The garden is ready for winter, as far as I’m concerned. The last big project this year was to reshape the layout of last year’s half of the plot. I had originally created beds running north/south which resulted in them also running up and down the slight slope rather than across. As a result I had to be extra careful when watering in newly seeded rows. If it rained hard, the water pooled and ran down the row dislodging the carefully placed seeds. As beds became close to empty this fall I worked on digging and shoveling to reorient them east/west and thus across the slope so the tops could be more level. I also made the beds a full three feet wide. Previously I had limited their width to whatever I could easily step over. Since they ran the full length of the garden I didn’t want to have to walk all the way around one to get to the next row. In the end that didn’t prove to be an advantage since it was more the height of the plants that determined what I could step over. I drafted a fairly accurate representation of the previous and new bed layouts in AutoCAD and it appears that we gained a bit of plantable area.
After the new beds were established I dumped a load of partially composted leaves on each one and roughly spaded it into the top eight inches or so of soil. There is a good amount of clay present in the garden so we take advantage of any opportunity to add 0rganic matter and loosen it up. I left the surface rough to slow water running off it through the fall and winter. Finally, a thick layer of leaf mulch was spread on all the beds and paths. Fortunately there are still a few living plants or the garden would look like a dozen unmarked graves.
Last year I made a note in my garden notebook to ignore the typical predicted first frost date of somewhere around the last week of September or first week of October. I sort of heeded that by planting some fall crops that would take me past that date, but I held off doing a cover crop because by the time I thought of it I was sure it wouldn’t have time to grow. While we may have had a light frost up there, we’ve been nowhere near a real freeze for over a month past the expected dates. I kind of wish I’d taken a chance and put in some buckwheat anyway, but at the time I hadn’t yet done the bed rearranging. Next year I definitely plan to do a cover crop of something.
The biggest veggies still surviving and producing are the Brussels sprouts. They’re going to make an appearance on the co-conspirator’s Thanksgiving table. My note for next year is to plant them a lot farther apart.
A few parsnips are still in the ground but I pulled one to cook some time this week. We tossed one in when we roasted a chicken recently and it was wonderful. One aim of loosening the soil is so that we can grow better root crops. The parsnips did OK, but we had a lot of forked carrots. There are some more unusual root crops I want to try next year as well.
Off in the corner where I planted cilantro that promptly flowered and went to seed is…cilantro! I thought I had harvested all the seed to use in curries and such, but apparently I missed some. The volunteer plants are growing much better than the potted plant I bought last spring so next year I’m just going to direct-sow this crop. I’m one of those people who thinks cilantro tastes like soap. I used to loathe it but now I merely dislike it. I’m working toward tolerating it and perhaps one day actually liking it.
Another herb that is still going like crazy is the French sorrel. It’s too bad because I never did find many uses for it this season. I had no idea it would get this big, nearly smothering the winter savory I planted it next to. I don’t even know if I should be using the big leaves or only the tender young ones. If you grow this one, let me know how you use it.
The winter savory was used at least a little. It went into bean dishes and I believe I used it with chicken once. It kind of reminds me of rosemary which I’ve never had any luck growing. Hopefully it will make it through the winter and come back next season.
I suppose I could be doing some season extending things like a little coldframe or some row cover, but what with rearranging the layout—a process that took multiple sessions of work over several weeks—it looked like it would be a logistical pain in the neck and a bit of overkill. Maybe next year I’ll experiment more with fall and early winter crops, but for this season I really feel like I’m ready to be done. Now to start really planning next year’s garden!