Compared to the hot summer this year, today is cold, rainy and dreary – just 49 F for a high today and as I write the temperature has fallen to 43 F. Fall is definitely here and there’s a hint of winter in the air. Forecasters predict maybe a dusting of snow tomorrow night. But the Hilltop Garden has been prepared for winter and the garlic has already been tucked snugly into its winter home.
Usually around the middle of October I plant garlic, but since it was so hot this fall I waited nearly another two weeks. My perfect scenario for planting garlic is right before a rain and falling temperatures. That happened a couple of days ago.
Generally I space hard-neck garlic about 4 to 6 inches apart and push the cloves into the ground about 4 inches. Make sure the pointy end is facing upwards, cover and pat down. Through the middle of the row I make a trough as deep as the root and sprinkle some organic fertilizer. Cover. This is similar to how I initially fertilize onions too. Covering with straw is optional but does help considerably if you are in a garden hardiness zone 5 or lower. I’m on the border of zone 6a to 6b but the Hilltop Garden is on top of a hill which bears the brunt of winter-time winds.
Other prep of the garden involved harvesting the last of the peppers and remaining squash, then pulling out the plants. Pepper plants will decompose in our compost bins, but squash plants will not because of insects such as cucumber beetles which are disease carriers. Some of the later bush bean plants were only planted as green manure so they stayed. Zinnias, marigolds, calendulas , Irish Poet tassel flowers and celosias were pulled and placed with seeds intact in the hilltop insectary to encourage more growth with the native flowers. It’s starting to work . This year wild celosias appeared and bloomed from last year’s experiment. Yarrow and chamomile have also started to acclimate in another insectary in the Hilltop Garden. Crabgrass was always a problem in one area so I planted yarrow. The yarrow looks like it’s winning, I hope so.
The insectaries in the Hilltop Garden, Hillside and by our home have been the source of many butterfly photos over the year. Unfortunately we had some other unwelcome wildlife.We’ve been groundhog free for quite a few years, but in the past week one made an inroad to the garden. So once again chicken wire was placed in an “L” shape on the outside of the garden. The photo is from the inside. This time on the outside of the garden, the soil was dug down to about 6 inches, chicken wire was placed like an “L” 12 inches out from the existing fence and fastened. Soil was replaced and covered the wire. We’ve done that successfully on the other sides of the garden. It had been just a matter of time before those pesky groundhogs found a way to penetrate the weaker perimeters of the garden.
Until next time.