Preparing for Winter in the Garden

This time of year on the farm is exciting because we still have many summer crops that we will be harvesting  as well as fall crops getting established. Peppers, tomatoes, green beans and okra will continue until the first frost, which is generally mid-October. The growing season is long enough here that we can plant many of the spring crops again in late summer for a fall harvest. This year we have carrots, kale, spinach, arugula, daikon radish, turnips, rutabagas, and lettuce that will be harvested through the early winter and some until next spring. We prolong the growing season for hearty greens like kale and spinach with row covers, which protects the plants from night time frosts. Fall roots can be preserved in the ground as well with a thick layer of mulch applied after the leaves have died back. This protects the tops from fluctuating temperatures that can cause rot.


A full crew out in the garden tending various beds.

Much of the garden is fallow at this time of year after early summer crops or cover crops have died back, which leaves a great opportunity to bring animals into the garden. This year we have been rotating turkeys into fallow areas which is both beneficial for the birds and the soil. The turkeys eat weeds and seeds that would otherwise sprout next year unwanted, and the manure they leave behind adds fertilizer for next years crops. In the past we have experimented with rotating pigs, chickens and goats in fallow beds and in between orchard trees with good results.


We will have plenty of turkey this year!

Sweet potato harvest happened this month. We planted a total of 550 slips this spring which is around 150 more than we normally plant. This should hopefully keep us stocked with delicious homegrown sweet potatoes until next summer! We planted a few different varieties this year, including the classic deep orange fleshed Beauregard, white fleshed O’Henry, and the dense Ginseng, which is known to have a high beta carotene content and has a good storage life. All of them make really good sweet potato fries! Following the harvest we will move pigs through the sweet potato patch to clean up the greens and hopefully dig up the remaining sweet potato side shoots.


Andrea and Pexter harvesting sweet potatoes on a beautiful Fall day.

Late October is time to plant garlic in the south. We mostly plant hardneck, or rocambole varieties which have an intense true garlic flavor and larger cloves. Our favorite variety is German extra hardy because of its capacity to store well over the winter and it large, easy to peel cloves. Hardneck varieties also put on bulky scapes in the spring, which makes amazing pesto.


As the tomatoes decline the peppers continue a strong run in the hoophouse. The younger crops are coming along with plenty of zucchini coming in already.

As the days get shorter and the night temperatures are dropping lower we are relying more on our hoophouse to support late fall plantings. This fall we have planted zucchini, cabbage, broccoli, collards, tatsoi, hakurai turnips, parsley, and mizuna, and will continue to plant successions of salad greens into December for fresh salad all winter long! Since this is the first winter growing in the hoophouse we are still experimenting and figuring out which crops do best. Everything seems to be thriving with the improved growing conditions that it provides.

Post written by Petey, the Garden Manager

Pictures by Virgil and Sumner (the other garden manager)

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