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Putting the Beds to Bed

November Update

The corn stalks are gone, garlic has been planted, and we are transforming the garden to its cool weather iteration. Everything gets a new layer of compost, and in some beds, we are planting a cover crop of vetch, peas and radish. Cover crops help add nutrients and are beneficial for all of the microbial activity that takes place underground. For more information about cover crops, look at this powerpoint presentation. Now is the time to plant cover crops so that you can use them as “green manure” next spring as mentioned in this article. Fava beans, a favorite winter cover crop, will be planted soon.

A mix of cover crop seeds (left), Cover crop growing (right)

At the seed garden we rotate our crops each year. In preparation for next season’s field crops, we give everything a layer of compost as mentioned and then depending on what will be grown, the beds get either a layer of newspaper and then straw, or a layer of cardboard and then straw. In the rows where we will be growing corn, the beds get the newspaper treatment so that we can plant directly through it in the spring. Where squash will be grown, the cardboard is laid. In the spring we will cut a hole in the cardboard in order to set the gopher basket and then leave the rest undisturbed. The remainder of the beds will get newspaper or cardboard depending upon what supply we have. The covering of the soil prevents erosion and weed growth, and also encourages beneficial microbial activity.

Covering up the beds with cardboard and straw

In the raised beds, the kale, beets, collards, endive, Pac choi, and arugula are well established and can enjoy the cool and moisture of the coming months. Garbanzo beans have been planted as they are also a crop that likes to germinate in warm soil, but enjoys cool air. With their frilly leaf patterns and delicate pods, they look beautiful in the winter garden. The garlic will emerge, the cover crops will germinate, and then everything can chill through the months of short daylight hours and hopefully regular rainfall.

Soon the seed garden volunteers will be gathering to clean the many crops of seeds that we have harvested and dried so that the supply in the seed library and the public library will be replenished with the 2022 seed. It takes a whole community of consistency to grow and provide this service. Thank you all for your financial and physical support of our efforts.

Crops enjoying their raised beds: arugula (left), and touchstone beets (right)

This author will take a break until the new year when it is time to start deciding what seeds to gather and plant for our 2023 gardens. Spring comes quickly to these parts, so it’s never too soon to be planning for the new. In the meantime, hopefully everyone can enjoy some of the harvest bounty from your garden past, be it winter squash, some dried beans, or some jars of tomato sauce. Whatever you have grown, hopefully you will be inspired to grow even more next season. We are looking forward to seeing you in 2023.


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