25 Sep 2013

Vegetables Through the Winter

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The fall is upon us and by now you will be harvesting the squash, tomatoes and the last of the summer crops from your vegetable garden.  If you are prudent, you will have sown seed for the next phase that should now be ready to transplant and will continue growing for the next month or so.  Crops like: Kale, Chard and even Fava beans will keep growing throughout the milder days of the winter.  Meaning you will be able to eat from your garden every month of the year, albeit more sparingly.  Your  garden has used a lot of energy during the summer months and even though you may have nourished it with supplemental nutrients it is a good thing to mulch with compost now as you transplant the newer crops for the winter.  This practice allows the compost to slowly leach nutrients down into the top layer of the soil and also creates a blanket of humus, adding extra insulation as the nights become colder, ensuring good root development.

It is also wise to remember to rotate the types of vegetables  you plant, so as not to encourage specific pathogens that select plant types.  For example, there are many carriers of pathogens like: insects, fungii and other carriers leaving disease types that thrive in places where the crop is repeatedly placed in the same spot, leading to problem area that can impact your garden for years to come.  Clubroot, for instance, is a disease of Brassicae that once in the soil is extremely difficult to remove and may mean you will not be able to plant any of the cabbage family for up to seven years in order to eradicate the pathogen that causes it. This rule applies to all crops in the garden and good rotation is the best way to prevent the problem.  If you are wanting to leave some of the ground open and fallow during the winter another alternative to mulching, we, in the old country, call green manure.  In North America it is referred to as Cover Cropping.  Sowing alfalfa, fall rye or even lupin will fix nutrients back into the soil for spring planting supplying a timely boost to early crops such as peas and radishes.

Because we live in a country that was once covered in coniferous forest we have a soil type that almost always is a little too acidic for some things, so in order to keep the Ph close to neutral we have to amend  the soil with lime.  This practice also helps maintain a balance of healthy organisms during the growing season, as a bonus, lime also helps to break down clay quickly releasing the nutrients locked inside.We have an abundance of food now from a well managed vegetable garden but remembering that this is quickly depleted during the winter months is a good reason to increase the winter garden varieties now. May you be well fed this winter.

See you next week,

Derek

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