Old Bed, New Bed, Garden Bed

Published in September of 2013 by Grit Magazine

Marie has been promising Blondie that we’d buy her a nice snuggle-bed like Cochise’s as soon as Wal-Mart got one that wasn’t some outlandish color.  It has been months, but yesterday Marie got out of the truck and was carrying a lovely new snuggle bed.  Blondie wagged her tail so hard she was beating herself on the hips with it.  As soon as we laid the new bed down in the house, Cochise hopped into it and said, “Mine.”

Cochise takes Blondie's new bed.Blondie was not amused, “Just because he’s the alpha dog, he gets the new bed?  MY bed!”

After a bit she settled in though; thinking, “An old bed is better than no bed.  And I have gotten used to sleeping in this one even though it was supposed to be his.  I guess it’s OK.”

She’s SUCH a good girl!

Speaking of beds, I’ve been working on getting my raised beds in the garden ready for the fall/winter season.  Nearly all of the summer crops have run their course and I’ve been pulling out the old, dead plants, composting some and burning any that were diseased or nightshades – or both.

Disease hit us hard his year.  This was partly due to the extremely wet summer and partly due to the fact that I was using a modified square-foot garden method.  In every case, when I looked up causes for the leaf blights that hit us, overcrowding; which prevents leaves from drying properly and creates an environment conducive to mold and blight, was listed as a major cause.

Another hint at how wet it has been is the number of mushrooms that pop up continually, all over the place.  These little Fairy Parasol mushrooms (what I’ve always called them – I have no idea what their real name is) are all over.  But out in the yard we’ve had toad stools that got huge; when their caps opened up and flattened out they were 10 to 12 inches across!  And brain mushrooms that were the size of half a basketball.  Too bad none of them are edible or we’d have had an incredible harvest.

The Patti pan squash that was in here is gone, but the various peppers and green onions are still going strong, although the peppers don’t like the way the nights are getting chilly.  Since this box will lie fallow for the winter, I’ll let these grow until they decide to quit on their own.  The onions will probably continue to grow through the winter – I’ll just lay the straw in around them to exclude weeds.

This bed is planted in a variety of leaf lettuce – which grows well in the winter.  It will slow or stop growing in the real cold parts, but will remain alive even when buried under a snowfall.  The snow melts and out pops the green of the lettuce.  Other boxes contain beets, carrots, turnips, and onions (all grown primarily for their greens) and spinach.  Root crops grow well in the winter, but we don’t usually get much from the root.  But by trimming the greens judiciously, we can supply ourselves with fresh veggies all winter long.

I’ll have several boxes planted in Brussels Sprouts.  If I can exclude the looper moths this fall, the sprouts will grow nicely during the winter – benefiting from a frost – and produce great tasting sprouts until spring.  Keeping the moths out means covering the fence boxes with plastic or at least a fine mesh.

I also have several boxes planted as Butternut and Acorn squash.  Although these are called winter squash, their fruit probably won’t be harvestable until spring.  But, that will give us something once the summer squash in the freezer is gone and while waiting for the new summer crop to start producing.

Our sweet potatoes are doing well and will be harvested once the vines die back.

I also have a row of sugar peas planted against at trellis.  Peas like the cool weather of early spring and fall, so these will also grow well in the coming months.  We harvest these as tender young pods and use them in our cooking.

And of course I have the herb bed.  The basil does not like the cool nights.  It’s time to seed out a pot or two to keep in my office for winter cutting and setting out next spring.  The Sage did poorly again this year.  I have terrible luck with sage.  Rosemary, carrot, mint, dill, thyme, oregano, chives, green onions and parsley all did fine.  Although the oregano is looking a bit thin this fall.

Radishes were a disaster this year.  Too bad – I really like radishes.

It’s time to prune back the blueberries and grapes and clean out the strawberry bed for the winter.  And that will about take care of my seasonal garden change-over.

What are you doing to get ready for winter?  Am I missing anything?  Please share!

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