Q: "What is the best way to put a vegetable garden 'to bed' for the winter?"
A: Heather Mason, farmer, Stonewall Farm, Keene, New Hampshire
It is hard to think about winter while we are enjoying the bounty of warm season vegetables. First I would say, don't give up on all of your vegetables just yet! Many cold-tolerant vegetables such as kale, chard, carrots and broccoli, can be harvested well into fall and even winter with a little protection. For the tender heat lovers, however, it may be time. Pull out old plants and compost them. If your tomatoes had disease or fungus, you will want to dispose of them separately, not in the compost pile. Next spread some compost on your garden. Give your cleared space a little fluff with a pitchfork. Don't flip the soil, just wiggle the fork around to loosen compacted soil and get a little air in. Next, rake it smooth and seed half of it with an annual cover crop. I like to mix buckwheat, oats and tillage radish. This will keep your soil covered and protected for the rest of the season then die off in the winter leaving behind a beautiful mat of mulch you can plant right through next spring. It will help control weeds and retain moisture all while breaking down and contributing to the soil. With the other half of your cleared area, seed some cold hardy leafy greens! There’s still plenty of time to grow baby lettuce, arugula, spinach, mustard and tatsoi for some beautiful late fall salads.
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