Living where you grow your own food, there is always something to do. You are either planting, tending, harvesting or if it is the middle of the fall you should be preparing for spring planting. Already, you might ask? Well, yes. In fact, fall is the best time to do so. Soil amendments should be taking place now. So when spring arrives in a few months, you are ready to plant and will not lose growing time preparing a soil that should have been prepared now. Things such as composting, soil amendment, should be done now. Here at the Shikata Homestead, we are off grid. We live a homestead way of life and these are the tips and tricks we can share with those that may be interested in the same things.
There are some things to think about, as well. In order to properly prepare the garden for the spring you need to have some sort of idea what you will be planting and where. Reason being is because certain things grow better in nitrogen rich soil and certain things grow better in acidic soil and such. So by knowing what you will plant will allow you to know what parts of the garden should receive what type of preparation. Didn’t think there was so much involved in growing a garden? Well, actually, preparation is the most important part. After preparing properly your garden can be planted and it will grow very good. Now you can just plow a plot up, toss in some seeds and hope for the best and you will probably grow something.
However, if you want to get the most out of your soil and grow the best garden you can, then it’s best to have some sort of plan. The following items will outline 5 homesteaders tricks to preparing your garden soil for spring planting successfully. These are popular techniques that many gardeners use to their advantage every fall season.
One of the greatest things you can do to prepare your soil for spring planting is, starting now and all through winter throw all your food waste into the garden, where you will be planting next spring. What can be compost? Well, almost anything you throw out. Vegetable scraps, clean out the refrigerator, peelings, old dead plants and garden plant pieces. Dead dried leaves. Just do not throw oils, vines, meat of bones into the compost. This will draw unwanted animal attention.
Add Soil Amendments (Nitrogen etc.)
Adding amendments to the soil is a must. Especially if you grew vegetables that love to strip the soil of nutrients such as potatoes. Certain crops are known to take more than they give to the soil. Therefore, in order to “fix” the soil it is highly important to add the necessary amendments to the soil now so when spring comes, your soil will be ready to go. You may need a soil test to see which amendments are right for you. In areas that we grow potatoes, we will toss in our winter wood ash from the wood stove which puts much needed nitrogen back into the soil in that area. Places where tomatoes were grown usually need a calcium addition. If it has been a considerably rainy year for you, torrential rains have the potential to wash the soil of all nutrients. So the whole garden may need all amendments available. Some people choose to fertilize their soil at this stage as well. You will fertilize again in the spring.
Plow/Till The Soil
Another thing that will need to be done, because it helps with all the amendments and such, is tilling. It is a good practice to till up the soil after all the crops have been harvested because over the season the soil will pack tight. Also this aids the natural ways the soil can fix itself and it aids what ever you toss in the garden to work into the soil better. Try not to walk on it afterwards. Tilling also helps any cover crop you may want to plant, which is a great idea as well! It also breaks up the ground and allows any dead crops to be tilled into the dirt which becomes a great fertilizer.
Plant Cover Crops
Cover crops. This is important and a cool practice to get into. It yield some last minute crops, such as Australian Peas as a cover will give you great tasting greens. A cover crop is a plant that spreads and covers the garden after the harvest is gathered and usually high in nitrogen which is great. Crops such as peas (any type), red clover, wheat, buckwheat, sorghum and rye are very good cover crops. What you need to know are the basics. Cover crops, also called green manure, suppress weeds, build great soil, and help control pests and diseases.Cover crops also are easy to plant and require only simple care to do well. Make sure, before the crop goes to seed, that you mow it down or you will ruin your garden!
Plant Crops To Over Winter
Now after all that is done, you can plant crops that you want to over-winter and get a head start on in spring. In past times, part of homesteading was planting potatoes in 12 inch deep, straw lined, trenches and in spring the potatoes would sprout and grow faster and better resulting in an earlier potato crop. Certain crops will grow over winter and do well. Certain crops such as greens, will become tastier with a frost! We always plant greens such as mustard, turnip and spinach to grow through winter. Its a good time to plant winter wheat too. With a little research for your gardening zone, you can learn what grows well through winter. If you are lucky enough to have some hoop houses, the small ones for row cover, you will be able to grow much more than just greens through winter. Carrots, actually grow well covered through early winter.
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