Life, it seems, begins with death, as the old is cleared to make way for the new. This is especially true in the seasonal garden. That’s where we’re going to begin this blog again, with the death of last year’s garden.
After the many false warnings, we actually had a hard freeze last night, and the temperature warning alarm in the greenhouse went off at 3am. I closed up the back vent, temporarily, and doubled the electric heat input to its regular winter level of about 5000 btu/hr. Then I loaded in all of the potted plants that were still outside because they had some frost hardiness, but were still in need of heavy frost protection.
Thankfully, all of the sweet potatoes have been dug, the carrots pulled, the most important tomato seeds saved. In the coming week I will collect up more frozen and rotting tomatoes for seed, dig the oca, check for surviving pea pods and Cole crops. Then I will heap up the squash vines in one pile and the tomato vines in another, interspersed each with brown needles, wood chips, and well aged pine needles so that they can begin producing next year’s soil.
I will collect potted perennials in one place to over winter, and potted annuals in another to collect seed and compost the plants and media. I will collect up any remaining tender perennials and woody plants that need minor protection and huddle them together under protection. And the massive winter long cleanup and soil top dressing and amendment project will begin.
With the onset of winter managed, and the seasonal projects begun, it will finally be time to collate plant production data, cross-reference the popularity and sale of different plants and varietials, and close out the books on 2012. It has been a good year. Any year in which I learn something and benefit a few more people is a good year. It has not been the year that I planned for, or the year that I wanted. New and unexpected setbacks this spring spoiled the quality of the plants worse than in any of the last five years that Mid Columbia Gardens has been in business.
It is a foundation to build on, though, as each year before it.
I dread the winter and the long months without my garden, when everything is huddled under ground, under the pond ice, behind the grey bark. I have a tiny island of greenhouse against the wildly fluctuating conditions of our desert winter, and there the only growing things huddle in the short day lengths and cold, though not deadly temperatures. I, too, huddle in my island of warmth, warding off the short, dreary days and cold daily journeys into the outside world.
But amid this death and quiet, the seeds of next year take root. Wonderful things are stirring underneath, preparing for the chance to spring forth into a world new and clean. Next week, when I have finished clearing the work of death to make way, I will tell you about some of them.
Published 11 November 2012, Paul Anguiano