With the bursts of rain and sun, the winter garden is doing very well, and temperatures are above freezing, so we've had some good growth this week. Still, most of my seedlings are very small, and growth is slow. I think, if I were depending entirely upon my garden for year-round produce, I'd have to do the winter garden differently.
I usually start seed in early November. Our first average frost date is December 15; this year our first frost was before Thanksgiving, quite a bit earlier than I'm used to. We barely had the seeds in and the row covers put up before that first frost hit. So the seeds had to germinate in very cold temps, indeed, and I think that has slowed their growth considerably.
What would be ideal, then, is to begin the winter garden in the heat of the October garden, and let it get a good start before the temps begin to fall. I know this, but the problem is, there is always still so much growing in the summer garden in October, It's hard to pull things out before they are done producing.
And then, if you add in crop rotation, which I do, it all gets very confusing. For instance, right now I'm worried about the garlic and potatoes being harvested in time (this spring) to plant tomatoes in those beds. It's all a great big juggle, and sometimes my poor little brain gets all twisted.
I'm thinking of maybe stopping succession planting in the summer, and instead just getting one crop of something before letting the bed go fallow for a while, therefore freeing it up for winter planting. What this means is less produce in the late summer months, which might be ok because my focus could be on tomato and pepper processing in those months, which would make me happy during the winter in another way, as we'd have more produce put up for our cold-weather meals.
This will all take further thinking about. If anyone has experienced this themselves and has some advice, I'd appreciate it.
I spent some time turning compost today. This is not something I have ever done in our smaller bin, but since the mass in the larger bins is astounding, I thought turning it might speed the final processes. What I found was disheartening. After the first top foot, the pile was completely dry. Bone dry. With all the rain we've been getting! So I forked nearly the whole pile over on to another pile, hoping to get it really aerated and exposed to the rain. There is a bunch of totally intact hay from the chicken coop, from a loooong time ago - before I started using sand in the hen house. What does it take to break down hay, I ask you? Anyway I left a small layer, maybe a foot high, in one bin so that it will hopefully decompose quickly. Then the larger pile will just have to sit for a while. A long while, I'm guessing. I suppose if I want compost made faster, I'm going to have to turn it more. Ugh. Not my favorite.
I'll leave you with some pictures of the garden, though it's not that exciting at the moment - just a lot of very small green things. In a month, if the weather continues the way it is now (rainy and mild, with temps in the 40's-50's), there should be a lot more to look at. I did add a little fertilizer to the beds (Dr. Earth Vegetable) since there was no compost to add (sigh) and I figured the rain is probably washing away some nutrients. We'll definitely need to add some store-bought compost to the beds come spring (probably from American Soil).