Falling back today gave us an extra hour of sleep last night and this sunny Seattle weather motivated me to get outside and wrap up the edible gardening season. A little work this time of year will set you up for easy planting in Spring.
Step 1 - Harvest
Hopefully you have been harvesting right along with me this season but now is the time to gather any food left in the garden before we start getting deep frosts. I am finishing up the spinach and arugula and cutting back raspberry canes and hop vines. It is also a great time to cut back any herbs that might still be growing and bring them in too, as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (wink, wink) - they all dry well and are perfect staples to have on hand in the winter kitchen.
Any remaining root crops can stay in the ground until you are ready to eat them. Since we don’t get prolonged freezes in the PNW I leave beets and carrots in the garden and harvest as needed. It is a built in refrigerated storage system! Don’t harvest vegetables if the ground is truly frozen as they won’t have a nice consistency - just wait until they thaw back out before you pull them out of the ground.
Step. 2 - Protect from the elements
Wind, rain and our occassional snow storm can wreak havoc in the garden. Protect your soil by covering beds with a few inches of compost and then cover with another layer of leaves or burlap bags. This will ensure that your rich soil elements are not washed away in a deluge of winter rain. You can also protect other perennial plants with a covering of dried leaves or mulch - I need to protect artichokes and horseradish plants to ensure that they are ready to provide again next year.
Step 3 - Plan Ahead
If you tried your hand at a few edible plants this year or are considering giving it a try next season, there is an easy no-dig preparation technique called “lasagna gardening” (even the name sounds delicious!) Essentially, just like with cooking, you utilize a layering technique to turn a plot of grass or weeds into a nutrient rich bed.
Clear the area of grass and weeds and then lay down a layer of cardboard and newspaper to cover the space. Soak those materials with water or let the rain saturate the space for 1-2 days. Toss in alternating layers of brown (dried leaves/twigs) and green (grass clippings/veggie scraps). Once you have 1-2 feet of materials layered up, dampen that down as well and cover with a final few inch layer of compost.
By Spring you will have a great new bed ready for getting those edible plants going! Here is more information if you want to give lasagna gardening a try - Or let me know and we can do it together!