Fall garden plot preparation

Larry G. Field
Thursday, November 7, 2019
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Part 2

I then spread compost and fertilized prior to tilling. This year these processes, including tilling, were rushed to finish prior to the early winter storm. The nitrogen fertilizer will feed the bacteria that break down the compost and the excess fertilizer will leach into the soil equalizing the concentration throughout the garden during the six months from harvest until spring planting.

Near the garden I have a slab on which I have constructed three “bins”, one each for manure, sand and compost. The compost bin provides a convenient spot for composting the fall leaf shed, selected garden waste and warm season grass mowings. The manure bin is large enough to hold three years needs of manure; giving up to three years for it to decompose. I will till again in the spring prior to planting. In the fall I broadcast fertilizer on the entire garden prior to tilling. In the spring I sprinkle fertilizer down the previously staked rows only. Plants using considerable nitrogen (corn, onions, etc.) will receive more than those that consume less such asparagus, beans, etc. Till the fertilizer in and all is set for spring planting.

In addition to all of this, I rotate the entire garden one crop in a northward direction each year. Corn is my tallest crop. I allow 5 ft between rows plus 5 ft on each side of the corn.

Winter squash is my second tallest crop, adjacent to and on the S. edge of the corn. When I rotate, the squash patch will cover the entire former corn patch. Other tall crops such as summer squash, tomatoes, etc. would accomplish what I am about to explain. I return as much of the unused parts of the veggies to the soil as is reasonable, where they grew. Corn offers recycle challenges because the stalks are large/coarse and take two years to break down in the soil. Each time I remove the ears from a stalk, I chop it into roughly 4 inch lengths and leave it lay on the soil. By keeping up with this process one plant at a time one avoids the monumental task of doing all at once (a plant grinder helps tremendously). I till as well as I can, but about half of this coarse compost normally remains above the surface. This soil would be nearly impossible to plant small closely packed seeds such as carrots into. My second tallest crop, winter squash, has wide planting spaces and large seeds. It can be planted and the vines will grow over the diced corn stalks allowing them a second year to decompose.

Did you harvest everything that you intended to use? Corn stalks, colorful corn, pumpkins, gourds for holiday decorations? Pumpkin and W. squash seeds to process into snacks (veg spag are my favorite)? Parts and pieces for craft work such as making center pieces, dolls, etc.? Dill seeds for spice.

Everybody in our area thinks that I spend too much time in my garden. I learned something this summer that makes me think they are correct. One day while working in it, a neighbor came over and told me that nowadays there exist new fangled stores that sell groceries, one doesn’t have to grow his own!

During the winter continue to evaluate your learnings and continue to study literature/computer including seed catalogs.

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