August has come to an end and it’s time to begin the process of fall planting preparation. Beets, kohlrabi, kale, carrots and fennel will be overwintering in the raised beds.
The groundcover this year will consist of mustard, Daikon radishes, turnips and rutabagas. Next year’s garden will be considerably larger by a few acres in the hopes it will provide more food for the community. The field has seen many years of grain and grass, so the compost crop will provide a grass suppressant, add the richness of green manure to the soil, help control pests and disease, boost the soil’s nitrogen content and best of all, those Daikon radishes are highly effective at breaking the ground without tilling.
Alone, the radishes grow about 12-18 inches, but their taproots can sometimes go several feet! These vegetables loosen the earth by opening paths for air and water to work their magic with the organic material breaking down. They decompose quickly leaving an abundance of nutrient in their wake. Of course, the smell of decomposing vegetables will greet us as Winter’s thaw arrives – that might be a bit unpleasant; but as with all things, it will pass and the its legacy will be fertile.
An added bonus will be in Spring, when the mustard’s highly visible yellow and white blooms call the pollinators in.
The process of making the seed balls to broadcast by hand into the field will take a weekend of creative genius, hours of coating the seeds with peat-free compost and clay, sifting and grading and drying them into hard, little nuts that won’t begin to allow germination until the rains are right and ready.
Along with the harvest and the fall planting comes the community building. The knowledge sharing and predictions of the weather will abound, as will the sound of drums and guitars and voices humming unwritten tunes. Long-time friends and new ones alike are gathering together over chores and rewards; communing around the fire pit and the stove, over plates of food and baskets of berries freshly picked; over the scent of the herbs and tomatoes and the heady smell of soft rains caressing the ground and our skin as we drink it in.
The Hubbard squash are almost ready to store and we’ll take turns picking them up and cleaning their hard skins before setting them in the cool darkness to store. Then we’ll tramp through the late Summer woods harvesting mushrooms to take home and dry. We’ll feed each other on every level and for a few moments in time, we won’t give a damn for anything else but the world we are creating together in the here and now.
“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches
is that our relationship to the planet need not
be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still
shines and people still can plan and plant,
think and do, we can, if we bother to try,
find ways to provide for ourselves
without diminishing the world. ”
? Michael Pollan