Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall garden fun

In some parts of the country the temperature is freezing at night already.  Not here.  The weatherman was joking today that some of the local towns are going to get down into the 50s tonight.  Most people already have their fall garden in and are reaping the fruits of their labor.  The pumpkins are almost ready to be harvested for Halloween carving. 


What's my garden looking like this year?  The summer garden is still going crazy.  We are still getting squash, cucumbers, okra, eggplant, and tomatoes.  We have onions and garlic ready.  One of my favorite vegetable dishes in cubed zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes cooked in a little butter with a lot of Italian seasoning.  It's simple and delicious.  We eat this fresh for over half the year.  For the other half of the year we eat the same dish using dried zucchini and eggplant mixed with canned tomatoes.  I can zucchini and eggplant using the pressure canner as well. 


We have pumpkin growing by the propane tank and also out front.  We use them not only for carving but also for eating the seeds and eating the pumpkin.  My grandmother used to make pumpkin chocolate chip cake.  It's delicious and can be cooked in a canning jar and given as a gift.  I keep pumpkins in the garage during the winter and they will last until spring. 


The ground doesn't freeze around here and can be kept going all year round.  Overwinter I usually just keep broccoli.  The plants have grown like crazy and will have little flower buds to pick each week.  I can get enough for one meal per week for most of the winter.  We also overwinter some of the beets for the greens.  I can pull beets and carrots for much of the winter as well.  I can't leave potatoes in the ground here.  They will rot, but some will survive well enough to grow again in the spring.  It is time to start prepping the garden for next spring.  The kids cleaned out the chicken coop and dumped everything into the garden.  I've heard that you aren't supposed to do this as the manure is too strong.  I've never had a problem with burning the plants.  What it has caused is some plants to grow great but not produce flowers or vegetables.   By the time spring comes around I usually don't have a problem. 


At the end of winter, and sometimes during, the barn needs to be cleaned out where the sheep hang out.  This takes a while to decompose because it goes straight into the garden.  If I made a compost pile it would decompose quicker.  We don't have much to compost.  The chickens eat leftover food.  The sheep and goats (when we have goats) eat the leaves from the trees.  Branches from trimmings get burned.  Grass, when I mow the lawn a couple times per year, goes to both the chickens and sheep.  If I wanted to compost I'd be taking away from the animals and giving to the garden.   So right now the garden gets the manure the animals get the plants.


I'm trying to decide if I want to put in raised beds.  At another house I lived in I had raised beds and I loved it.  I used railroad ties which looked great in my perfectly manicured yard.  I certainly don't have anything that looks perfectly manicured now.  Railroad ties, or any product used to raise the beds would have to be purchased because I don't have any source of free stuff except rocks from our other property.  Is it worth the expense?  Not right now but if I get serious about raising the beds then I should start putting the manure in areas where the bed would be if they existed rather than spreading it throughout the entire garden. 


It's easier to plant intensively in the raised garden than it is when you have lots of open space.  At least it is for me.  With about ¼ acre dedicated to vegetables, it's hard to not want to use all the space and space each of the plans out in nice rows.  There's something very satisfying about looking at the rows of vegetables. I could plant in less space but then there'd be all this open area.  I'd need to plant even more food!


During the winter the ground gets so saturated that you sink at least to your ankles when walking in the mud.  Last year we put in a rock path that went from the yard to the barn but missed the 15 feet to the chicken coop.  This summer we extended it to the chicken coop.  Instead of just a small path we made a 15 foot square pad in front of the barn and coop.  We are going to put down another layer of rock this weekend but it's looking good so far.  Being able to make dedicated paths in the garden would also be a plus and is another reason to go with the raised beds. 


I'm thinking about opening the chicken coop door and letting them into the garden during the day.  This will be a good way to get rid of many of the bugs that overwinter in the garden.  They can also eat the weeds.  They will probably eat a lot of the seeds as well so I should expect as much of my volunteers to come back in the spring.  It will be a good experiment.  I won't have to worry about the volunteers anyway because next season I'll be planting my survival seeds from that I won from the contest at 



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