The gardening season is over, at least for us here in Colorado. Our September snowfall put an early end to beans, tomatoes, and summer squash. Hardier veggies (and, unfortunately, most weeds) survived, but haven’t grown since the weather turned cool. Carrots are waiting under their mulch layer for winter harvesting; garlic has been harvested and next year’s crop replanted.
With much shoveling and sneezing (I’m allergic to chickens), the broken-down, soiled straw in the chicken coop has been distributed over my garden beds and dug in, adding nutrients and organic matter to enrich my soil. A thicker layer of newer straw mulch keeps my earthworms happy and protects against insect pests that are waiting lay their eggs underground.
It’s finally time to lay down the shovel, step back and take stock. How did the garden do this year? What did we have too much of (not zucchini, for once)? What were we lacking? How did the new varieties I trialed compare to my tried-and-true favorites? What should I do the same next year? What should I change?
- This year I was out of town when it was time to side-dress the garlic with extra nitrogen. As a result, the cloves were disappointingly small. Next year I vow to get that chore done. We love garlic.
- We were hit by significant hail at least six times this summer. Next year I will try yet again to invent a way to protect my most vulnerable crops.
- Propping the door open on my tiny green house proved to be a better way to keep it from overheating, and the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers planted inside thrived. Sadly, the chard succumbed to a variety of insects who breezed right through the open doorway. Next year I’ll plant more peppers, using the space where the chard was growing.
This is the best time of year to think through your veggie garden and decide what you will do next year. Your successes and failures (and aching muscles!) are still fresh in your mind, and the seed catalogs with their tempting photos haven’t yet arrived. I find that when I wait until late winter to make my garden plans, I am so starved for growing leaves that I aspire to a bigger garden than I can realistically handle by myself. In October, I am still somewhat sane.
With my memory not quite so precise as it used to be, I write everything down. Garden journals are a popular way to keep track of frost dates, harvests, and which tomato variety wowed everyone at the dinner table. Calendars work well too, especially the ones with room for plenty of notes. It doesn’t matter how you keep track, so long as you can find the information when you are looking it for next year.
I’m actually glad that winter is coming. Gardening, though enjoyable, is hard work. I’m ready for a break.