From Across the Field – 10/31/2019

Older and Wiser?

Each year at the end of October I get an annual reminder that I am another year older. As a kid, my dad’s side of the family practiced the tradition of “Birthday Bumps”, where as long as you were small enough to lift, you were picked up and had you backside bumped against the wall, one each per year of age. These were always followed by “one to grow on, one to learn on, and one to behave on.”

Now as an adult, who hasn’t had to worry about being “bumped” for some time, I think our birthdays are a good time to reflect on what we have learned over the past year. This year, given the challenges brought to us by Mother Nature, everyone involved with agriculture had the opportunity to learn quite a bit. On one hand we learned that we’d rather not have a “2019 Spring” any time soon. On the other, farmers and landowners have learned how to manage planting delays, unplanted acres, annual forages, and cover crops among other things in a way that they haven’t before. Here’s to hoping for better farming conditions over the next couple of years, but should we have a repeat of 2019 I think agriculture will be better prepared because of the learning experienced this year.

In the garden, it is time to finish up little things that can make a big difference next year. Before putting all your gardening tools away for the year, be certain to clean up the vegetable garden. Removing garden debris, including dead plant material and rotted vegetables, will help to reduce disease and insect problems next year. The little time spent now cleaning up the garden, will be well worth it next spring.

Before beginning your garden clean up, sit down and make notes of this year’s garden layout and what did or didn’t work. This will make planning a rotation schedule for next year’s garden easier. Also note particular insect or disease problems encountered this year and which vegetable cultivars you tried.

Tomato cages, stakes, trellises and other support materials should be pulled out of the garden, cleaned and placed in storage for winter. Try to avoid breaking off wooden stakes at or near the soil surface.

Crop residues from healthy plants, such as roots, leaves and stems, are a valuable source of organic matter, and will break down to improve the texture of garden soil. Plants that have not had pest problems can be cut up and put in the compost pile, or turned into the soil for added organic matter. Organic mulches, such as straw or grass clippings, can also be tilled into the soil if the ground is dry enough.

The leaves from your trees also are an excellent source of organic matter for the vegetable garden (avoid walnut leaves). After raking the leaves, scatter them over the vegetable garden and till them in. You can also use your mower to remove the leaves from your lawn and then add them to the vegetable garden. Since mowing chops the leaves into smaller pieces, they will break down faster once added to the soil of your vegetable garden. I’ll wrap up this week with a quote from Pablo Picasso: “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Have a great week.

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