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Putting the beds to rest

I absolutely love living in Michigan where each season is welcomed, and greatly anticipated. Michigan puts on a great show for each season and there are loads of activities for each. The Winter is perfect for making a hearty stew and watching a great movie, the snowfalls are beautiful, and I love building a snowman with my grandkids. Spring is welcomed with open arms, the chirping birds signal that winter is over, and the beautiful spring flowers blooming after the cold winter means it's time to start planting seeds for the summer garden. Summer is awesome in Michigan as we are surrounded by the Great Lakes and loads of beaches, and the garden is growing and producing a bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables. Then there is Fall, and it's my favorite season of them all. Man, the colors on the trees are stunning, oranges, reds, yellows, and the last to change trees that are still green popping out among the vibrant colors. The crispy sounds of the leaves crunching as I walk in the yard, a crisp breeze blows, and I inhale the cool air deeply as I wrap my jacket a little tighter. I always feel a renewed sense of ambition in the fall, a deep desire to get everything in order and back on track.

Running my homestead in the fall means that it is time to put the garden beds to rest for the winter. I never gave that much thought in the years past, but I have learned the importance of doing this as it prevents problems in the spring. Autumn in Michigan means you never know what the weather will be like. The morning may have frost on the ground and warm clothes are needed, but by lunchtime, it has warmed up and the jacket or sweater comes off. This constant fluctuation is perfect for bugs, and I am sure I am not the only one who is seeing loads of boxelder bugs, stink bugs, Asian lady beetles, squash bugs, and other annoying bugs. These bugs will lay eggs in the garden beds and their offspring will take over in the spring if not properly attended to in the fall.

One of the most important steps in putting the garden to rest is removing all of the dead plant life, including any fruit that may have fallen off. Be sure to discard any diseased or infested plant life, burn it or throw it away. Do not put diseased plants or vines into the compost pile, as the bacteria and fungus will not go away. Remove any fallen leaves and wait to mulch until after the ground freezes. The leaves and mulch are a nice cozy home for bugs where they can hunker down for the winter an re-emerge in the spring. Remove all weeds by pulling up or spray an herbicide if you want to. I choose to pull weeds and give them to my chickens, they love them!

After the first hard freeze, remove annuals from the beds and collect seeds to dry for the spring. Plant flower bulbs like tulips, crocus, and daffodils, for beautiful spring flowers. Fall is also perfect for planting garlic, which will yield an abundant spring harvest. Now that the weather is staying colder, it is a good time to add manure to the garden making it one less thing to do in the spring. I usually have an idea of where I will plant things in the spring, I have raised beds and it is important to rotate the plants from year to year as each plant variety adds/depletes nutrients from the soil. I like to clean out the chicken coop completely in late fall before it is too cold, and I add the manure onto the garden beds. Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen, so I add it to the beds where I will plant nitrogen loving plants.

After all of the beds are put to rest, I begin to plan for the spring. I know what items I need to plant more or less of, and what new item I want to add to the garden. Next summer I want to try to grow kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, and a small herb garden on the deck. Gardening is a great passion of mine and I enjoy the harvest throughout the winter, until I am able to plant the garden again.

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