The fall garden

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fall turnipsI excused myself from the farmers’ market yesterday to spend some quality time with the farm. Perhaps that sounds funny, but to this farmer there is a very real need to spend time outside in nature, working the land that I have devoted myself to. Having to work off the farm means that there are a number of chores that are lined up, waiting to be taken care of, and with workshops, bee-schools, the BeeLine, kids, and market, some of those chores have been waiting for me for a while…

fall herbs n flowersIt was a tough decision to let go of my CSA and market-garden this year, but I have not regretted it. For the business of Runamuk, I chose to focus on the bees instead, so that I can ensure that I am giving these colonies all the attention required in order to raise healthy hives. I still had a garden, but I was producing only for myself and my family. I found it much less stressful not having the pressure of producing for others and I enjoyed the garden much more this year.

I kept it “small” for the following reasons: it’s a first-year garden, we arrived here late into the gardening season, and I’m currently working off the farm to support my personal living expenses so time is exceedingly limited.

And I tried to mulch wherever I could to block the weeds.

compost pileThe soil in Jim’s engineered garden came as a bit of a shock to me. Having dealt with a heavy clay soil in the past, working with this sandier loam was very different for me. I struggled to get seeds going partly because the garden soil has incredibly good drainage, but also because the pump in the pond doesn’t seem to have the strength to push the water all the way to the garden and then through a hose with any amount of pressure. Watering was a big challenge this year. We made do this year, but next year I will work out a new irrigation system.

I managed to get a harvest though, of potatoes, summer and winter squashes, cucumbers, and even a few tomatoes before the blight took out the plants. I tried for carrots, but when I saw what I was dealing with in the soil and weeds I gave up the idea pretty quickly. Even the green beans, which are notoriously easy to produce and which I’ve always had very good luck with, took me three sowings before germination occurred.

cold-frame hoop houselow tunnel

 

I’ve wanted to try my hand at fall gardening for a number of years now but hadn’t managed to get my act together to extend my growing season─til now. I’ve read Elliot Coleman’s books The Winter Harvest Handbook and The New Organic Grower, and I’ve studied the concept independently and discussed it on occasion with other farmers and gardeners, and finally, this year I managed to make it happen. I’m so thrilled!

inside the low-tunnelI don’t have a lot of cold-crops planted, but I have a little patch of lettuce, beets, carrots, and turnips. I have a little tatsoi, a fair amount of swiss chard and an eight foot row of snap peas. I may not have gotten a spring harvest, but I’ll get a fall crop and I’m psyched!

Share your thoughts, comments or questions!