Outside Work

Saturday was a beautiful, busy day. The sky was a brilliant blue, the air was crisp, and the sun was warm and bright. The trees are showing their many hues with leaves falling gently, crunching under-foot. It was a magnificent fall day.

I managed to get the outside list complete. I separated and moved comfrey. Now it has a permanent bed along the northwestern edge of an existing 2025 sq. foot garden plot. The comfrey we have planted is the Bocking 14 so hopefully it won’t take over the plot. My experience with the Bocking 14 is that the plants grow huge but the root stay clumped thus reducing spread. However, anywhere there is even a tiny piece of root, expect a plant there in the spring.

Only three feet in from the comfrey is a brand new pole bean area. It’s an area large enough to produce enough beans for the entire county. It won’t be used for bean only, though. This area will also grow sugar snaps peas, radish, and onions in early spring; green beans and cucumber in the summer; and finally turnips and more radishes in the fall. I only hope that just three feet from the comfey is far enough. My idea was to have little-to-none space for weeds to grow into the path since this will be a path that gets no tilling due to the comfrey roots.

I turned the compost pile adding a little more nitrogen (green plant matter) as I went. Our compost piles stay very wet in fall and winter and have to be turned regularly. I continue to add waste to the pile throughout the winter at each turn because it seems to keep it a little drier. As soon as the weather warms in the spring, I stop adding stuff (news print, kitchen scraps, dried leaves, etc) and the pile cooks down in no time making fresh compost for the planting beds in the spring. During summer months, compost piles cook down very rapidly. No additional matter is added once the piles are built but water has to be monitored as our summers can be very dry.

The strawberry bed was covered with a light layer of dried grass clippings. I’ve learned that strawberries are very resilient and actually do pretty good in our winter months. My first winter with strawberries I learned not to mulch too heavy because the thick mulch kept the ground very wet resulting in root rot. When I uncovered the plants the following February many of them had already perished. The ideal way to keep strawberries over winter for us would be to mulch the ground lightly with straw and then protect the plant with a row cover. I think they would do pretty good this way, but I haven’t had the time or money to try it yet.

I pulled grass from around the blueberry bushes and marked the area where 12 new bushes will go next February. We have two variety of rabbit-eyes blueberries planted ~ Tifblue and Climax. The Climax produces an abundance of small berries mid summer. The taste is okay but not my favorite. Climax is a great pollinator for other varieties. Tifblue produced large, sweet, juicy berries starting mid spring and lasting through mid summer. Tifblue is my favorite. We harvested blueberries for two months last summer. This year we’ll set out eight more Tifblues and four Climax. Rabbiteye blueberries love our naturally acidic soil making them incredibly easy to grow. Making sure the plants have adequate water early spring while they are setting their fruit is just about as much work that goes into them. An occasional pruning may be necessary, too.

We harvested a lot of turnips yesterday, they are so tender and sweet. Mmm. Today I’ll throw a few in a stew. I feel that a lot was accomplished and I’m satisfied.

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