Saturday, November 20, 2010

Preparing for Winter

We took advantage of the unusually warm weather last weekend to finish up most of the garden and yard cleanup. The sun was out and the temperatures were quite warm for November, high 50s on Friday and mid 60s on Saturday.

First on our list was gathering and shredding the leaves in our yard. The bulk of this was completed with the lawn mower and some strategic mowing that gathered up the shredded leaves into a pile. Then the pile was raked up and used to mulch the garlic bed:

Raspberry bed:

The rest of the shredded leaves were added to the compost bin. We definitely have to build a new compost bin next year. This one is falling apart and probably won't make it through the winter:

After most of the leaves were cleaned up, we moved to the front part of the yard to tend to the ground surrounding the apple trees. It was a great year for apples. Too bad ours are not edible and mostly ended up on the ground:

Our property came with seven overgrown apple trees. At first, they produced only a few apples among their tangled branches. Over the years, we have trimmed and fertilized them. All but one tree responded really well and began increasing the amount of fruit produced each year. This year the size of the apples also increased.

It’s almost impossible to grow apples without some sort fungicide and insecticide spray regimen to eliminate the various worms, insects, molds, mildews, and other diseases. Not only do I have a difficult time accepting the fact that I have to spray the trees, I also have difficulty sticking to a schedule. So each year as the apple production increases, we eat none. At least the deer are fed well.

I am hoping next year will be different. I have all winter to research organic or low spray methods. Then I can develop a schedule and stick to it so hopefully we can enjoy eating apples next fall. Any links, book, or advice would be greatly welcomed.

To start off right, all the old diseased apples that fell from the trees needed to be removed. First we used a leaf blower to blow the leaves leaving behind the apples. Then we used snow shovels to scoop up the hundreds of pounds of rotten apples into a cart and dumped them deep into the woods so the deer can still eat as many as they want.

Other chores accomplished last weekend included removing the solar mulch from the in ground gardens giving the soil a chance to breath. Storing the rest of the growing pots, self-watering containers, and gardening tools into the shed for the winter. We also decided to remove the wooden trellis uprights along the square foot gardens and store them in the shed hoping the wood will last a little longer out of the winter elements.

Finally, a peek under the row cover shows the Pak Choi, Chinese Cabbage, Swiss Chard, and Scallions have mostly recovered from the slug and caterpillar damage from earlier this fall and are showing some growth. I am hoping they will continue to develop beneath the row cover: 


  1. The leaf harvest looks good! Fruit trees are truly a tough thing for organic gardening. Dormant oils and fungicides that are relatively benign are available and if applied timely are quite effective. Doing some homework and getting a schedule in place will probably make all the difference for you. It sounds like they are happy trees under your care though and lucky you to inherit mature producing trees on your property!

  2. Leaves make the best mulch, and it looks like you had alot of them! I hear ya on the compost bins falling apart - mine are starting to show signs of deterioration as well.
    Having fruit trees is a real pain, because you literally have to spray every week during certain times of the year. The plum curculio is my biggest problem....

  3. You know, I was just thinking of getting out there and blowing the leaves off of my beds. Maybe I'll leave them after all.

  4. It must feel good to have the yard cleaned up and ready for winter. I still have a day or two of work left to do out there. I was going to do it this weekend. But, Thanksgiving dinner was moved to our home!!! Yeah!! So, I'm doing some much needed cleaning around here.

  5. Laura: “Leaf harvest” he he…. I guess it IS a harvest of sort, isn’t it? Gosh I hope to be able to develop a spray schedule for the apple trees that I can feel comfortable with. I know that it is lucky that I acquired such a gift with the mature trees when I purchased this property. It is such a waste to not be able to utilize the fruit from these trees.

    EG: The compost bin came with the property and I intended on replacing it several years ago but just didn’t. I suspect that by winter’s end, the bin will have collapsed and I will have no choice but to rebuild it. The spray schedule for fruit trees is also dependent upon the weather…. rainy days were the issue this year that screwed up our schedule. Next thing we knew we were behind schedule.

    Ribbit: The leaves shown in the pictures above that were added to the garlic and raspberry bed for winter protection. Any that end up in the garden beds will be tilled in come spring and only add to the organic matter in the soil.

    Robin: Oh, dear! Definitely, Thanksgiving preparations trump yard and garden cleanup. Hopefully, you will be able to use some garden produce for your meal.