The leaves are changing, days are getting colder, and as the seasons change, things are starting to slow down here at City Sprouts. BUT we still have very important tasks at hand. Properly preparing our growing sites to "go to sleep" for the winter plays a very important role for the success of the following growing season. Here are some of the things we do in order to prepare:
1. Harvest all remaining produce before the first freeze
In order to ensure maximum quality of our produce we hurried to harvest all that was left before temperatures drastically dropped. While kale and other cold tolerant crops actually tend to get a bit sweeter after the first frost, we streamline harvesting to ensure timely distribution and so we can wrap things up all in one go. Crops in our last harvest included: Napa cabbage, rainbow chard, fennel, mustard greens, daikon radishes, kale, and carrots!
2. rEMOVE REMAINING PLANTS/ STALKS
This step is especially important for raised beds in order to clear organic material leaving space for soil amendments. Removing remaining plant material also minimizes pests, disease, and weeds. This year when doing so we discovered a fair amount of garlic cloves scattered around so they were transplanted into their own bed, and should be ready for harvest in the Spring! You never know what surprises may arise.
3. add soil amendments
Late Fall is a great time to add soil amendments like manure, compost, or organic fertilizers such as bone meal, kelp and rock phosphate. Adding these nutrients in the fall rather than spring gives them more time to start breaking down in the soil, thus becoming biologically active and enriching the soil prior to Spring time planting. We topped off our raised beds with 1-2 inches of compost that we received from OmaGro. The compost N-P-K rating was 1-.5-1 which is great for Spring planting and direct seeding. Thank you OmaGro!
4. Apply cover crop or mulch
We plan to till our raised beds one last time to mix the compost into the soil and then sow cover crop seed. The mix we're using is from GreenCover and includes Spring Peas, Common Vetch, Crimson Clover, Spring Oats, Spring Forage Barley, Rapeseed, Daikon Radish, Florida Broadleaf Mustard, Sunflowers, Golden Flax, Phacelia, and HypGerm Seed Inoculant. Cover crops add valuable nutrients back into the soil improving soil health and structure for the following growing season. Finally, we will apply straw to cover the flowering beds to insulate them as well as prevent weeds in the spring. We keep our practices as sustainable as possible, so we are taking advantage of tilling compost into the soil now, to avoid tilling in the Spring.
5. Clean up and store tools
Scrub down and put away your garden tools! You can even coat them with a light layer of vegetable oil to avoid rust. Properly storing your garden tools protects them from harsh winter conditions and extends their life-span so you're not buying tools more than once! Keeping everything tidy and organized on site ensures that the next growing season with begin with ease.