Yesterday we finished up the last work on putting the garden to bed for the winter. Whew. Even though we had a long, late fall the fates kept getting in the way of the project.
Hubby has spent any spare time he's had for the past week getting all the poultry pens and our little chicken house cleaned out, lined with fresh bedding and ready for winter. He took the composted materials on the floor of each structure out to spread on the raised garden beds and field garden. We'll let it sit there until spring when it will be tilled in.
Each year we wait until after about two good hard frosts to mulch the strawberry plants for the winter. Yesterday morning was the second one (really late for us this year) so we deemed it time to get that job done.
Up here where we usually have lots of sunshine in the winter (although temps can go down to 30 below), not providing a thick covering for the berries means that they experience a surface thawing from the bright daylight sunshine, and then freezing when the sun goes down. This constant freezing and thawing is harmful to the shallow rooted plants so the mulch we provide doesn't give protection from the cold as much as keeping them at a more constant temperature with shade to keep the direct sun off them.
Straw has always been our choice for mulching the strawberries but we've been avoiding purchasing the straw bales we needed this year because it's going for $5.95 a bale in our area. Ouch. We have a good supply of oat straw which is perfect for poultry bedding but it's full of oat seeds which would cause an awful weed problem (in the form of a healthy stand of oats!) in the strawberry patch come spring if we used some of that for mulch.
Since our bad wind storm a couple of weeks ago, we've been cutting downed trees (many of them evergreens), chunking up the wood that's big enough to burn, and hauling branches to a big pile out in our little hay field to burn after we get a couple of inches of snow on the ground.
My uber-smart husband had a flash of genius yesterday morning. He suggested we use some of our copious quantity of evergreen branches to mulch the strawberries this year. Hmmm. Well, they do like a slightly acidic soil. We grabbed Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening off the shelf and sure enough, they even suggested using evergreen boughs for mulch!
Okay, back out to the field where we'd JUST FINISHED HAULING THE LAST OF THE BRANCHES for the burn pile. (Geesh, if only we were just a teensy bit smarter.)
We filled the garden cart as full as we could and I think it took us only four or five (or seven or eight) trips to bring enough boughs back up to the strawberry patch.
Here the berries are about one-half covered.
And here the job is done, completed, finished. Now if we don't get another terrific wind storm that could blow away the boughs before a nice snowfall to weigh the boughs down for the winter, we'll be home free.
Good feeling to have the garden completely ready for winter. Now it can start to snow and pretty up our very drab, gray November landscape.