Preparing your Garden for Winter – 4 Easy Steps

wheelbarrow

It’s the end of the growing season in many places. Here in Southern Oregon we have already had frost several times. Ending your gardening season and preparing your garden area for next year is just as important as the daily maintenance. Here are some things you should think about when fall comes.

1.  Fertilize – I use my own organic compost for fertilizing. While I do mix some in the soil after I have harvested my plants you want to make sure you stop applying your fertilizer about a month before your final harvest. This will help your plants to focus on vegetables and fruit that are already set on the plants. You should also pinch off any new growth on the tops of your plants.

2.  Harvest – Before harvesting your food for the year make sure you have a plan for storing it. There is nothing worse than losing all your hard work because you are not prepared to handle it. Make sure you are ready to can, freeze, or provide cool storage for your root crops. This is a good time to share labor with your friends and family. If you will have excess you can share it with them or donate it to a local food bank.

3.  Protect – Fall is the time to protect your soil. You can do this by adding a deep later of compost, leaves or other material or by planting a cover crop. You want something that will be incorporated into the soil over the winter and provide nutrients as well as protecting from erosion. If you have chickens – letting them into your garden area before you cover it for the year can be beneficial as well. Chickens will eat insects and their eggs to help reduce infestations in the spring.

4.  Plant – Fall is the time to plant your spring bulbs and some flower mixes. Many of them need to be in the ground over the winter to bloom well in the spring. You can also divide your perennial plants. If you are planting seeds make sure they go in the ground 6 weeks before your first frost.

These are just some things to keep in mind as winter approaches. Do you have a different approach for an area with a longer growing season?  Please add your tips below in the comments and be sure to share this post!

~Jessica

Jessica Wick is one of our very own E3Live employees, she enjoys teaching her three children about organic gardening, has a horse, a goat, 2 dogs and a flock of chickens that also love E3Live!

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Straw Bale Gardening – Grow a Garden Almost Anywhere!

strawbale garden      100_1668 tomato

Have you ever wanted to build a raised bed for your garden but didn’t have the materials or enough money? Gardening in straw bales is a cheaper and eco-friendly alternative. It may sound unusual but it’s extremely effective and reduces the amount of labor it takes to garden.

Straw is cost effective: Straw bales are cheap. You can get them from your local feed store or farmer. Straw (not hay you feed to animals) is animal bedding and usually ranges from four to six dollars for a large bale. They should be yellow in color and free of mold.

It is Versatile: Location is actually one of the easiest things to work out when you are using straw. You can put a straw bale almost anywhere the sun shines for most of the day. If you do not have any room in your yard you can even put them on the concrete of your driveway. You can also stack them and grow your garden vertically. Simply plant your plants on the sides of the bales instead of the tops.

Make sure to prepare your straw: Place your straw in the desired location (make sure you don’t want to move it because they are heavy when wet!) You want to put a sprinkler on them for the day and thoroughly soak them. Be sure the leave the strings holding them together on. One the second day cover the top of your bale with a high nitrogen source (I use my own composted manure from chickens) and gently water it into the straw. Let it sit dry the next day and then continue to water your straw for the next one to two weeks. Within a few days your straw should start to decompose on the inside and heat up. Do not plant your plants until the straw goes through its hot cycle and starts to cool down (about two weeks).

It is Simple: Planting is easy. You can top your straw with some soil and direct sow your seeds or you can transplant your plants. Use a screwdriver to pull out enough straw for your root ball. Make it somewhat larger and add some extra soil to give the roots an easy place to grow. I use the extra straw I pulled out as a water saving mulch around the base of the plants. Water heavily until your plants are well established. Then you should be able to water every few days. Straw stores an amazing amount of water!

You should be able to grow three large plants or up to eight smaller ones per bale. You can also plant herbs on the sides. Straw makes its own compost as it breaks down but you should gently fertilize through the season. Planting in straw means you can also plant sooner and grow slightly longer if you have a short growing season. The straw generates heat as it breaks down. A simple frame with plastic cover will give you a self-heating miniature greenhouse. At the end of the year cut the strings on your straw and add it to the compost pile.

Straw is an extremely easy way to garden in tight spaces. They are raised off the ground for easy access; virtually eliminating the need to weed, are cheap, and good for the environment. What do you use for unique gardening techniques? We would love to hear about them in the comments section.

~Jessica

Jessica Wick is one of our very own E3Live employees, she enjoys teaching her three children about organic gardening, has a horse, a goat, 2 dogs and a flock of chickens that also love E3Live!

