Sunday, November 07, 2010

Preparing for the Winter Garden

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Summer is officially over, and so I spent part of the last two weekends tearing out spent plants, and preparing my vegetable garden for autumn.



I keep reminding myself how horrible the back garden looked when we moved in last year. Even though things are still a huge mess, the current disarray is a vast improvement on where we started.

Eventually, I'm going to re-work my garden paths, but for now, I'm using redwood planks as modular paths.




My soil is incredibly dense, so I've been adding compost, sawdust and coconut fibers to loosen things up, and to add nutrients to the soil. Coconut fiber, otherwise known as "coir," is a great alternative to peat. It's an agricultural by-product. (Too bad it's shipped from so far away.) I got this block of coir from craigslist. The woman who originally bought it had big plans for indoor worm-composting that never got off the ground.

Coir comes in a crazily dense block, which needs to be broken apart, and soaked in water. It expands in size as soon as it gets wet.

I think our earthworms appreciate the work I'm doing. Loosening our rock-like soil must improve the worms' ability to move through the dirt.




I dug the dampened coconut fibers into my garden soil, making an effort to mix things quite well.




Yesterday, I was planting shallots and garlic. The directions on the shallots told me not to break up the bulbs. I'll admit that I found this weird. But what do I know? I guess they grow like lilies, which are in the same family.

After I placed the bulbs, I sprinkled more coir on top, and then replaced the garden soil. We should be enjoying garlic and shallots next summer.

Do any local readers want to stop by our place and get some garlic to plant? The minimum order was more than I can handle, and I'd love to share. We've got (organic) California Early White garlic, which is a soft-necked variety, and described as easy to grow and good for beginners.

13 comments:

sarcasmo said...

Do you know if it's possible to sell hops vine and ship them via UPS, like for example if I bought a few from you? Just wondering. My hubby and his buddy have dabbled in a bit of homebrewing and I would love to start a Hops vine for an arbour that is not yet built on the side of my house. Loooove the smell of fresh hops. Not a fan of IPA. You should start writing...your blog reminds me of Peter Mayle's (sp) A Year In France. LOVED that series!
-Diana
AQ Hixson TN

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Our hop vines are relative babies, so I don't know if they would make good "mother" plants, yet.

we bought our hops from a place in Oregon (I think it was called the Thyme Garden), and we kept the local climate in mind while researching our choices.

I wonder how Pacific Northwest hops would do in Tennessee... I wonder where the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown NY got the hops they grew every year...

Anonymous said...

I was outside today also trying to get in some last minute gardening before the winter freeze fully hits. We will have temps up in the 60's this week! I have been digging up and moving garlic plants that my Gettysburg friend gave me from her CIVIL war era garden! Awesome! Except the garlic is actually some freakishly big Alliums that grow incredibly fast. I have been digging them up and splitting them and surrounding the whole outside of the house with them. In the summer we will be buffeted by giant purple garlic balls, which will also help protect us from vampires.

Annalisa

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Diana, check out Freshops.com. They are among the most authoritative hops sellers.

Hop rhizomes won't be available for sale until the spring, though. Some places will let you pre-order after the first of the year.

They say the southernmost region for hops is Atlanta so it should work

Kristen said...

I tried planting garlic last fall and every bulb I planted was dug up and damaged by foxes. Pain in the neck varmints. They weren't eaten, just dug up. I wonder if it was curiosity or hunger or just a general mean streak that led to that.

Christine said...

Let me know when I can come by this week! Upon reflection, I think I'd prefer to have fox sightings than garlic if I had to choose. That would be awesome!

Johnida said...

Your garden looks fabulous! Our garden is still kind of a baby and not nearly as developed. We're newbie gardeners - in the desert! - so it's a learning process. We just did the winter shift ourselves a few weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

My sister had hops growing in desert sand in a high elevation in Wyoming a few years ago and it did great. Just baby it a few years and it will grow fine- there may be several types of Hops, If I am not mistaken...

Annalisa

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Yay! Glad you had a chance to be in the garden, and so happy you found some garlic! Our California Early decided our mini-heatwave last week was a sign of spring, and has sprouted already, darn it! I'll just have to be extra diligent with the mulch over winter I think.

Isn't it fun when your previously worm-devoid soils show evidence of worms in residence?! I was so thrilled to find worms in some of our previously barren soils here. It's like they're saying 'thank you' for loosening up the dirt :)

JGH said...

I just planted 3 kinds of garlic, but I've never planted shallots before - interested to see what they'll look like when they come up!

I like the look of the redwood planks.

Meredith said...

Looks like great progress to me, Lisa! No need to apologize for garden mess, I can assure you. My paths have now virtually disappeared due to flooding and weeds. I dream of one day having a place with permanent paths that somehow maintain themselves...

Yay for the garlic planting! We planted garlic, three types, for the first time last year, and it was fabulous. We just ate the last of our May harvest a couple of weeks ago and have been horrified by the return to the grocery store version, which is all hot and spicy and no subtle flavors. Garlic was super easy and we'd be planting it again were we not anticipating a move by next May.

Good luck on the shallots, though. I have managed to kill them every time I've tried growing them -- each time for a different reason. ;)

Kaaren said...

I would love soil! Love, love, love. Unfortunately, when we dig, we get sand.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Kaaren -- you can always "create" soil with compost.

And sand is great for carrots!

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