Many people see gardening as primarily a busy spring and summertime activity. But in truth it should be viewed as a part-time, year-round pursuit, and It shouldn’t run your life any time of the year. Autumn is actually a good time to begin your garden for next year. But before I explain what I mean, first some background. Our homestead is 1.7 acres, in zone 5, located in a sparsely populated community in Maine, and includes a small pond, an orchard with 15 fruit trees, a grape trellis, dozens of blueberry, elderberry and raspberry bushes, an asparagus bed, and a vegetable garden roughly a half an acre in size. Until recently, we also had a chicken shed and yard.
One of the best tasks that you could do in the fall is to add cover crops to your growing areas. Cover crops protect soil quality, add nutrients and keep microbial activity going…more on this later. Hopefully, you also might have set aside patches of carrots and beets, and have a good size planting of ‘survivalists’ parsnips in the ground. Carrots and beets and yes even cabbage and swiss chard can be mulched for the winter now. You’ll love these fresh veggies when warmer weather rolls around next spring.
Of course this time of the year we have our storage supply of potatoes, squash, onions and garlic. We’re fortunate to have a cool basement which works well for storing these vegetables, and fruit like apples, asian pears, and we usually have plenty of berries in the freezer. We also invested in a cider press sometime ago which we crank up in the fall, producing cider, grape and elderberry juice. Some of the cider we boil producing a wonderful sweetener. Two plantings of elderberries a few years ago have expanded to give us wonderful berries and flowers. These we press with the grapes to produce a very fine wine to sip alongside the wood stove in the winter.
Contrary to many gardening experts I no longer have the usual seasonal extenders like hoop houses and greenhouses. Takes too much time, caretaking and unless you’re trying to get a jump start selling crops at the farmers’ market, there is no real advantage to be gained for the homesteader or survivalist gardener. Key to our successful gardening experience is to devote a good deal of time in November to preparing ferments, like sauerkraut, pickle beets and cukes. These are so good that thinking of them now makes my mouth water!
I use the winter months to strategize my next year’s garden. Good time to write down what worked and what didn’t. Along with this I do a broad brush run through last season’s weather. See what parallels there might have been between the two. It’s also at this time of the year I start getting my seeds together. I save squash, potatoes, pole beans, peas, cuke and tomato seeds because it’s easy to do. I’m also at this time of the year cruising discount stores, like Home Depot, looking for big discounts on last years’ open pollinated seeds. Harris and Ferry Morse seeds are sold in these places and they have worked well for me.Continue reading“Gardening Year-Round in North Country, by RAP1”