End-of-season chores

November’s almost halfway through already, and it’s time to put the garden to sleep for the winter.

A frost killed what was left of the crops last week, so yesterday I pulled up the dead plants. Most went into the makeshift “compost pile” (which really isn’t and needs work…more on that later). However, tomato roots, stems, leaves and fruits went into a plastic bag I sealed and put in the garbage bin – no more early blight spreading from year to year (I hope)!

I raked out the straw and leaves, placing them around the sides of the beds, and then scattered seeds of a cover crop mix I had purchased last month. It’s 70% Winter Rye and 30% Hairy Vetch, so should fix some nitrogen and mainly just stabilize the soil. In the spring I’ll mow it down and till into the soil, and see what happens!

Raised beds prepared for winter

Crops removed, cover crop sown…ready for winter

Today, the task was a bothersome one: I set out to sterilize the tomato cages, since I suspected that some blight from the 2011 growing season had lingered on them and infected this year’s plants. I made a dilute bleach mixture in a spray bottle, as recommended on several forums (like this one and this one).

Preparing to disinfect tomato cages

Preparing to disinfect tomato cages

It didn’t take long to spray down the 14 cages I have, but a word of warning – if you are planning on doing this, note the direction of the wind and consider wearing safety goggles!

The next task my husband and I plan to take on will be construction of an actual compost bin to start using in earnest. Someone who lived here before built one (see right) but we’re a little hesitant to use it since we don’t know what kind of wood they built it from or what’s inside.

Old compost bin

The compost bin left by previous owners

But we’ll probably end up with something pretty similar in construction if we can find some nice palettes, and will probably put it in the same location, too.

Then: planning next year’s garden, always an enjoyable task for the long dark winter months.

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