Garden: Winter Prep

It’s that time of year where the wind is getting a little sharper and the grass is growing slower, the leaves are just starting to show a hint of yellow and winter is just around the corner. So what am I doing running a rototiller and putting down manure? Well this just happens to be the best time for garden preparations to begin. If you want to make the most of your spring plantings then a good plan and a little work in September and October will make for higher yields and stronger starts in April and May.

Design a plan: (September/October)

First we need a plan, start by getting yourself acquainted with the planting schedules of your area and the plants you want to have in your early spring/summer garden. Not all plants need to go in at the same time and some will need more time than others to develop and produce.

General Oklahoma Planting Schedule:
- Green leafy veggies: Spinach, or Lettuce, and Broccoli and Cauliflower (early February and March)
- Fruiting veggies and melons: Tomatoes and Peppers, Squash, Cantaloupe (late April and May – after the last threat of frost)

Recommended Oklahoma veggies:
- Spinach, Broccoli (cool season/early)
- Cauliflower, Carrots (cool season/early)
- Basic salad lettuce like a Green Leaf for the (cool season/early)
- Tomatoes (warm season/late)
- Squash (warm season/late)
- Cucumber (warm season/late)
- Sugar Snap Peas (warm season/late)
- A Variety of Peppers (warm season/late)
- Okra (warm season/late)

Based on a yield for a family of 3-5 you’ll want a small area say 3’ x 5’ for the cool season plants and then a good 8’ x 10’ for the warm season plants. You can usually replace the lettuce with the Okra around the first of May if you want to run it all together.

Prep Soil: (September/October)

Now back to what you can do right now, soil prep is the biggest step toward a strong and productive garden in the spring. Most soil is in dire need of nutrients and organic matter. After breaking the soil up on the first run and clearing out the grass and other unwanted contaminants I’m ready to feed the soil. I like to add compost (which if purchased from a garden center is mainly rotted paper) and manure in equal portions till I have about six inches of cover in the area I just tilled. Then I go back over the garden plot in the opposite direction of my original tilling mixing the manure and compost into the soil and also breaking the small ridges that form in the soil along the sides of your till path.

Cover for Winter: (November)

Add water in the ingredients and cover the area with straw or organic mulch; something that can sit and break down over the winter months and be tilled into the soil in the spring. This will help to keep grass and other weeds from creeping back into the garden plot area while also adding more organic matter to the soil as the mulch breaks down. Now it’s a waiting game till February.

Starter Pots:
Starting your seeds indoors in small pots is another way to give them a jump on the growing season and this can also save you a little money since seeds are always cheaper to buy than young plants.

Fertilize Early: (late January, early February)
I always break up the soil as soon as the weather is warm enough for the soil to thaw out. Then after that initial opening of the soil I will add a general-purpose fertilizer like a 10-20-10 to the soil and till that in just to give the first plants an initial boost.

Cold Frames: (February OR August/September)

Other things you can be working on through the winter months that will give your plants a head start are cold frames; a glass or plastic lidded box within which you start your cool weather plants. This allows you to start the plants up to two weeks earlier than what is usually recommended or grow plants later into the year than what is normal. I built my cold frames out of old single pane windows that I salvaged out of our farmhouse.

As usual if you ever have any question let me know. Cheers to a healthy spring crop!

From the Farm

** Look for our early spring planting update in February with recommended plant selections and local Oklahoma nurseries, bed/row layout, seeding info, and a fertilizing schedule for the growing season.

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About meg:

I like curly lines, and the simple joys of life. Good coffee and the perfect souffle.

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