I wanted to post another update about the progress of the hoop houses and other gardening activities in mid-November in my Zone 6 climate in South East Michigan. As I wrote about in earlier blog posts, I have been experimenting with hoop houses for season extension. I posted a picture of my mid-April harvest in my earlier post; now I’m going to show you what is going on in the hoop houses in late November. Most of these crops would have gotten zapped by a 20 degree evening about two weeks ago, but they are going strong in the hoop houses! So here are some photos from today (its a bit warm today, so I lifted up the hoop houses to see what is growing inside).
Most of the veggies in these photos were planted in late August (except the Kale and Leeks, which have been going since spring). Next year, I think I’m going to start them even sooner, as once the weather gets cold they don’t really grow. Hoop house gardening extends the harvest season moreso than the growing season. Here are a few more photos.
So yes, there will be fresh greens through December. I will be serving a salad at our Thanksgiving meal next week, and even with me picking some greens every few days for a meal, I should have enough greens to last till Yule! The hoop houses last year made it till New Years (when I stupidly forgot to close them and the arugula and spinach I was growing got zapped). We had such a mild winter that I wonder if they could have lasted longer. This year I will do more experimenting and find out!
A family that I am friends with asked for some garden space, so we also got their garden established this fall. They’ve planted winter wheat in part of it as well as some garlic. We are also in the process of laying down some newspaper and cardboard as weed suppression for the rows.
I also have some winter rye growing as a cover crop in part of the garden (one one of my newer beds to help establish the soil). I’m going to get my chickens to till it under in the spring for me :). The chickens enjoy nibbling on it this time of year.
A lot of what I’ve been doing in the last two months, especially now that the leaves have dropped, is composting and preparing my beds for next season. I drive around the neighborhood and pick up as many bags of leaves as I can. Most of these go directly into the garden, but I also save some for projects I know I have planned for next year (since fall leaves happen but once a year). Fall is an excellent time to collect yard “waste” (and its anything but waste to a gardener). My neighbors are always so kind to bag it up for me, stick it on the curb for me to pick up, and sometimes, even mulch it. This year I collected about 40 bags of leaves as well as raked up a massive pile of my own. These will all be used before next fall–for mulch, for sheet mulched beds, etc.
I’m also just about finished establishing a few new beds and tree planting. Fall, again, is a great time for this because of all of the copious amounts of material for your new beds. Trees that are planted in fall can have time to establish their root systems over winter before the hot, dry days of summer come back. I’m also doing some experiments with other kinds of garden beds, such as the hugelkultur bed.
I also do a bit of indoor gardening, mainly for plants that can’t handle being outside in Michigan winters. Here are my three citrus trees (one has oranges, very tart!) and a lemon-scented geranium. The geranium I found at the bottom of a big bag of leaves, along with some other plants on the curb. Fall is also a great time for what I call compost diving. In addition to neighbors putting out leaves, I find all sorts of stuff, and surprisingly, a lot of live plants :).
The chickens enjoy free-ranging every chance they get (which is anytime that either I or my husband are at home). They are now all grown up (hatched mid-July). We also took in a stray rooster who was kicked out of a neighbor’s flock. I’ve had hens before, but never a roster. But for free ranging chickens, the rooster is a great protector of the flock, not to mention being beautiful to look at, and I’m happy to have him with the girls!