Monday, September 9, 2013

Putting the Spring Garden to Sleep

"All year I look forward to this day, and after it's over there's nothing to look forward to except Christmas!" ~ My older brother (not older than me, just older than my younger brother :)

    It's time to close up shop! The gardens are through producing and now it's time to put them asleep for the winter. It's an intense process so we do it one garden at a time. Today we did the spring garden (the one closest to the house). My brothers tilled it under a few days ago so it was ready for us to rake, fertilize, spray, seed and straw.

    First we rake the ground out pretty smooth so the fertilizer goes on evenly. We have a couple rakes that we've had since I was really young that are just super sturdy. The rakes we buy now a days are weak and the handle and tines separate within the first few months ... but then we just take them down to a neighbor and have him weld the rake together like crazy. After that, they fair just about as well as our veteran-rakes.

    Then comes the fertilizing. We buy our fertilizer locally in large bags. For the spring garden, we spread two different kinds over the whole thing: C-Blend and P-Blend. Between the two we're putting a lot  stuff into our soil: ground limestone, humus, gypsum, soft phosphate with colloidal clay, salt, calcium borate, copper sulfate, Tennessee brown phosphate rock, Mari, reed sedge peat, zink sulfate and microbiological soil stimulant 
    Ya, I'm not sure what mot of those things are ... but it must do the job.

 After we've fertilized the whole thing, we till it under just slightly with this small tiller.

    We planted a fall crop of sugar snap peas which we just worked around. We planted them a little late so we hope to harvest them before it freezes. I didn't get to enjoy sugar snap peas because I was in college when they were in season, so I hope these survive.

   After we've tilled and maybe raked again we spray decompose over the whole thing. This decompose is full of rotten mucky stuff that has lots of microbes in it. These microbes help to bread down the organic matter in the soil so it's ready to plant in the spring. It smells awful. I was barefooted, but at this point I put on flip flops :)

So, We Meet Again! ... is this the same toad we keep seeing in the spring garden?

    Our cover crop is a mixture of cow peas, radishes and oats that an Amish neighbor mixes for us. Plants need nitrogen in order to grow and nitrogen is in the air. The three plants in this blend are especially nitrogen affixing which means that they grab the nitrogen in the air and send it into the soil. Cover crop does a lot of other great things too, but I'm not quite sure what :)

    Yes, that's an ice cream pail that my younger brother is holding. My mom just had a birthday a couple days ago and we had a party (we had 35 people come and help us celebrate!) that's where the ice cream came from. Do you want to know a secret? There were two of those buckets: orange sherbert and cookies & cream ...

    The family built this rock pathway while I was at college. It was just a big trench in the ground when I visited form my break in April.  I cuts the spring garden in half and gives us a way to cross the garden without disturbing plants. It's really pretty and we do out best not to scratch it up. 
    The bird bath is new. Our neighbor just across the road gave it to us. My dad and older brother are planning to fill it with pretty pebbles that aren't completely covered by the water so the honey bees have a place to stand as they drink.

    And, finally we take the last step: Strawing. We used one bale per half, and even then it wasn't super thick. My brothers and sister had fun pretending to be cheerleaders or Mack Wilburg as he directs the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Either way, the straw gets spread around which is what we want ... and if we can have fun at the same time then WONDERFUL!

    That's it for this evening. Now we get to gong inside and shake the straw out of our shirts and the fertilizer out of our shoes :) I made supper and after everyone washed up and changed we all sat down and ate. I love that my family eats together every night. It really keeps us close.

    This is a sneak peak of what the spring garden looks like after four of five days. The cover crop is starting to grow. That's Bolto: my special drop-off dog. He's pretty old. He has arthritis and can't walk very well anymore. We wonder if he'll survive the winter. I hope he doesn't die while I'm away at school. There's a special place in my heart for that old scrooge.  
    Bolto isn't allowed in the Spring Garden when things are planted in there, but since it's nothing but cow peas, radishes and oats right now, he can soak up as much spring-garden-sun as he wants. 

   This is what the spring garden looks like after a couple of weeks. It's important that the cover crop doesn't get to high so we weed-eat it periodically. Weed-eating the cover crop is good for the soil because the leaves decompose and transfer the nitrogen that they absorbed from the air to the ground. This world that Heavenly Father created for us to live on is truly wonderful. 
    And that's it! No more work in the spring garden (besides weed-eating and tending to the sugar snap peas [if the frost holds off]). Next on the agenda: Putting the Lower garden to Sleep!