The Fall Garden (aka garden post #4)

Here in Maine, “getting your garden in” is a one time thing (done on Memorial Day weekend, always)–you plant it, weed it, pray for rain (but not too much), and then you harvest it, make some pickles, can your beans and tomatoes and till under all the dead and dying plants and weeds–by which time, if you are normal, you are heartily sick of the whole process, and even if you’re not really looking forward to another Maine winter, at least the garden is done.

I am decidedly not normal (by the standards above, anyway)!  Our garden is almost a year-round affair, and nothing can make me feel more smug than to harvest a cornucopia of greens in April, when most of the local gardens are still muddy morasses–assuming the snow is even gone.

We have always pushed the season at both ends–starting all sorts of seeds indoors, and using cold frames and covers to keep the plants alive and producing as long as possible. Then, 3 years ago, we put up our first hoop house. It covers 3 beds, and it is moved each fall to a different three beds. During the summer months, we trellis tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and eggplants inside it, and then it is moved in late October to cover the three beds that are the subject of this post. One of these beds grows the early season peas, another has the garlic and shallots, and this year, the middle bed contains lettuce, herbs and summer squash.

Once these early crops are harvested, the beds are replanted to cold-hardy vegetables that will grow and thrive until the ground freezes inside the hoop–usually well into January. But there is a bonus I discovered the first year we had the hoop–once things start to thaw, a lot of the plants that looked pretty sad regrew from the undamaged crowns–a good reason to be generous with straw. It is amazing to step into the hoop in late March when everything outside is brown and find oneself in a warm, green, moist Eden.

So, here’s where it all starts–planning what and where to plant:

 

Garlic and shallots (died back so completely you can’t see them in this photo) ready to be harvested –really, there is more than just weeds in this bed!:

Garlic pulled, dirt hosed off:

Garlic, cleaned and hung to cure:

Shallots drying:

Cleared beds, weeded, freshly spread with compost, planted, labeled and watered (these 3 beds, between the corn uphill to the left, and the hoop downhill to the right, will be this winter’s hoop site):

 

To be continued in a month or so …..

 

 

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