Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Garden Chores


For our family, fall seems to be the busiest time in the garden. There is so much to finish and not to mention preparing the beds for winter is a job in itself. I've found myself waking up excited to tidy up and get Sage outside for some crisp fall fun. This season we have harvested and dried numerous herbs including peppermint, rosemary, marjoram, sage,and basil. We have trimmed the perennials and cleaned out some of the beds, as well as harvested potatoes, which is always a favorite- like hunting treasure!. We do still need to harvest rose hips though. Amidst it all , the work has left me honoring the cycle of life through birth,growth and death, and appreciating the root and soil folks doing their work below the soil for winter. Today we planted garlic, which is a fun chore because you get to reap the benefits during the following summer. Here's a quick tutorial on how to plant garlic for anyone who may need a few tips:

First, it is important to moisten the soil a lot- saturate it a few times before preparing your bed. Also separate single bulbs from the larger one, since you will only be planting a single one at a time. You can leave the skins on. Some of my favorite varieties are Georgia fire, Siberian, chisnook red, and elephant is fun for the kids because it gets huge

Since the soil has had vegetables growing in it all season, I add a few handfuls of fresh compost to the area I will be planting to enrich the soil and help maintain moisture throughout the winter. I work it in about 3-6 inches with a shovel and then rake the area I will be planting flat.
Then I use the handle of the shovel as a dibble tool (since I do not own a dibble) to make 2-3 in. holes every 4-6 in. I then sprinkled the area with an organic fertilizer (5 5 5) because garlic appreciates the added nutrients.

                  Next, take the garlic bulbs and insert them into the hole with the flatter side down and pointy side up, skins on, leaving about 1 in. below the soil surface. Cover hole and repeat. If your hole is too deep, just fill it in beforehand.
Once all the bulbs are planted, mulch with 3-5 inches straw and water well. One of the first signs of spring is when your garlic begins to pop through the mulch. It is such a wonderful surprise! The scapes will form first, before the flowers bloom and can be eaten in stir frys and salads. You can harvest the full bulbs, which will form around a single stem mid-late July.

Sometimes I feel like there is not enough time to get everything accomplished, but in the garden, I appreciate the necessity of timeliness and following the cycles of nature through the seasons becomes a ritual. Gardening is one of the most precious ways to be in touch with the simple earthly rhythms abound, so chores, are actually the gifts that attune us and help us appreciate the abundance of the season.