Friday, January 3, 2014
Homesteading “Light”, Part 2: Winter Garden Beds
I love that we can still enjoy planting and harvesting crops year-round in Georgia (and many other places). It is just a matter of knowing what and when to plant for your growing zone and microclimate of your garden location. In this post, I will discuss cool weather crops I planted in prepared soil beds, rather than bins, and my reasons for including other gardening techniques.
I have thoroughly enjoyed gardening in bins on our deck for several years.
I have also kept a garden plot in our yard for larger, more sprawling crops like melons, cucumbers, beans, etc. Last year, I wanted to experiment with growing unusual varieties of tomatoes, cukes, melons, beans, and heirloom flowers. I like the convenience of being able to pick fresh garden produce right outside the kitchen door while preparing meals (which the deck garden has provided). When I needed more space for the new varieties, my husband and I extended the growing space to surround the deck. I marked the new garden spaces by arranging a brick border, then we tilled up the
lawn and added some fencing, creating another small garden at the bottom of our deck stairs. Here we enjoyed a season of tomatoes and beans surrounded by a border of marigolds and sweet basil (which helped to deter some garden pests).
When the warm temperatures ended, I decided to plant some cool-weather crops. In our growing zone, crops that have survived the winter (for us) are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, onions, celery, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, perennial herbs, and lettuce, to name a few. Planting these required only moderate preparation; I removed debris from the previous crop since pests might overwinter in the soil (also a good reason to rotate crops),
and added some composted horse manure from a nearby stable, then raked leaves into a garden wagon and covered the beds with the leaves.
I put several bales of wheat straw around the beds to make some obvious paths for walking which kept the soil in the beds from being disturbed or compacted.
The organic matter caused the earthworm population in these beds to multiply, adding beneficial worm castings to the soil. The only downside of this practice was the increase in the slug population in the soil - more on that in a future post. Overall, the soil was rich in beneficial microorganisms and it produced healthy vegetable crops all year long.
It has been wonderful to supplement meals with fresh, organic, non-GMO vegetables for only the cost of seeds and a bit of time and attention. Now to peruse all the seed catalogs to plan for the spring garden!
Blessings to you, dear garden friends!