Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A veganic gardener prepares for winter

We've already had some seriously cold weather, -12C last week, which translates to 10.4F, and I was caught somewhat unprepared, at least for the snow and rain which filled my big rain barrel, which then froze into a giant ice cube. Not good. I love my barrels and don't want them to split open. However, we have had a bit of a thaw, and some more rain, and what with one thing and the other, the water melted, mostly, so I was able to remove it and store the dry barrels for the winter. What else do I do to prepare my garden for the great Canadian five-month freeze?

1. I keep two compost bins, one for last year's compost, fallen leaves, and the stuff from the spring, which is not inconsiderable since spring is when I do my big cleanup—in fact, usually I need both bins for spring cleanup until the compost has cooked down somewhat—and one for ongoing, fresh kitchen and garden scraps.

So in the fall, I empty the bin of perfected compost, top dressing the garden where I think it's most needed, and then move over what's left in the newer bin to the other, to aerate it mainly, and keep things neat. This time I disturbed a bunch of earthworms in the "new" bin—usually I don't get earthworms in my bins, don't know why, but this time there were lots—and a mouse, who panicked and escaped with amazing panache down a hole he dug ex tempore, which was when I stopped with the digging around, so as not to spear up the rest of his family should they happen to live in there.

2. Empty the rain barrels as noted above.

3. Rake up the fallen leaves (but there will be lots more).

4. Shut off the inside valve to my hose so the pipes won't burst.

5. Um, actually, that's about it. This was what it looked like when I was done. This photograph was taken in "foliage" mode but is otherwise un-meddled-with, but it still looks greener than it appears to the naked eye. You can see that despite the chilly weather, there's still a lot going on:

How long did it all take? Approximately an hour. Veganic gardening just kills me it's so easy. Why didn't I start with this system twenty years ago instead of four?

The idea is that for the remainder of fall and in the spring when they awake, the earthworms and other digging critters will carry the compost down into the soil, aerating it and mixing it in. Meanwhile, I assist by not digging up their homes and disturbing and slaying them and other beings that are bedded down in the soil. There are hardly any bugs around now, so those that haven't died of cold are in hibernation.

Anyone who has been following my blog from the beginning will remember—or if you haven't, you can go back into the archives and see—that I'd done a lot of insect photography earlier in the summer, particularly of ants and aphids. I stopped with the aphid pictures basically because the micro-ecosystem in my yard took care of them so they didn't become a problem, and in fact they disappeared in mid-summer. I had no insect problems whatsoever this year.

While I am no horticulturalist and am not even following a book but just winging it on my own, this system is working well for me. I pick weeds during the spring and summer and keep the small patches of lawn mowed and water with rainwater from my barrels, but that's about it. You can see that most of the garden is perennial flowers or plants that reseed themselves, but I also let green onions go to seed each year and grow in amongst everything else so I have plenty all spring and summer long, and have chives, oregano, thyme, parsley, cilantro, and sorrel that I eat. The plants grow more or less as they will, with a little help from me moving things around from time to time, so the effect is tangly and interesting (and a little overcrowded this year I admit), but that's what I like outside. Inside, I am all about order and simplicity. Outside, some chaos—or let's say complex interconnected systems—is nice.

Apart from anything else, it gives me something to study, and in the winter, a little textural interest to what would otherwise be just a big blank rectangle of snow. Plus, the sight of chickadees hanging upside down from the bobbing sunflower heads picking the sunflower seeds out is just so incredibly cute…

1 comment:

  1. Aww your pics of your garden are making me long for having one of my own! I didn't realise how much I missed having a garden 'til now... sob!