If you’re focused on growing food year round, you might almost forget the idea of putting the garden to bed. But it is still a good concept, for a couple of reasons:
1. You probably won’t have the time or energy or desire to keep your entire garden growing year round.
2. Soil needs to rest periodically, so that nutrient levels do not get entirely depleted.
As the summer vegetable garden fades, use cover crops and mulch to protect the soil over winter.
These will help build soil as well as keep the soil well-covered so that winter rains or winds don’t damage it. They also provide a habitat for soil critters.
There are various types (straw, leaves, compost, sheet-mulch layers), and they all will help keep the soil from getting compacted by rain or dried out by wind, and provide a habitat for beneficial soil organisms. As they break down, they add carbon to the soil as well. Caution: You don’t want to provide a habitat for rats or other vermin. If you see signs of that, remove the mulch.
These are available from coffee roasting companies and some nurseries or hardware stores. Laying these on the soil helps protect it from pounding rains, and keeps the soil a little warmer for the soil-dwelling critters.
Two simple growing steps
If you want to have something growing in the beds that won’t require any work, including harvest, here are two simple things to do:
* Grow some garlic! Plant it in late fall and harvest it mid-summer. Use a light mulch like straw or leaves over the bed after planting.
* Let the flowers be. If wildflowers have grown in around your veggies, don’t remove them when pulling the vegetable plants out. Some will reseed and even sprout this fall, and others will sit dormant until spring. Scatter a light compost mulch over the bed to encourage them.
More ideas in class
Want to delve more deeply into ideas about putting some of your garden to bed? Join me this Saturday, Sept. 20 at 10 a.m. at City People’s Garden Store in Seattle’s Madison Valley, for our final class in the Edible Year series, “Preparing Your Edible Garden for Winter” will offer more ideas and techniques to gently ease your garden into another season.