Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Preparing your garden plot for the winter

The winter months are the perfect time to grow greens like chard, kale, and spinach, or crops like broccolli, brussel sprouts, and root vegetables like beets. But for those who plan on taking a break during the rainy winter months, its also a good time to work on building up the quality of your soil.

Last Saturday, Brent led an informative workshop on preparing garden plots for the winter with the aim of keeping weeds under control while enriching soil for spring planting. Brent talked about a few different techniques, including sheet mulching and growing cover crops.

Sheet Mulching Instructions

You'll find instructions for sheet mulching posted on the blog as well as on the tool shed bulletin board. All the supplies you'll need for sheet mulching are in the garden: horse manure (there's a pile up front), straw, and cardboard and newspaper (in the tool shed). Here are the instructions for growing cover crops:

Cover Crop Instructions

Cover crops (also called green manure) suppress weeds, build productive soil, and help control pests and diseases. Plus, cover crops are easy to plant and require only basic care to thrive. Here are the basic steps to follow:

1. Remove all invasive weeds from your plot (oxalis, knot weed, crab grass – see picture of each posted on the top of the compost bin). Discard these invasive weeds in the green city compost trash can.

2. Aerate the soil in your plot by poking it with a fork spade.

3. Spread a ½” (or less) layer of horse manure over the soil in your plot (from the manure pile in the front of the garden).

4. Using the metal rake, gently mix the manure into the soil.

5. Spread the cover crop seed throughout your plot. You'll find seed in a jar in the tool shed. Try using 1 cup per square yard.

6. Using the metal rake, mix the seed into the soil.

7. Cover your plot with a very thin blanket of straw. If too much straw is used it will suppress the cover crop. The straw is used to hide the seed from birds and rodents.

8. Keep your plot watered until the winter rains start.

9. One month before planting towards the end of winter, chop the cover crop with pruners and mix into the soil. Cover with straw and wait for one month. Be sure to keep the plot watered. Remove the straw from plot on planting day. The straw goes into the garden compost bin not the green city compost trash can.

Winter Gardening Deadline

Please keep in mind that if you are not planning on actively gardening this winter, you are required to prepare your plot for the season by sheet mulching or growing a cover crop. Gardeners who fail to do so by the end of the year will have to give up their plots. We currently have over 30 people on our waiting list, so this rule will be strictly enforced. If you need help with sheet mulching or planting cover crops, contact Gabriel (572-5444) or Michael (902-9537).