As farmers, we welcome as well as dread the coming of frost. The thought of being able to rest our bodies as well as our soils in the middle of the summer is one of the reasons we know we can keep going until the fall sets in. And yet, when senescence begins and our plants start to slow — then stop — their growth, a bittersweet silence starts filling the growing spaces. Our unique and bountiful growing season, like all seasons, must end.
To have closure as well as hope for the next season, we have taken extra care to put our “beds to sleep.” In general, this entails 1) Clearing annual plant matter out of growing space;
2) Adding a layer of rich compost to the topsoil;
3) Planting any seeds that may need to overwinter;
4) Cover open soil with a cover crop and/or a mulch; and
5)Remove filed materials (i.e. trellises) and re-organize tools in the shed.
This closing procedure was a bit different at each site. For the farm, we added 8 cubic yards of aged, organic compost, removed most of our re-purposed trellises, planted garlic, double-dug a few of our beds that were compacted throughout this last growing season due to spring site construction, and covered all our beds with hay mulch.
For the Diner, we had to close our perennial beds and our annual beds. We decided to add extra wood chip mulch to all of our perennial beds (4-6 inches) to make sure the trees and small edible shrubs’ roots would be well-protected from freezing. We also filled burlap sacks with straw to place them around each edible tree, like insulating pillows, to make sure they would have extra protection. We covered all the annual beds in a light hay mulch, as they were already covered well with a winter cover crop mix.
It took a couple of weeks to make sure all ends were tied up at the Diner and the Farm. But with all the soil covered, we hope our beneficial buddies and soil spirits are warm enough to face even the coldest of winters. We will see what what techniques worked well and what plants come back this spring.