Check.

Till garden. Check.

It’s been a busy couple days for this booyah gardener. In the past, fall garden work has mostly meant finding time on weekends to rip out the dried-up plants and throw the cages in the garden shack. This year though, I actually planned ahead a bit, took a week of vacation from my paying job in hopes the weather would cooperate and I’d be able to spend more time cleaning up the garden before winter.

Almost five inches of rain last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, along with rain forecast almost every weekday, had me wondering whether I’d even be able to get in the garden. It was muddy on Monday, so I used the time to plant crocus bulbs in the mulch in front of the house. Fortunately, by Tuesday afternoon, the garden dried out enough to start pulling the soggy, dead plants. The rain did my back a favor — the wet ground made it a lot easier to pull out the dead plants. The new tomato cages I bought in June remained in really good shape and I stacked them up against the garden shack. It took most of the afternoon to pull everything up and by the end I had created a good-sized pile from the shriveled plants. I pulled a few dead raspberry branches as well, although they require much, much more attention to thin out and figure out how — or even if — I want to grow the patch.

On Wednesday I pulled out the tiller, which once again started on the first pull! I’ve had such good luck with it. Speaking of luck, the weather was perfect both Tuesday and Wednesday. High 50s Tuesday, mid-60s Wednesday. Perfect, like I said. The tiller and I had our work cut out for us though, given that the soil still was pretty wet despite the warmer temps. I had to stop a few times to pull out the clumps of dirt, but it wasn’t a problem in most areas of the garden. Rotten tomatoes and cucumbers (a lot of them) mushed into the ground fairly easily, and hopefully will add back some nutrients to the soil that had a rough, hot, dry summer. Maybe their seeds will even produce a few volunteer plants next summer. After all, this summer’s volunteers proved to be some of my most fruitful plants.

As I finished up the tilling and snapped a few photos of the garden, my mind wandered back to mid-April, when I first tilled the garden so I could plant a few early rows of peas, lettuce and onions. Remembering the anticipation of seeds sprouting, dotting the dirt with little green shoots. The knowledge that homegrown lettuce soon would replace the less-tasty store-bought stuff. Then the realization that it would be another seven months before it would be warm enough to start the process all over again.

But the change of seasons is all part of life, right? now I’ll enjoy the remaining days of fall and the holiday cheer that follows. There will be plenty of time to think about next year, well … next year.

2 responses to this post.

  1. You are my inspiration! The Booyah garden is looking good (okay, not so good in the first picture). Are crocus going in on the perimeter? Where? Do you plant legumes or ground cover for spring-tilling?

    I have mucho work to do outdoors in getting ready for winter. Our temps are still too high for manual labor (in the mid-80’s), but once it dips, boy-oh-boy, am I READY!! I’ll be chanting “Booyah, booyah…” the whole time, ’cause you have lit the fire young lady.

    The biggest difference with my new gardening style is that the tiller stays in the garage. Dang thing never EVER started for me on the first try anyway, so blast it all to heck. It can sit there and be wren-nest real estate next spring. Earthworms and fungi do a better job and they don’t need gas or a special, wacky lead-up (I hate when my husband starts it on the first dadgum pull) to pulling the start-cord. HA!

    Getting the (future) espalier orchard area cleaned up, amended, and mulched to over-winter is in the immediate future (this weekend??). Fruiting trees will be planted mid-March if all goes well. Cheers, woman!

    • Shannon – you are hilarious! I love your responses – they are a hoot! Anyway, the crocuses are in my front yard and not pictured. I’m not sure how well or even if they’ll come in spring – I always wonder if I’ve planted bulbs with the right side up, you know?

      As far as any ground cover, I haven’t ever done any. I’ve pretty much just let the garden be over the winter. Fortunately, it’s planted where a cow pasture was for decades, so I’ve never really thought about a winter cover. Do you think I should?

      I’m jealous of your 80s even though the 60s were beautiful here. I’m guessing it would have been a bit hot tilling though!

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