This is a really busy time of year. Right now I have garden produce filling the house every day. (That’s why I am a few days late getting this posted.)
But I love it. This is when the summer garden is at its best. But it can also be a frantic time trying to get all the food put away before it spoils.
The process of preserving garden produce usually takes 4-6 weeks. But now that we are coming to the end of our harvest, we’ll want to focus on two things: Root cellaring and putting your garden to bed for the winter.
This article gives a good background on how to create and use a root cellar. The simplest root cellar is just a hole in the ground with a bit of straw for insulation and moisture control. There are lots of plans online for root cellars made with and old fridge or freezer or even just a plastic trash can.
If you’re like me and live with the frost line is deep and the water table is high, building a root cellar may be a challenge. You might try an above ground root cellar like this one.
I store my root crops in our unheated (and unfinished) basement. It’s not perfect. Ideally the temperature should be 35°-40°. In the dead of winter the temps in my basement are cold enough,
but in early fall and spring it may get 45°-50°. This means I have to check on the food more frequently and use it right away if there are any signs of spoiling.
Put the garden to bed
After everything is in, it’s time to put your garden to bed. Fall is the time to prepare the soil for next year. Remove dead vines, especially tomato and peppers, as these will harbor disease and insects if not burned or composted. Put spent or dying plants into your compost pile and turn the pile every 2-3 days between now and hard freeze.
But don’t leave your garden soil completely exposed. Wind and snow erosion will deplete your soil if it is left completely exposed. Instead, plant a cover crop or add compost and other soil amendments. When you add compost and soil amendments in the fall, in addition to adding a layer of protection from erosion, it also gives the soil’s microorganisms all
winter long to incorporate those nutrients back into the soil. This ensures that your garden soil is packed with vital nutrients come next spring. Some crops actually help improve the soil if they overwinter in your garden.
If you take just a few steps to winterize your garden you will give next year’s gardening season an extra boost.