As soon as our weekly harvesting routines wrapped up this fall, work shifted focus to fall clean up duties. There are a few critical tasks that need to get done every fall after our last crops are harvested and before the ground freezes. They are not complicated tasks but since weather always plays a major factor at this time of year, I am always a little on edge until everything is completed. The three big tasks are to plant next year's garlic crop, mulch our strawberry and garlic beds to protect agains winter kill, and spread compost over at least one plot so we have land ready to plant as soon as the snow melts.
The task of planting garlic is always churns up mixed emotions, because in order to continue to improve our garlic crop year after year, we have to plant the biggest and best garlic heads from the current year. As members, you never get to see these giant heads, and we don't even get to eat them. We just break them up into individual cloves and stick them back in the ground. That makes planting garlic one of the more challenging practices of delayed gratification in farming. For much more specific garlic planting instructions, just head to our online Classroom and type "garlic" in the search bar. You'll find all the details waiting for you there.
The next task of mulching of our garlic and strawberry beds is important in order to protect these overwintered crops from irregular changes in temperature. The ground around garlic and strawberries will both freeze solid eventually and that's ok. What we don't want is for it to freeze and thaw repeatedly. An early thaw followed by a late freeze could trick the plants into emerging from dormancy only to be damaged by unexpected cold temperatures. Once spring temperatures stabilize, the mulch can be removed to allow the ground to warm up giving the strawberries and garlic permission to begin growing again.
The final task to sneak in before the snow was some compost spreading. It feels great to clean up the beds and top them all with a fresh layer of dark compost before things freeze up for winter. I can't see the compost now thanks to the snow, but I know it's under there and ready to enrich our growing beds come next season. Access to compost can be unpredictable in spring for our earliest plantings so having this task completed gives me a lot of peace of mind as I watch the plots settle into their winter slumber. I am now confident we'll be able to get off to another quick start come spring.