This week we'll continue processing winter squash and pumpkins. We did one last Thursday and hopefully will get two or three done this week. Between field clean up, processing for seed, seed cleaning and working on the pepper breeding project we've got plenty to do this week. We're also harvesting seed from the pumpkin breeding project and whatever else pops up.
Jeff caught three squirrels last weekend and relocated them to our neighborhood. I think they'll find the pickings down home to be somewhat slimmer than around the seed processing area at Johnny's. They can head over to my garden to help harvest the rest of the sunflowers I planted for the birds, although as of last Sunday the birds had pretty well cleaned them out. Last fall I rototilled the sunflowers before the birds had a chance to glean the field so this spring I had tons of volunteers; this year I'll leave the sunflowers through the winter and they can feed till the seeds are gone.
Leaving weeds gone to seed in the garden is a good practice I don't think many people know about. Studies have shown that predation by birds and mice will reduce approximately 75% of mature weed seed over the winter. A neatly rototilled garden looks a heck of a lot better than weeds gone by, but if you rototill the mature weeds under you're creating a perfect overwintering place for those weed seeds. As soon as the weather warms in the spring, those weed seeds are going to get a head start. If however the plants weren't tilled under, they can't get a head start.
Last year and this year I've had the largest garden I have ever had; roughly 50 by 130. That's 6500 square feet; or about 0.15 acres. Not a huge garden by any means but more than I can take care of and do right. The past couple of years I have grown all the veggies we need, plus many extras for the neighbors and friends. This year was especially challenging between all the rain we got and the late blight at Johnny's which consumed much of my time. I think for next year, I'll cut my garden space down by 65% and do a better job in a smaller space. My plan is to use the best third of the garden to do the necessary crops: onions, carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, summer squash and some flowers. And perhaps some potatoes for “new” potatoes. The other 2/3rds of the garden will get additions of organic matter and cover crops for the season; the soil really needs some work!
I've built a raised bed for the yard which is what I'll plant the greens and lettuce mixes in. I think I'll build a couple more this winter for use next spring and summer. I'd like to raise some sweet onions in one and some carrots in another. I designed them with two things in mind:
- Use plenty of potting mix to eliminate weeds and provide ample moisture so watering is decreased.
- User materials I have so cost can be kept down.
Each bed is four feet wide, 1 foot deep and eight feet long; a total; of 32 cubic feet of soilless mix for each one. I use soilless mix as there's no chance of weed seed popping up. I use 5 yards of a popular potting mix along with a couple of pounds of organic fertilizer. My design includes built in hoops for row covers to protect from insect and inclement weather and are easily worked on and reached by Peggy and (No Bending!).
I'll let you know how things go this winter; perhaps I'll put one or two raised beds in my greenhouse and really get things growing early. Or perhaps I'll just visit the Farmer's markets more next year and let them do the growing.
Until next week, Brian.