Growing a Different Crop for Winter

Each year at this time, I clean up the garden.

I gave up on growing food crops in the fall.  When the time changes, I leave the house in the dark and get home in the dark.  I don’t like to garden in the dark.  I can’t see in the dark.  But there are some animals at my house that can see in the dark and I really don’t want to garden with them.  In the dark.

Oh no, I’m starting to ramble.

What I mean to say is,  instead of planting a fall garden, I concentrate on rejuvenating my garden for next spring.

Since I mulch my garden with shredded newspaper and straw, cleanup of the garden does not take long at all.  By the end of the season, almost all the straw and newspaper have been broken down.  This year, I let the chickens help with the clean up  (although I should’ve started this earlier as they were slower than I expected.)

So, all I did was till everything under, rake smooth and sow the garden in a cover crop.

garden

Just a quick word about raking.

When laying your rake down, be sure and put the “teeth” of the rake this way

rake

Rake teeth in the down position

and not this way

rake

teeth up–Beware!

I’m telling you this because this friend of mine laid the rake down with the teeth pointing up.  When she turned around to pick up her shovel, she stepped on the rake sending the handle flying to her head.  It knocked her silly and left a big goose egg on my her head and has caused her to ramble on occasion.  (She was too embarrassed to let me take a picture.)

Anyway…

Cover crops are intended to add nutrients to the soil while the garden is resting.  They can also suppress winter and early spring weeds.  In the spring, cover crops are tilled under adding organic matter back to the soil.

winter wheat and rye seed

winter wheat and annual rye grass seed

There are several options for cover crops, but I have always planted winter wheat.  Winter wheat is readily available where I live and relatively cheap.  It germinates quickly and stays manageable throughout the winter.  The problem is it’s sold in 50 lb. bags and for most gardens that’s 40 lbs. too much.  Fortunately, my oldest son uses winter wheat for his deer plot on the back forty, so none of the seed goes to waste.  Or, you can save the seed for the next year by placing it in a covered container and storing in a dry location.  I’m hoping the chickens will like to forage on it as well as it stays green all winter.  This year I’m adding annual rye grass seed in with the wheat seed.  Rye grass grows slower than wheat, so when the chickens get tired of wheat, the rye grass should be coming in.  Hopefully this will give the chickens a little variety for the dull months of no grass or bugs in the yard.

Anyway….

About the blonde gardener

I'm an Arkansas girl born and raised. I garden in the beautiful Northwest part of the state (zone 6b or 7) surrounded by the Ozark Mountains. My favorite part about the area is we have 4 distinct seasons and are able to enjoy a variety of activities. My main passion is gardening but I also enjoy hiking, birding, 4-wheeling and motorcycle trips. Basically anything outside. Thanks for stopping by! Brenda
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16 Responses to Growing a Different Crop for Winter

  1. Sorry about your, I mean your friend’s, goose egg! When you till the cover crop under in the spring … does it try to keep coming back up? Or does one tilling take care of it?

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  2. bhoyt10 says:

    Wow, your all cleaned up! I’m still picking peppers, tomatoes, and okra! And the rest is a mess! I have turnips and carrots growing too.

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    • It’s starting to get chillier at night and may get around 38 this weekend so I just pulled everything up. I still had lots of peppers that I will chop and freeze today or tomorrow. And I picked all my green tomatoes so I can keep enjoying them in the next few weeks. I had let my okra go to seed, so I have that to deal with, too. Always something!

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  3. Holleygarden says:

    I have a bad habit of leaving my tools out, so I have learned (not, thankfully, the way that your friend learned) which way to turn the rake, and the shovel, in case they get stepped on. I usually have a winter vegetable garden, but am not going to this year, and am pulling everything out. I know I should do a cover crop – kudos to you for doing it! – but I am too lazy to till it under in the springtime. Your garden thanks you.

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  4. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Interestingly enough, I have a “friend’ who has done very similar things with carelessly placed tools. You made me laugh out loud.

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  5. I know all about what can happen whey you lay the rake wrong side up. How I came to know, I don’t care to disclose. I’ve never planted my tiny vegetable bed with a cover crop, but this year I am thinking of planting some containers with bulbs there for the winter.

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  6. Patrick says:

    I think I saw the rake gag on an old b/w movie sometime. Why don’t more people try cover crops? I think it’s a lost art especially with the hordes of new gardener’s from the Great Recession.

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  7. bittster says:

    I’ve been meaning to do cover crops for a couple weeks now. It sure does finish off the garden nice and looks nice and green for the winter…. in addition to all the other good stuff it does… I need to follow your lead and get moving! (minus the rake dancing)

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  8. YOu know I really should get around to trying cover crops, I hear so many good things about them

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  9. ddonabella says:

    I wish I could winter garden…I cover my beds with grass clippings and shredded leaves.

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