Winterizing is required by p-patch rules and it is done for several reasons:
- Protecting your soil from being blown away.
- Preventing weeds
- Keeping soil from compacting with winter rains.
First step is to clean out your bed of all the summer stuff. (You may leave tomato cages, trellises, etc. up, but be aware that the winds are strong in the winter.) Please be sure to follow proper composting procedure. We really need your greens as we want to increase our compass turn out.
One way to winterize your bed is using not-planting techniques:
- The one we have found most effective at the UpGarden is to cover your bed with burlap. Because of our winds, leaves and newspaper do not work well.
- Another way is by using organic straw which Walt’s carries. If enough gardeners are interested, we can do a joint buy. Please let Bonnie know if you are interested. If you use straw, it does not work well to turn it into our soil, but it works very well as mulch for the next season.
- When King County Conservation and Tilth were at the garden, they really encouraged us to mulch, either with straw or other plant material for improving our planting medium. They pointed out that winter is a good time to do this.
- The p-patch program does not suggest using plastic as it can be hard on the soil.
The main thing to remember is to plan. Many of these crops will still be growing when you plant your cool weather seeds and plants in the spring. And Fava beans and garlic have an even longer growing season. Also, winter crops should be planted farther apart since they need to send their roots out farther. Even if you don’t plan on harvesting during the winter and early spring, you can plant cover crops which will enrich your planting medium. And garlic needs no tending in the winter.
- Cover crops: The two cover crops that have been used most effectively in the UpGarden are red clover and fava beans. Both add nitrogen to your soil.
Red clover doesn’t produce food but is good for the soil and bees really like the blooms. We have had some trouble with it not sprouting until well into the winter and I think that is too fold. First is it not sprouting before it gets to cold, so it is important to plant it as soon as possible. Another reason for planting it soon is that seeds need moisture to sprout and our late falls have been dry the last few years. So you need to get it planted in time to water, either by hand or with your irrigation. Our water is turned off October 31st. It is important not to let it to reach seeding stage after it’s bloom as to keep it from spreading to others plots or the lawns. Colin suggests that you should turn it under at least four weeks before you plan to plant in that area.
- Fava beans do not fully develop until late spring or early summer and they will be tall, so it is important to plan well when planting them. If you want the benefits of growing fava beans as cove crop but do not want to eat them yourselves, the giving garden grows them and takes them to the Ballard Food Bank which likes getting them, so you have a way to pass them on.
Many of us like to grow food that we use during the winter. Here are some suggestions:
- Brassicas- broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards
- Salad crops – lettuce, spinach, mustards, endive, chard
- Crops that grow in the winter and are harvested in the spring or summer are: Carrots, parsnips, beets, leeks, garlic, shallots
Additional notes one of our gardeners took at Colin’s class, including information about fall planting. Download/View PDF