We finally got our first real snow of the season recently and it is beautiful. My husband is especially excited about all the nitrogen fixation occurring in our garden. When we started gardening, I was surprised to find out snow was actually a huge benefit to gardeners. We use plenty of chicken and rabbit manure to enrich our soil over the winter months, but it’s always nice to know God is helping us in other ways too!
Preparing a Back to Eden garden for winter takes some work, but it saves us time and effort in the long run. One of the main principles of any organic garden is not adding any artificial fertilizers to the soil. However, gardening is not a zero sum game. Vegetables take nutrients from the soil and these nutrients need to be replenished in order to continue producing crops.
At a Novel Farm, we start with chicken and rabbit manure. It didn’t take us long to realize this natural byproduct beats artificial fertilizers any day of the week! We also chop up all of the leaves from our well-shaded front yard. Our huge tulip poplars and silver maples bless us with plenty of leaves that cover the lawn in a thick layer. This combination adds a great layer of organic matter to the garden and the long winter months provide the time necessary for decomposition.
We then cover this layer with wood chips. The wood chips we use include mulched up leaves that were part of the original trees, which serve as a covering for the garden all the way through the growing season. This mulch protects the soil underneath. Have you ever observed the soil underneath a big rock that’s been in place for a long period of time? The soil is typically dark and moist and there may even be a worm or two darting out of sight. A wood chip covering, or mulch, has the same effect. The mulch helps keep the soil moist when there’s no rain, but it also helps soak up the excess water when it rains too much. Wood chips also suppress weed growth and encourage earthworms.
When staring at the garden in the winter, it can almost appear dismal. It’s easy to reminisce about the warm garden days when you could pick a ripe cherry tomato straight off the vine and enjoy the deliciousness of God’s bounty. The barren, brown ground looks sad and lonely with the absence of vegetation. Yet, a garden prepared for winter can also fill you with hope and optimism for the future. At this point in time, your garden is actually perfect. Nothing has gone wrong yet!