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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fall Clean Up Time

It's a dark and cloudy day not making me want to do a lot of field work but at some point before it starts raining I should go out and cut some kale, cilantro, arugula and see if there is any chard to be had. We have had some problems with mice or rats eating the base of the chard plants to death. Last Friday I caught one of the li'l SOB's and let Nate kill and eat it but I doubt that was the only one doing this damage.

We have been busy the past week or so putting the garden to bed. This entailed pulling up dead tomato, pepper, eggplants, etc.. The tomatoes had the added task of removing stakes and twine before the plants could be removed. After the plants were removed and put on compost piles to help feed the soil we ripped up the landscape fabric we have been using as a mulch/weed barrier. A lot of weeds get established along the edges of the landscape fabric that have to be pulled off. I find it is easiest to ripped the fabric up and lay it out and let it dry for 24 to 48 hours before removing the weeds and mud. Dried dead weeds come off the mulch a lot easier than alive weeds. After that we pull up the drip tapes. We have to squeeze the water out of each tape as we rolled it up into a small bundle. At this point the beds are ready to be lightly tilled and a seeded with a cover crop or planted in garlic or greens for early spring.

Organic methods demand that we keep as much soil covered over winter as possible so we put down rye seed from September through early November on all beds that are either not in use in the fall or will not be used in early spring. Which is about 3/4 of the beds. The rye germinates before winter and if planted early enough will grow a foot or two before it goes dormant over winter. In the spring it comes back to life and grows to about 6' before getting mowed down and incorporated back into the soil. We will let one bed grow into summer to get seed for the following autumn. The rye keeps early weeds from establishing, stops erosion and adds tons or organic matter to our soils

Fall cleanup is important. Without doing this we could not plant cover crops in the fall or early spring crops in the late winter. We would allow a lot of places for pests and diseases to hibernate for the winter. We would not be able to make nearly as much compost because the plant debris would still be in the beds. We would put a lot of unnecessary wear on the fabric mulches. We would have to remove stakes, mulch, plants etc., in the very early spring when you can be assured it will be freezing and wet which is an incredibly uncomfortable way to work. In other words, not doing fall clean up would be stupid.

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