Sunday was a gloriously sunny day, marked by strong winds sweeping along the ridgetops and occasionally funnelling down into our valley to rearrange the leaves and the row covers. As we worked outdoors, we could hear the occasional limb crack and fall, and watch the half-dead leaves give up and swirl away. Such dramatic winds generally imply a major weather shift, and we knew that these were driven by a large mass of cold air sweeping down from the north to bring us our first killing frosts Sunday and Monday nights.
The arrival of a killing frost marks the effective transition into winter. After that, most of the produce is finished, except the few cold-tolerant items such as kale and leeks. We can now put the growing areas to sleep; pulling out the plants, broadforking the beds, adding a layer of manure, and mulching them with straw. Over the winter, the mulch will keep the soil warm, allowing worms and microbiota to feed on the manure and mix it thoroughly throughout the soil, generating a fertile setting for next spring. I’ve been working on this over the last few weeks, but now it’s time to finish the job.
Specific tasks yesterday included pulling all irrigation hoses and storing them in the barn, cleaning and storing all other hoses, collecting any unused row covers, plastic, tools, and other items that are no longer needed, and so on. Over the last few days we’ve harvested all remaining sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, and so on, leaving us with large piles of produce to process or otherwise use. For example, I have 80+ lb of green tomatoes now (more about those in a future post). In any case, agricultural winter is here.