Anyone else felt like the great fall clean-up has taken forever-and-a-day this year? I’m not sure why it has felt this way; perhaps the late frost and warmer than usual weather. All I know is that we’ve planted, dug, divided, shoveled and seeded for what feels like months and are just now starting to see the end of the tunnel.
So far this season we’ve…dug, washed and divided millions of dahlias (ok, that’s a slight exaggeration), planted 200+ daffodils in the orchard, planted 70 new peonies, cleaned up foliage on peonies, planted 13 new trees, and that’s not even touching on the garden!
In the garden, everything is finally all set and ready for winter. I’m really trying to focus on the soil health in my vegetable and flower beds as I know that, ultimately, this will make for better produce and will help with pests. I have 24 beds in the garden, some with perennials such as herbs, strawberries, roses, asparagus and rhubarb, and all the others with annuals that I rotate the placement of each season. This is especially important for pest management, soil health and even diseases that may come back year after year. Each plant contributes and extracts different things from the soil so by rotating crops I’m hopefully not depleting the soil but rather continuing a healthy give and take.
This year, I’m also trying out cover crops and, so far, I’m very happy with them. Cover crops help in a myriad of ways by adding to the soil fertility, reducing run-off and soil loss, increasing organic matter in the soil and even choking out weeds. I used a seed mix by Peaceful Valley that is specifically engineered toward vegetable gardens. While I was able to get quite a number of beds seeded with this mix, several beds were not yet turned over by our first frost so they have gotten a healthy layer of compost spread on them. I also planted a bed with garlic and this bed is covered in a thick, protective layer of straw. The rhubarb and asparagus bed also get clipped down and layered with compost.
We also had the flower field to clean up! I’ve mentioned before that Bryce and I are starting to make a move toward being more specialized in what we grow. To that end, we planted 70 new peonies in the field where we normally grow annual flowers. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we planted we started to have to deal with a critter (a fox?) digging up all the tubers! We’ve spread wood chips on the beds with the hope that this will be a discouragement!
Every single year, in the spring, I go a little crazy and order waaayyy too many bulbs. And every single year, in the fall, I’m tired and wonder why on earth I ordered so many bulbs. I guess there is comfort in the predictability of this happening year after year! I planted bulbs that are especially good at naturalizing and they all went in the orchard. Next spring, if my orchard doesn’t look like the one at Sissinghurst, I will be severely disappointed :).
The chickens have also gotten a clean-up! I’ve really struggled with what to have in the chicken run besides bare dirt. We’ve tried straw but it just got to be a damp, muddy mess and gravel just felt too permanent and difficult to deal with. Finally, I read (in a farm newsletter that I receive) about the benefits of having wood chips in the run. We have an endless supply of branches to chip so we are trying that and I already love how much better it looks. I sooo hope it proves to be a healthy and good move for our ladies.
We still have a few things to tidy up and cut back (looking at you hostas), but we are starting to look forward to the holidays. I do still have my shed and tool clean up though….