Fall/Winter Garden Update

Greetings from the fall/winter garden.  As many of you have noticed and assisted with, the garden is progressing from its busy summer/fall state to its quieter winter mode.  Plants are sending their energy down into their roots, just as we are settling into the inwardness of this time of year.

Some parents have asked me for a monthly note about the garden so here is the first installment.  First of all, I would like to thank the 30+ grown-ups and children that assisted with the first round of swale building in the play area on December 1st.  Swales are trenches dug along the contour lines of the land (equal elevation) so that water flowing through will be slowed down, & allowed to settle into the ground, instead of pooling on the surface.  Often a planted berm is placed on the downhill side of the swale with the excavated soil, allowing for even more water uptake of the roots.  Because of the need of the swales in the play area, no berms were added so as not to change the open space’s topography.  Instead our swales were dug 2′ deep & 3′ in width (a lot of work!!!!) & filled in with wood chips.  A few of you helped with the swale building a few years ago on the Mahavidya side of the garden which was quite successful in controlling the water pooling there.  We are already seeing less water collecting in the play area from these efforts.  I will have another swale building party in January TBA.

Gardener Sheri & I have been thankful for parents (& grandparents) working with us during the week days.  This work has included typical NW garden  work of putting our gardens to bed for the coming winter.  We have been mulching the pathways, weaving old grape vines into our raised spiral bed, & cleaning seeds.  Also we have been transforming our “kitchen garden” beds by removing the old plants, adding manure & soil amendments, reforming the beds, planting cover crop, & a final layer of straw.  Cover crop is seed scattered in the garden beds to overwinter & nourish the soil adding nitrogen (which all plants need, but so few are able to take up from the air), organic matter, calcium, phosphorus, etc.  In our NW gardens, the rain of the winter leaches away many nutrients from the soil.  If we amend, seed cover crops, and cover with a blanket of straw, we are not only feeding our soil, but also not allowing existing nutrients to wash away.  The cover crops(also called green manure) we use here are a mix of fava beans, Austrian field peas, vetch, rye, oats & clover.  As well, we are mulching around our trees, shrubsperennials with wood-chips & sometimes leaves to give the roots of plants extra protection in the cold months.  Don’t forget your leaves are a great mulch for your garden beds (except chestnut and walnut that release growth-inhibiting hormones).  

From the garden, we are still harvesting greens each week (kale, collards, Swiss chard which so many of your children LOVE to eat like deer in the garden!), a few fall peas, carrots, beets, Jerusalem artichokes & the last of the tomatillos.  The last of our tomatoes ripened indoors during the first week of December in paper bags with apples (to exude ethylene gas to promote ripening).  Cook Warren has been placing these in soups, sauces, etc for our so delicious snacks & lunches.  As well, he has been using our variety of frozen produce from our garden including squash, figs, plums,  & apples (thanks to the hard work of many of our families). The late November/early December gardening classes have been the making of grape vines wreathes, learning about our douglas fir tree in our wood garden & making beautiful smelling satchels with its needles, as well as kindness cream making in the skylark class(Kindness cream is the calendula salve the children & I make for our first aid kits.)

Love your winter garden; it has its own quiet beauty.  From the words of the December notes from “The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide” (A book I highly recommend for gardeners of all levels): “Tidy gardeners clip spent flowers and seed pods off the plants or cut down the stalks of perennials past their prime.  Setting seed is vital to plants’ hardening off process for winter; if a gardener deadheads perennials too early, the plant does not go properly dormant.  Besides, redheaded finches, chickadees, and bush tits will nibble on seeds of fennel, globe thistle, bachelor’s buttons and others.  On a cold winter morning with frost coating all the strange stalks and stems about the garden, be reminded that brown is a color too.”             

I look forward to January in the garden when much planning, requesting of donations, and fruit tree pruning is done.  Also we plan to move our greenhouse to a sunnier, drier location in the garden as well as finish the swale building project.  Thank you for all your support & love for the gardens here at New Day!              
Many blessings with the new year & happy holidays to all.  Gardener Suzanne
This entry was posted by admin on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 at 9:16 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.