Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prepping for winter growing

We are getting our selves ready for the winter at the farm these days. Taking out all the growth from this summer (those amazing corn stalks and leafy tomato plants), turning under the last of the lettuce leftovers into the soil and building cold frames for some winter planting. We had a great team of volunteers this past week, who helped us construct 2 cold frames on our ground level beds. The day we built them was cold and very much an autumn afternoon, but we managed to build both cold frames in record time. The cover will provide some added warmth for our garlic, onions, spinach, kale and chard, as we move swiftly into the winter season. We will be starting our cold frames with a cover of row cloth, a fabric that lets light and air and water through, but still provides a blanket of warmth, and then we will move into plastic sheeting when the weather gets real cold. As usual, this is an experiment, so I'll keep you up to date with how the results turn out.

Thankfully for us the weather this week is warmer, in the 60's!, and is providing us with perfect cover cropping days! We will be spreading a cover crop mix of vetch, winter rye and a few other cold hardy varietals in all of our ground level and rooftop beds. I am hoping this helps to fix some of the nitrogen loss from this season and that we are able to build healthy soil for next year. The cover crop mix we are using is from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, it's their Soil Builder Mix. I have had great success with their products, and I am looking forward to the tall grains fortifying our soil throughout the winter.

Next week we put our garlic and onions into the raised beds, so stay tuned for some how-to photos!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October showers bring November flowers? Why spring has arrived again.

It is rainy. Big surprise there. But it almost feels like spring showers to me today. Maybe it's just the peas, radishes and lettuces we have growing on the roof right now. That's right, we have new rounds of peas shooting up and lots of radishes and even some pac choi. The weather is perfect for them, so I figure why not! Last year we got a pretty good fall harvest of peas and this year is looking good so far.

It has only started to feel like fall because the leaves are gracing us with their gorgeous yellows and reds, apples are all over the farmers markets and we had to take out all the dying sunflowers. I love fall though, with it's crisp mornings and showers of leaves. This fall is falling in suit with the summer and continues to be rainy, but I feel that is almost appropriate. The grey weather is forcing me to stay indoors, make hot apple cider, can this seasons best produce and dehydrate the rest, stocking up for the cold winter ahead.

We are hosting a few volunteer days this month, if you'd like to join us please email me at natalie@uncommonground.com.

Refreshments will be provided. Come for part or all of the workday!
Our farm needs help with late season and overwinter growing! We will be constructing
new cold frames to cover some of our planting beds at ground level. These
cold frames will help to extend the growing season into the winter. Techniques for
building a cold frame will be covered, as well as the knowledge behind
how to use a cold frame in your own backyard. Come help us and learn
how to grow in a Chicago winter outdoors!

Refreshments will be provided. Come for part or all of the workday!
We will be planting in the hoop houses at ground level for early winter salad greens.
We will also be planting garlic in our other raised beds at ground level. This workday includes
a primer on winter growing, both covered and uncovered, and will help you know what to
get started now for next springs harvest!