Friends, we’re nearing the time we are getting freezing weather. In our area of NE Georgia, it’s supposed to freeze tomorrow night. So, it’s rush around and prepare. Here are some of the things we do here at Hillside Garden successfully in Auburn, Ga..
If there are any tomatoes or peppers still on plants, they get gathered up and either dehydrated, canned, or set in baskets with newspaper to further ripen. Tomatoes ripen from the inside out and are often good when picked green and not damaged well into December if kept cool.
We pick any squash, gourds, or other vegetables on vines or aerial parts and process them. We have tromboncino squash and others that make great soup so they are peeled, cubed, and frozen for later.
Any plants that are tender (like Moringa trees, or lemon grass which are in pots or other tender perennials) get brought in and set on a table by the South facing windows. I dig up any plants that I don’t think will make it, like basil or other annuals that can withstand being inside.
I also cover my container gardens with 3.5 mil clear plastic sheeting I get from Home Depot in rolls or packets – it’s not expensive, then weigh the edges with bricks, stones, or cinder blocks. I usually put something between the sheeting and the plants to raise them up above the plastic to form a little air pocket like metal stakes with a curlycue on the end so they don’t poke thru the plastic.
We cut the long stalks of Jerusalem Artichoke up a foot from the soil so we can see where the tubers will be when it’s time to harvest them (after the first hard freeze), and cut the dried stems into 1′ sections to be wonderful fire tinder.
We cover open beds which have been harvested with a thick layer of mulch such as stuff from the chipper or straw, or we sow a cover crop like rye, clover, winter wheat etc which handles the cold well.
We plant cold weather crops which like the cold like spinach, flat leaf Ital. parsley, Swiss chard, broccoli and other cole (cabbage family) crops, a variety of lettuces, beets, carrots, garlic and other root crops. Then the tomato cages which are now free of the vines, having been pulled and composted, are laid on their sides alternately top to bottom to top so the round biggest end alternates with the lower bottom so it forms an air pocket under the plastic. We are careful to not smush the baby plants we are protecting.
In earlier years when we had a lot of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc. still on vines, we’d cover them with plastic to extend the season. But this year we have had strange weather and things stopped producing, so it’s not worth it.
We sometimes bring in pepper plants because they are perennial if in pots and are in sunlight.
Moringa gets cut off 3′ from the soil and brought in. It will go dormant and come back in the spring.
We neaten up the garden, but leave plants which have seed heads that birds like such as Cone Flower (Echinacea) so they have some food.
We go into town and gather bags of autumn leaves from the sides of the street where people rake them. We get there before the city comes with their giant vacuum trucks. These we use to insulate our little nursery of un-planted trees and bushes. We form a circle around the pots and cover it with plastic to form a little green house.
In the spring we use the leaves to mulch and form soil. We try to gather leaves that have been run over by a mower as they break down nicely in the spring for soil building. We dehydrate as many of the herbs that are still growing or make tinctures or oils for winter processing into salves, ointments and other medicinal uses.
We also lay on manure and compost on our beds to mature over the winter, and before we plant our cool and cold weather plants. It’s a good idea to refresh the soil every season this way, and once planted give everything a good mulching. We use compost, unsprayed wheat straw and more finely chipped organic matter for the baby plants.
We have a fireplace and we have gotten in a good supply of firewood and tinder for the cold weather. And we have piled up woody or dry organic matter to be chipped. If we have time we chip before it is cold, but this year we’ve had so much we chipped many big bags and will do it again if we get a bit of warm weather later.
We grow year round in this way. Good luck with the season.
Diann Dirks, Georgia Dirks The Garden Lady of Georgia