West Mountain Farm

Pastured Pigs, Free-Range Chickens, Biodynamic Gardening, Homesteading

Putting Your Garden to Bed and Preparing the Homestead for Winter

Now is the time to start the process of putting your garden to bed. Things are in their last push and other warm weather loving plants are dying, consecutive cold days and nights are coming, so pick everything you can ASAP, dry herbs, make green tomato relish, freeze bell peppers, dehydrate, freeze, etc. Remove disease and bug harbors like dead tomato vines, other nightshades, and curcubits (squash and cucumbers). Okra, corns stalks, and dead herb branches can be incorporated into the soil or composted. Adding mulch and organic matter is the most important, which can protect perennials, bulbs, and the soil structure itself. Now is also a great time to add soil amendments that will be bioavailable for your garden next spring. Lime all the beds that are going to rest for winter. Taking care of your investment of garden tools is important if you want to get all the life out of them that they are worth. Collect them from the yard, give them a quick clean, let them dry in the sun, oil movable parts, and sharpen blades. If nothing else, get them out of the weather in a barn or shed to protect them from the elements. If you are feeling really spunky you can organize them in buckets and crates and maybe even make a wall and peg board to hang them to save space and have them handy.  Don’t forget about your plant cages and support systems.  Clean up space in the barn to store hay and feed. Now is a good time to get a good deal on hay if you help farmers collect directly out of the field, saving them work and storage. Protect your investment from mice with a good barn cat and/or pet safe rodent poison/traps. Sealed barrels for your feed is a good idea year round. Do some coop and stall mucking and apply directly to resting beds (don’t apply on beds intended for winter crops) give your animals fresh bedding that can be hay, straw, and saw dust. Get your floating row covers, hoop houses, and cold frames out to ready them for fall crop protection. Add gentle soil refreshers to fall crop beds such as sweet, finished compost, worm castings, sea kelp, soft rock phosphate, mushroom compost, etc. Avoid anything that will burn tender seedlings or might carry pathogens. Its a good time for green cover crops like vetch. Seeding and planting transplant fall crops as soon as their beds are ready. Get your seasoned fire wood stacked, covered loosely, and convenient to bring into the house on cold, blustery days ahead. Start thinking about how you are going to keep your animals water thawed. Pull up irrigation and winterize outdoor spigots. Get your root crops, apples, pears, potatoes, fall squash cured and ready for storage. If you have a root cellar or basement you’re one lucky dog. If not find a cool, dark, dry spot in the house, wrap fruits in newspaper and store loosely in cardboard boxes, bags, or crates.  They will be nice and sweet in a few months as the carbs transform into more sugar. Store your root crops loosely, but its not as essential to wrap them up individually as they don’t put off ethylene gas. Check on them periodically for winter and eat things that are going downhill and throw the bad stuff to the hogs or chickens (unless its absolutely horrible moldy). Feed, feed, feed your animals to store fat for the cold days. Chickens are probably molting so give them non-medicated gamebird feed, calf manna, and flock blocks. If you are hunter they enjoy to pick the carcass clean, just no gut piles. They need the extra protein to renew their feathers and get back to making eggs. If you are a hunter get in the woods and stock your freezer! Your green house is another things to consider collecting, organizing, starting greens and other fodder crops.  Use your space efficiently and you will reap bountifully year round.

Don’t get too wrapped up in work though, take a stroll through the woods and enjoy the colors of autumn, the leaves will fall before you know it. Do some yoga in the woods to rest your body from all the work taking care of a homestead entails, the earthy smells of the forest will sweeten your practice. Watch for fall goodies like mushrooms, apples, pears, and persimmons. Make bouquets and take them to friends, the drive will give you more scenic pleasure and the visits you made with friends will be comforting when cabin fever sets in. Happy Homesteading!

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