With the cooler weather and shorter daylight hours, the garden’s vegetable production is slowly coming to a close. However, the work is not yet done! It’s important to put the garden to sleep for the winter. The students from the Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field (LEAF) School from Edmonds Community College came to the Westgarden to learn about ways to prepare the garden for the next season.
A great way to prevent weeds from germinating, to prevent soil erosion, and to restore nutrients in the soil is to plant cover crop seed. Earlier in the summer, we had planted buckwheat, an excellent bee forage plant as well as a fast-growing, reliable warm weather cover crop. The plants were mature, so we collected the seed to plant again next year!
While some were collecting seed, others were flipping the compost pile. We added a biodynamic compost starter to add beneficial bacteria and fungus to the pile. Turning the decomposing plant matter onto the fresher plant matter speeds up the composting process, so that it will be fully decomposed and ready to use in the spring!
Next, we weeded, edged, and flipped three garden beds to show the different ways to prepare a bed for the winter.
With the first bed, we planted garlic in worm castings, and mulched the bed with straw.
In the second bed, we sowed a mix of cover crop seed, including nitrogen fixing legumes Austrian field pea, fava bean, hairy vetch and crimson clover, along with winter rye, a hardy grain. Then we put row cover on the bed to keep birds from pecking out the seeds. Soon, the bed will be a lush and green. The plant roots will hold in the soil and add nutrients needed after a good productive growing season!
In the third bed, we mulched the bed with comfrey leaves, an excellent source of nitrogen and potassium that breaks down rapidly. A thick layer of comfrey leaves a few inches high will break down in just a few weeks and add to the soil’s organic matter.
Voilà! Three garden beds prepped and ready for the spring.
Many thanks to LEAF students Jo-Ann Fjellman, Erin Gamble, Keegan Artz, Kymberlye Hoyle, Kelson Mcconnell, Megan Taylor, Scott Noll, Tyler Smith, and professor Tom Murphy, for helping winterize the garden!