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A New Plot for Storage Crops

Back in spring this year, we had several last minute changes to our land base.  It was quite stressful at the time, but turned out for the better in the end.  One of the changes was the acquisition of this new plot in the Mount Royal area.  It's a bit far from home, but we happen to have another plot on the same block and that makes the travel time worthwhile.  The property is owned by a very pleasant older lady who has filled the backyard with vegetables for the last 50 years.  Over the past few summers, she hasn't been able to keep up with the work though, so she invited us to takeover.

Since we only gained access to this space late in the spring, we couldn't use any intensive crop relays here.  It was, however, a good opportunity to assimilate a bunch of our fall storage crops in one plot.  The full sun exposure made it a great location for winter squash. 

As usual, the space was full of weeds when we started working on it.  Ideally, I would have time to tarp the whole plot for a year to kill all of the weeds, but since we were short for time, I towed our tiller out there and turned in all of the weeds.  They had all gone to seed the previous summer so there were weed seeds everywhere!  The best strategy for managing weeds is to keep the surface of the soil covered at all times, because only the weed seeds at the surface will germinate and survive.  Therefore, I used landscape fabric around the perimeter and covered the growing beds with a thick layer of compost.  If this compost isn't turned in to the subsoil, it can act as a weed suppressant too.

We use a standard bed size at all of our plots and the layout here seemed to work best with a strip of these beds down the middle which left room for a few additional beds along the sides.  Since the side beds offered more space for sprawling plants, we filled this space with winter squash, while most of the centre beds were planted with fall carrots and parsnips.  Potatoes would have been a good fall crop to include here too, but unfortunately, potato beetles are out of control in this neighbourhood due to years of poor management by the other gardeners on the block.  We won't be growing potatoes here any time soon. 

The photo above is from late August.  As you can see, the plot filled in quite nicely, despite the late start.  The weeds tested us, especially in the carrot beds, but we stayed on top of them.  Since we have no need to till the plot again, the weed pressure should decrease every year from now on.

Throughout the month of September, we've been digging out the carrots one bed at a time and hauling squash home from here to cure.  Since it is all being transported by bike trailer with a maximum capacity of about 200lbs, this harvesting process is nice to carry out over an extended period.  Thankfully, the frost has held off for us until this week.  The carrot harvest shown below is from one bed.  This particular bed yielded pretty well but those carrots don't last long around here.  That's about the amount that all of our carrot loving members will munch through in one week!


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