Obviously summer is over in the northern hemisphere, where I live, so I am currently engaged in preparing my garden for winter. This used to be a much less involved task, but now that I’m a year into my horticulture program I know a lot of stuff I didn’t previously. Here’s what I’m doing to get everything ready for winter.
Watering, watering, watering
Colorado is known for some wacky temperature variations, but the last ten years or so have been especially extreme. The same is true all over the US. All over the world. Weather patterns have been unpredictable, to say the least. If only we had gotten some kind of warning about this. Like if 98% of all the scientists in the world predicted this was going to happen.
Anyway, last winter we saw an extreme temperature change in November (it went from 70’s to close to zero farenheight overnight) and it killed a lot of trees and shrubs along the front range. One way to keep plants resilient in extreme weather variations like that is to water them really well going into winter, and continue to water on warm winter days (Colorado gets a lot of those, and we’re only getting more and more each year). So I’m really doubling down on watering my new Serviceberry and black raspberries, hopefully they’ll make it through the winter. My other shrubs and trees can all suck it, I don’t care if they die (but since they are well established, they are less vulnerable). I plan on removing most of the shrubs anyhow.
The lawn needs to be aerated and fertilized before winter rolls in. Or at least fertilized. I have also sprayed some weed killer in parts of our grass. I don’t like to do this, and certainly won’t make it a habit, but some spurge moved in during the really hot and dry months, and there’s too much and it’s too hard to pull. I kept my spraying localized to problem areas and am really trying to minimize it. I don’t like using herbicides and pesticides.
Blowing out the sprinklers
We do this with our little compressor, which I learned in irrigation is not a strong enough compressor to really get the job done properly and puts you at risk of damage to your irrigation system. But we’ll probably keep doing it because we’ve never had a problem and we’re cheap (I also think Jeremy has a problem with hiring someone to do something he feels he can do). So do with that what you will. Your risk of a broken irrigation pipe is probably higher if your irrigation system is made out of PVC as opposed to polyethylene, if that helps you in your decision making over how to blow out your irrigation system.
Now is the time to plant those fall bulbs! Crocus, daffodil, tulips, hyacynth, etc., get them in the ground now. Pay attention to planting depth! This year I’m planting crocus in the lawn. Why? Because by the time you need to mow, they’ll be completely done blooming and you can mow right over them. They’ll be so pretty in early spring though.
Also, now is the time to plant garlic!
Soil does not like to be naked, so cover it up with a mulch or cover crop. This prevents soil from being blown or washed away, reduces weed pressure, and may contribute to the nutrient content and biodiversity of your soil, depending on what you use. My preferred mulches are wood chips and straw, but some people like leaves, grass clippings, shredded newspapers, a thick layer of compost, cardboard, etc. Whatever you use, you can either work it into the soil in the spring, or remove it. I haven’t experimented with cover crops yet so I can’t tell you my preferences there. I know lots of people who use and love clover and vetch though. You could also look into deep mulching or lasagna gardening.
Prepping the spot where we’re putting our veggie beds next year
We’re putting our new, permanent veggie beds on a slope on the side of our house that currently is mulched with rock (yuck). We’re planning on having them raised a bit, and using a method called hugelkultur. We’re planning on doing it a little different than it’s done in that link, because I like a tidy looking garden bed. I’m modeling it after what a fellow student in my horticulture program did for his raised beds, we’re going to build a rectangle shaped raised bed, and instead of filling it with dirt, we’re going to dig down a foot or so. We’ll then fill the hole with the wood from the shrubs we cut down this past spring (the ones that were killed in that November hard freeze I mentioned in #1), the straw from the failed strawbale garden this year, compost, and then the native soil we dug out of the beds. If we need more soil to fill the beds, then we’ll go buy garden soil from our local garden center.
I want to have the majority of the hard labor for this project done before it starts getting too cold, so I’m starting shoveling rock away from the side yard, and hopefully will be able to start digging before the ground freezes.
Taking measurements of our property to design and bubble diagram next years plans
Since I’m revamping our irrigation system next year to make it more efficient and add some drip irrigation zones, and I’m hoping to do some shrub removals and add in new shrubs and perennials, I want to have a good blue print for all these plans. Once I’ve finished my blueprints, I will share them here.
Our first generation of quail are about at the end of their lifecycle, so we’re going to need to have them culled. As I said earlier, we’re having my uncle do this because we’re soft hearted wimps. We’ll also need to make plans for keeping them warm in our garage. Quail are fairly cold hardy but I want them to be comfortable, so we’re going to heat their cages some.
So, this is a vital part of how our homestead runs each year, because Halloween is all about community and stuff, right? Or maybe we’re just a bunch of Halloween geeks. In any case, getting our Halloween display up is something that we just can’t live without, so it’s definitely part of our fall prep.
How do you prepare your homestead for fall? What special preparations does your location require? What does fall prep entail for you?
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