Save Space with Vertical gardening

 

vertical garden

 

Many of you may have heard lately of something called vertical gardening. It’s quickly rising in popularity, especially in homes with limited space. Vertical gardening is growing up instead of out with your plants. It is a wonderful way to save time, space, and effort!

Vertical gardening is a great way to save time as well as your back (from weeding). When you grow plants in raised planters you use less soil. You only need enough for the plants to grow in. This means you have less (if any) weeds. Another bonus is you do not have to bend over. You can plant things as high as you would like. Plants off the ground require much less care than a traditional garden. You can even set up a drip irrigation system to save additional time. Something else to consider is that containers are less accessible to pests and animals that enjoy eating your plants.

Gardening up instead of out saves a lot of space in your yard, or if you don’t have a yard it offers you options for growing that you may not have thought of. There are many choices for vertical garden containers, including using pots, planters or recycling materials like old gutters. Anything you can stack or hang will work. Many crops, such as lettuce, require very minimal soil depth to grow. You can use anything from a wall, fence or balcony for your garden. Look for plants that are “bush” variety. They will grow better in your containers. Some trailing vegetables like squash will climb a trellis with proper training. This also reduces the chance of rot.

There are some things to keep in mind if you are growing items in containers. The first is that they run out of nutrients faster. Keeping on top of fertilizing will keep your plants growing well. Making your own compost will provide a source of nutrition and also help with moisture control. Plants in containers will also dry out faster so make sure you water more often. Being off the ground they are often exposed to higher heat levels. Plant appropriately for the area your planters are hanging in. Pick shadier spots for sensitive plants.

Vertical gardening can be an extremely inexpensive way to provide food and splashes of color to your landscape. It utilizes areas that you may not have considered for planting before. Growing some of your own food reduces your impact on the planet. The food you grow is also healthier (make sure you grow organic) and fresher than any supermarket. If you have extra produce offer it for sale or give it away to your friends and family. You could also learn to can and preserve your own food!

Do you have a space or time saving gardening tip? We’d love to see it in the notes section below.

 

~Jessica

Jessica Wick is one of our very own E3Live employees, she enjoys teaching her three children about organic gardening, has a horse, a goat, 2 dogs and a flock of chickens that also love E3Live!

Gardening For Animals With Your Children

 

Brooke

 

 

Planting a garden for the animals? I wasn’t sure about my oldest daughter’s idea, but I had promised her a space in our garden. Getting kids outside and active is important – giving them their own project builds their confidence! Now is the time of year we start our seedlings in the greenhouse (or inside the house). I thought she might like to plant some flowers or grow some special foods for herself. Instead, she wanted to grow some food for our variety of animals.

Brooke is obsessed with the animals we have running around. At eight years old, she would rather clean the horse stall, feed the chickens, or milk the goats than go to a park to play. She can happily spend hours feeding grass to the animals and making them “special treats” of her own creation with weeds, flowers and leaves. So for Brooke, it’s a labor of love to plant a garden and tend it for the animal – especially with our short and erratic growing season in Southern Oregon.

Her logic is definitely sound. I spend a lot of time educating them on how and why we garden and grow things for ourselves. Our organic garden is free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It’s also the freshest produce you can find! Each time we work in the garden we discuss why we grow our own food and why it is healthier. They learn about each type of plant and how to grow as well as harvest it. The ability to go out in the yard and pick vegetables as you need them is both rewarding and delicious. We will also preserve our excess in the fall, and sell what we cannot use.

So this year our animals will also benefit from some extra goodies. We planted carrots, corn, cucumbers, and squash for them to eat. In return for the fresh and nutritional additions to their diet, we will be given eggs, milk and of course companionship! Plus, I have one proud little girl that will spend many hours weeding and tending to her garden. The physical activity will keep her busy this summer, and the pride in her work and responsibility will set her up for a lifetime of success.

I encourage everyone to get their kids involved in activities like this. They are low cost, and children love to be involved with anything that gets them covered in dirt. Happy, healthy, and active children tend to follow the patterns set in their childhood for most of their life. Not only is this a great bonding time, but a way to encourage a lifetime of healthy behavior.

What gardening ideas do you do with your kids?  Tell us below!

~Jessica

Jessica Wick is one of our very own E3Live employees, she enjoys teaching her three children about organic gardening, has a horse, a goat, 2 dogs and a flock of chickens that also love E3Live!