A Community that Feeds Itself Frees Itself
A Community that Feeds Itself Frees Itself
Harvest vegetables. This, of course, depends on the weather so keep an eye on the forecast. When there’s a light frost due, you can save some of your plants by covering them at night. This may buy you a couple of weeks of extra gardening time. You also can take potted vegetables and herbs to an attached garage to keep them safe. Tomatoes harvested early, in anticipation of a frost, should turn color as long as they’ve reached the green mature stage (look for faint yellow or pink hues on the shoulders). Place them in a single layer in an uncovered box at indoor temperatures.
Dispose of debris. Once a hard freeze (25 to 27 F) kills your crop, remove the dead plant debris and put it in the trash. You don’t want it in the garden, where it can harbor insect eggs or disease. Don’t put it in your compost pile either, because chances are the pile won’t heat up enough to kill any pathogens.
Make your garden lasagna for the winter . Start your lasagna layers as early in the fall as possible. Lasagna gardens are all about the layers. Use cardboard with no ink to makes up the base to cover existing grass. The cardboard will prevent light from reaching the vegetation underneath, stopping its growth. Soak the cardboard in water thoroughly to jump-start decomposition and help it stay in place. This is more work, but gardeners can attest to how it helps the soil in the long run. Top the cardboard base with a 2-inch layer of carbon-rich "brown" material such as chopped leaves, straw, sawdust, wood ash, wood chips, and pine needles. The smaller or more finely chopped the material is, the more quickly it will decompose. Add 2-inch "green" layer on top of the brown. Components of this layer might be grass clippings, kitchen scraps from fruits and vegetables, well-rotted horse or cow manure, coffee grounds, and garden trimmings. It's not so much the color that matters, it's the fact that the material has moisture in it, rather than being dry and crispy like brown material. You can stack these layers as high as 18 inches to 3 feet tall. Just keep in mind the more you stack the longer the materials will take to decompose. I reccommend 4 layers to deompose by spring. Cover with tarp for the winter. The layers will shrink down into the soil and by spring you will have healthy nutritious soil, full of microbes and ready for planting. For a finished edge, ring your lasagna garden with stones or bricks or create a raised bed in the space, add sturdy boards around your layers.
Another quick method is mixing leaves into the soil. This method speeds up decomposition and aerates the soil. One way to do this is to dig a trench eight to 12 inches deep, line it with leaves, then cover with soil. Next spring, plant your rows adjacent to the lamended soil. Then in fall, dig leaves into the harvested rows and leave the amended soil untilled in anticipation of planting the following spring.
Cover soil. It’s been said that nature abhors bare soil. That’s why it created weeds for quick cover during the growing season and falling leaves for protection over the winter months. You can follow nature’s lead in several ways:
Spread compost. Really. You can spread compost any time because it makes a great moisture-protecting mulch during the growing season and a great erosion-preventing mulch during the winter.
Spread leaves. Shredded leaves are preferred because they’re not as apt to blow away. It’s a good idea to lay some undisturbed leaves, too, because they offer an overwintering space for butterfly larvae and eggSow a cover crop. Covering soil with plants is a good alternative to leaves. It involves growing plants such as cloverc, barley, millet and winter rye for a short while before turning them over to replenish the soil and improve its texture. Those plants sprout quickly and grow fast, so the soil has protection before winter sets in.
Protect plants. During the summer you protected your vegetables from animal browsing. As you head into winter, it is more likely you’ll need to protect hardy vegetables from the weather. Hardy plants such as spinach will survive even under a blanket of snow, although they’ll certainly stop growing. Root vegetables and plants such as kale and broccoli can keep going into the low 20s F if you protect them with a miniature hoop house that acts as a greenhouse.
Plant. Mid to late fall is the time to sow garlic, which will grow in spring and be ready to harvest next summer. You might also get a quick crop of radishes to mature if you have a cold frame or floating row cover. Fall is also a good time to plant raspberries and blackberries, making sure to mound the soil around their base to keep them from frost heaving. Speaking of which, frost heaving is a serious concern in cold-winter areas with newly planted perennials. So if you mix your edibles and ornamentals together, make sure the garden is well mulched going into winter.
Dig up root vegetables. Although the top portion will die with a freeze, the business end of root vegetables is protected underground. You can cover the plants with straw and dig up the buried portion any time the ground isn’t frozen.
Oracle Center KC provides information and resources for growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables to families in Kansas City Ks. and Kansas City, Mo.
At Oracle Center Kansas City, we believe that the health of the soil, the health of the plants, and the health of the people are all interconnected. That's why we are committed to educating families on the use of natural methods to grow produce, and to promoting healthy eating and living habits.
Our team is made up of experienced and passionate individuals who share a common goal: To provide education for families in the urban core of Kansas City, Ks. and Kansas City, Mo. to grow their own food. We are dedicated to continuous learning and improvement. We strive to stay at the forefront of sustainable agriculture practices.
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