It was a hot morning when George, Paula and I started to work cleaning out beds to prepare for our best season of the year: the fall-winter garden. Emily, David & Jane had worked the previous few weekends and their two beds were in great shape. Paula weeded her bed, George tilled several beds, and I mowed the grass and weeds in several beds to make it easier for George to till them. Some of us have become accustomed to the luxury of George tilling our beds for us. Thank you, George!
Please check the previous blog post for the Malin’s recommendations for fall planting. Most of us will not be able to get all the seeds, but we can buy transplants from Maas Nursery, Lowes or Home Depot.
Work Day Pictures
Soil Preparation and Compost
I contend that the most important aspect of a winter (or any) garden is soil preparation. Last spring I did not do a very good job and I really regretted it. After George tilled my bed I used a spade or fork to turn over all the soil around the outer boards and then used a garden rake to separate all the roots and grass from the soil. It is important to get some organic matter mixed into the soil. Maas Nursery has composted cotton burrs, a very high quality compost. When I place the transplants in the bed I always use a handful of MicroLife organic fertilizer and some cotton burr compost in the hole before planting. MicroLife will not burn the plants. I also use it on my lawn, flowers and shrubs. It looks like rabbet pellets (the food not the poo.) One sack a year is all I need. It is expensive, at over $40, but is so effective at promoting good soil health in your garden or lawn that it’s worth it. I never use high nitrogen fertilizers or weed and feed products.
Another way to enrich the soil is to use homemade compost created from kitchen wastes and fall leaves from the lawn. (Be sure to crush the eggshells first.) If you use grass clippings in the compost bin you may get a sour smelling product. If you can leave the grass on the ground for a few days it will be all right to use after it dries out. I also have a leaf pile in the back yard so I never have to put sacks of leaves out for the garbage. The leaves go into the leaf pile and eventually go into one of my two compost bins. One is a typical box on the ground and the other is a tumbling bin.
After you plant and fertilize, then the next step is to get 3” to 4” of mulch on the bed to keep the weed seed from sprouting. Commercial native hardwood mulch is not expensive and does a good job. My favorite is pine straw (raked pine needles). If you have a neighbor with a pine tree they may even rake them up for you. Or visit your park.
Now just water and harvest!
I hope you have found this treatise on “compostology” helpful!
Compost Set up and Examples
Narrative & Pictures by Nathan