I'm not sure what to do with my garden in the winter. This year (season 1) I have mostly grown annual vegetables. Currently the garden is:
a 45' bed half of which is runner beans, still cropping heavily, half of which was peas, broad beans, and onions, now mostly out, and going back to weeds
this bed will be covered with a polytunnel this autumn
a large round bed with: radishes gone to seed, spinach gone to seed, jerusalem artichokes, sunflowers, bush beans, cukes, calendula, cabbages and caulis - most out now - courgettes and squashes, and strawberries
most of this bed will be empty in the next month or so
three raised beds currently with the end of the pea crop, mustard greens, spinach, red orach, and rocket gone to seed, some onions and leeks, salsify
a large bed I am building, with 8" woodchip, 8" cow muck, and 12" hay, to rot down
there is other growing space dedicated to large-scale strawberries, potatoes, and root crop space for next year, as well as a lot of fruit, all of this is outside the kitchen garden - i will be tilling a new potato patch this autumn and giving it the manure-and-mulch treatment over winter, as well as on the old patch, to prep it for beets, etc next year
The bed I am building of soil is planned to sit and rot all winter and get perennial veg and some fruit in the spring, so that's fine.
The raised beds I was planning to let the stuff that has gone to seed, self-seed a bit, and also use them to grow winter leeks.
The round bed will be mostly empty. The soil is poor - little top soil (it was scraped off apparently), rocky, compacted, and weedy. I have plenty of cow muck and hay mulch. My plan was to wait until the annuals are all out, then weed thoroughly, and pile on a good layer of manure, seaweed, and hay to improve the soil ready for next spring.
The long bed will have a tunnel and this is where I was planning to plant most of the things I have starting in trays right now - kale, chard, chinese greens. These should be ok temperature wise in a tunnel in our climate. I may have some extra greens to go into other space outside, but at the moment I do not have any other plans to plant over winter.
I would love suggestions for
1) any other winter food crops - temps rarely get below -5 C and we rarely get significant snowfall (last year was about 12" over 2-3 weeks and that was it), but it is WET and WINDY.
2) other things to plant as cover crops or green manures that would improve my soil. OR would it be best to just manure and mulch the heck out of all bare areas and not bother planting anything there at all, and hope it's all much happier come spring?
Thanks. I've got a fair amount of white clover volunteering anyway, I don't pull that out. I will get some turnip and chicory. I'm a little worried about my winter brassica plans as the cabbages are currently badly under attack by caterpillers, will run the chickens through after they all come out.
No, those aren't self-seeding yet, the seeds on the plants from spring/early summer don't seem quite ripe yet and as this is my first season here there was nothing else before that. I am just leaving that all along till they start dropping their seed, to see what happens.
I was wondering if it's worth sowing anything like winter rye as a green manure?
I'm about to purchase lots of winter rye, golden flax, daikon radish, and buckwheat for winter cover crops. Any experience with these? Can someone inform me of their uses and what's unique about them? I know flax can be used for textiles and the seeds are full of great oils, but this is garden-scale at this point. Rye is good for grain and for fodder, yes? Daikon and rye good for breaking up clay? And buckwheat also edible... good for anywhere? Lol. Thanks in advance permafolks.
I love daikon. Even if you do not get edible roots, on account of hardpan, you will open corridors down for the water to flow, and bees and children love the flowers. I am also fond of water cress, which takes care of itself well. Rocket is the same or very close to arugula. Arugula may wilt in snow but comes back as soon as it warms, and I love it, especially the flowers. Violets can somewhat get away from you, but they are lovely to have around. Both flowers and greens are edible, and they are quite cold-hardy. Garlic cannot be held down in my Portland garden, even surviving quite cold periods, poking its strong green leaves up. There are many kinds of garlic. Some of them "walk" which is to say, the flowers will make very cute little bulblets, if left to do so. I really like perennial collards, if you can find them. They look like strong palm trees in the winter, and the leaves are good to make minimal-hassle wraps with, if you are into high-fiber, low-carb wraps. I also like mallows to have around, if they are a choice for your area. Common mallow stays close to the ground. There is a small, wild-type strawberry with good though small fruit and bright pink blooms. It is decorative and it will travel. It is called lipstick. I like it a lot. Pineapple sage is not very cold hardy, so if you want a mint choice that will not take you over and that has pretty red blossoms late in the season, I would go for some of this. I am happy to have regular mints around, despite their bad rep for taking over. They do till, and if and when you have to wrestle with them, at least you are pleasantly fragrant afterwards. I like orange mint a lot, but it is out-competed by spearmint, lemon balm, and peppermint. Some of the worts are kind of stickery and not so much fun, but some people like them. I have some motherwort that planted itself, and I let it stay. Some people like docks. I find them rude, but I put up with them. They do send deep roots that help you to keep water on site, I guess. I am in favor of keeping the ground covered. If you have mulch, say a passion vine that will die down, you can cover an area and put potatoes underneath. One Thanksgiving when potatoes ran out, I ran out, pulled up the mulch and harvested a few. I do like to grow potatoes that way or in sacks because I don't like having to dig for them or cutting straight through some pretty ones. The rainbow chards are nice. I like how neon the colors can be. I like that in winter.
If you open the box, you will find Heisenberg strangling Shrodenger's cat. And waving this tiny ad: