Winding Up the Season


Normally, I could talk about baseball season, but we all know where that’s going. Has gone. Barely started. Whatever. Shut up, Laura!

As I say every year, “Thank God that’s over with!” And again, not baseball, but gardening season. By September, I’m done. When my husband says, “I think I see a cucumber,” I do my best to convince him that he’s lost his mind and they’re just a figment of his imagination.

I start planting in mid-March, when the peas go in the ground and the tomato and pepper seeds are started in the greenhouse. Just so you don’t have to do the math, that’s six months of tilling, weeding, mulching, planting, tending, harvesting, and processing. And while I certainly enjoy it, that’s a long time for daily hard labor—no taking off for holidays or weekends, no 9-to-5.

There are still a few green bean plants, and all my peppers, and some straggly tomato plants still sort of producing, but really, they could kick off at any time and it wouldn’t bother me at all. In October, we’ll be mowing down what’s left, plowing it all under, and spreading manure. That will sit until February, when we spread more, and plow that under too.

This year will be a little different, as I’m growing year-round now. My husband built this fabulous 24X14 greenhouse to replace the much smaller plastic-covered one I used for almost five years, mostly to start seed in the spring.

Now I’ve got grow lights, a rain barrel/pump watering system, elevated beds, and a work table. I’ll overwinter my outdoor container flowers, although some won’t make it, start next year’s baskets, and do a few experiments.

I know that many, many things are grown in greenhouses, and theoretically almost all vegetables and fruits can be done that way, but what I want to learn is whether or not *I* can do it.

Experiment #1: Garlic. I’ve been growing garlic in the ground for a few years, but my bulbs are consistently small. In the interests of improving them, I have some planted in the greenhouse. Because garlic takes a notoriously long time to grow, I also have half a row in the garden; September 1 is when I usually plant.

Experiment #2: Onions. Never managed to grow these, or if I did, they got lost in the weeds and accidentally pulled. In the elevated beds, I can actually see them, hence the experiment. Last year, I found an onion in the back of the pantry, nicely sprouted. I stuck it in the ground. Lo and behold, I grew five small onions! And by small, well…kind of like those garlic bulbs. But I didn’t really know what I was doing, never having brought any to that level of maturity, so I figured, why not? I planted those little things in the greenhouse—and they’re sprouting!

Naturally, there’s another side to this story. When I ordered fall/winter/greenhouse seeds, I figured I’d get a jump on next spring too and ordered everything but potatoes and green beans (sold out). About a week after they arrived, I saw sprouts coming out of the bag. Oops! Since I didn’t want to waste them, I read up on overwintering onions in the ground, like you do with garlic, and I planted a row. Still had onions. Planted a second section in the greenhouse and labeled it “more onions.” Still had onions. Planted a third section, labeled “more freakin’ onions.” Good thing we like onions!

Experiment #3: Green onions. Guess I’m a glutton for punishment. These aren’t, strictly speaking, an experiment. I grow them every years, chop and freeze, and we have green onions for a year from a 15+ foot row. This year, I got nothing. So the experiment is figuring out what went wrong.

Experiments #4 and #5: These two, iceberg lettuce and cabbage, are related—I can’t seem to get actual heads. I’ve grown Romaine for years, but we’re getting a little tired of it; besides, the dang stuff takes over and NEVER stops. Never.

Experiment #6: Eggplant. I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I do like it from time to time, and my husband just says, “Ick,” when I mention it, but I thought I’d see if I could grow some.

Experiment #7: Broccoli is not hard to grow, I’ve done it before in the garden. But let me tell you about worms… So, I grew broccoli, it was beautiful! I cooked the broccoli—and when I went to drain it, the water had these tiny white worms in it—GROSS. My stepmom told me to first soak it overnight in salt water, so I did, but picking out those dead worms was also disgusting, and it turned me off growing broccoli for, oh, seven years or so. But I’m going to try again, and keep my fingers crossed!

I have a few other experiments I’m trying, but haven’t planted them yet as the watering system will be getting some tweaks and upgrades later this week. Next time, I’ll fill you in on the rest of my greenhouse planting.

Homestead Series IX—Homesteading by the Seasons


Here is your handy-dandy guide to homesteading throughout the year, including gardening and livestock care. Any additional things you may do, such as home-schooling your kids or working a day job, will take extra time each day, as will the work you do to build up your homestead in the first place—such as:

Perimeter fence

Livestock corrals

Garden fencing

Your house building/remodeling

Livestock shelters

Storage for foodstuffs, tools, etc.

Winter

Plan your garden, order or purchase seeds, feed livestock, break the ice on your water troughs, pick a nice day to replenish your woodpile from all the winter deadfall; plan your trips to town around the weather so that A) you don’t get caught in the snow/ice/rain and B) so you don’t run out of groceries and feed/hay. Check any heat lamps/heaters in your greenhouse or pump house on a daily basis, as well as fence lines.

Toward the end of winter, in addition to all the daily things mentioned above, you’ll need to fertilize your garden and check/repair the fence.

Spring

Keep doing all the aforementioned chores, and plant your seeds indoors or in your greenhouse. Plow up the garden, and till and rake it. In mid-March, start your outdoor seeds. You can probably, at this point, take “breaking ice” off your list, as well as checking those heat lamps—but still pay attention to the weather. And it’s probably time to go back to the clothesline and give your dryer a break.

As spring progresses, you’ll be weeding, watering, and tilling that garden at least 3-4 days a week. Pretty soon, you’ll be harvesting some early vegetables. And of course, each week or so will be time to plant additional crops. You’ll still be feeding your livestock and checking fences and making repairs too.

Summer

It all comes down to the weather—when it’s cold,  you work outside later in the day when it’s warmed up as much as it’s going to, and in the summer, you get an early start so you don’t die of heatstroke. When it rains, you do indoor work or run errands; when it’s dry, you’re outside.

Now’s the time to be harvesting and processing your vegetables. And by late summer, you’ll need to start getting that woodpile ready for winter.

Fall

Still working on that woodpile, and doing all the other daily chores, but the garden is winding down. You’re probably done with the weeding/watering/tilling by now, too, but it’s time to start winterizing everything. You’ll need to check those livestock shelters again, and fence lines, and cut and split more wood—yes, I say this a lot, but if you’re heating with wood, you certainly do not want to run out. Best get it done and have it ready, so you’re not outside in a blizzard.

Set up heat lamps, heat tape, tank heaters, whatever you need and use to keep your water running. You also do not want to be outside in that blizzard, trying to thaw underground water pipes. Experience speaking, here!

And you’re back to winter, the season of little sun, a lot of cold, and of course, the S-word. Long nights, short days, but you can focus now on indoor chores, a little remodeling, some deep cleaning, or any hobbies you might have to keep busy. Keeping busy is the best way to get through winter, even if eating and sleeping seem like the best idea at the time…that’s usually my go-to if I get bored, and we all know that’s just not good for you.

The longer you homestead, the easier it gets, the more of a routine you can establish. Just like wherever you live now, you have a routine, you have things you must do each day or each week. Same principle, but you do a lot more physical labor and probably a lot more outside chores.