Thursday, December 5, 2013

Winter Growing

I'm still answering questions from my post on Monday and will try to get around to most of them. They are calling for the weather to worsen and we got a dusting of snow this morning. Our first snow of the season.  I thought I would continue to answer your questions. 

AnonymousDecember 2, 2013 at 11:06 PMI've learned so much from you and I want to thank you for your recent post on canning turkey broth. Do you grow anything indoors during the winter? I just started a flat of microgreens. I would also like to see your quilting. :)

I finish up with my fall garden usually about the middle to the end of October. After that the gardens are disked for winter unless they are no till and then I rest. I have freezers of food and pantries of food that we consume. I include canned greens and frozen salads such as freezer slaw which satisfies our need for greens most years. During the winter months from November to the end of March we consume preserved foods and I buy the occasional head of lettuce from the supermarket and I buy citrus in season because I cannot produce my own in this climate. Our fruit consumption consists of frozen blackberry, strawberry and rhubarb dishes. Canned peaches and canned applesauce round this out. 

I do not use row covers and such to extend the season because to be honest by October I am tired and ready for the season to end. I own a small greenhouse but took it down several years ago because it was being shaded by a tree that had grown to shade it over the decade it had been there. It was dismantled with the intentions to move it to a sunnier location. As of yet we have not done that. 

In January I will start my onions indoors to allow them 3 months growth before they are set outside. We like to set them out with the potatoes and peas around St. Patrick's Day.   

My other seeds are then started around March first such as cabbage and broccoli. By April I am usually picking asparagus and lettuce. Other than seedlings I rest during the winter and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Hope that answers your question. 

Leslie FergusonDecember 3, 2013 at 12:22 PM
A question for you on putting your gardens to bed until next season. Do you ever burn leaves or debris as a way to "help" your garden soil? For the past couple of years we've layered our garden spot with leaves in the fall and then turned them under in the spring. A friend suggested burning the pile to "help" the soil. I would love to have your opinion on it!
By the way...I'm working on my first quilt top and loving every minute of it!

To answer the first part of your question as my crops come out I plant green manure or cover crops. I have lots of field pea seeds and they grow ell. I plant them after a crop and let them grow until they bloom and then mow them down and disc them into my soil to rot over the winter. 

I also add lots of compost and natural straws and manures. 

As I pick an area sometimes I also will throw some straw or even plants down and allow them to rot into the soil until winter smothering out weeds and improving the soil. Any large stuff that does not rot I use a pitch fork and pick up and move to the compost and disk for the winter. 

On my no till gardens I simply mulch. As you can see in the picture above with both straw and leaves. The green grass in the picture is wheat that has sprouted from the straw which we pull and feed the chickens. 

As to your question on burning leaves lime and ashes both raise pH, reducing acidity. I think people get confused because lime the fruit is very acidic, while lime the crushed stone is just the opposite. It used to confuse me, anyway.

Lime (calcium carbonate) also adds calcium, which could be beneficial to calcium rich plants like tomatoes and broccoli. Ashes add potassium and phosphorus, two other important nutrients. (Most commercial fertilizers are a mixture of nitrogen, potassium, and
phosphorus.) So ideally, you'd want to apply both, or get a soil test and see which one would be more beneficial for your soil.

Soil generally becomes more acidic over time, especially when nitrogen fertilizers, including manure and green mulch, are used. So you're much more likely to need to raise the pH of your soil than lower it. I occasionally add lime to my soil in the spring. 

If you plan to grow acid-loving plants like potatoes, you may want to leave a section of the garden un-limed or -ashed, so those plants can have the acid soil they prefer.

My parents always threw their fireplace wood ashes in the gardens occasionally for that purpose. Wood ashes are also useful when placed in the chicken pens as the hens will dust in them keeping down mites. 

 By the way Leslie that quilting stuff is addictive! 

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter


  1. Great post! I bought my grandmothers house this summer and tilled a spot for my garden this fall. Once it was rid of grass I planted clover for the winter. In the spring, once it gets high enough i'll mow it down and till it under.
    In the house there is a wood stove that we've used several times so far and I've been saving wood ash for the garden, but had not thought about using it for the chickens. Thank you from me and my hens for the tip.

  2. Hi there, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

  3. We've piled high with leaves and small twigs/branches most of the garden spot. We'll burn this first pile and then allow the next round of leaves to compost. I've laid claim to the ashes from a number of wood stoves and plan to add those as well.

    I wish you knew how very much your blog has helped our efforts in the garden, with our fruit beds, and in canning/preserving food. Thank you, thank you, and thank you!!

    On the quilt front, I'm hoping to make my quilt sandwich this weekend and possibly start quilting. The top is a jelly roll strip quilt and went together pretty fast. I know what I'm giving family members for Christmas next year...Good Lord willing!!!


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