Del Norte Gardening runs monthly. Paul Madeira and Julie Jo Ayer Williams own Ocean Air Farms in Fort Dick.
As the leaves turn color and the chill returns to the air, we are reminded of the changing seasons. From our perspective it was a beautiful summer.
All in all, we at Ocean Air Farms are satisfied with the 2012 growing season. However, all good things must come to an end, leaving us an undisclosed amount of time to prepare for when the weather is not as favorable, or downright atrocious.
We usually take this time of year to transition into winter by putting our fields to rest with cover crops, by stashing everything inside that could be damaged or fly away. Last year, we were blessed with a mild fall, which provided ample time to close shop for winter.
Our style of farming depends on many preventive measures culminating in a healthy ecosystem where plants and animals thrive. So things like prompt removal of dead and molding plants and care taken to stop noxious weeds from taking over are the cornerstone to fall maintenance.
Taking as many small steps toward a healthy and well planned garden is key to achieving the goal of a bounty that can feed you with nutrient-dense foods.
Each year we take time to explain and stress the importance of planting cover crops over the winter. A cover crop is a plant or collection of plants grown specifically for adding organic matter to the soil. A "crop" is not harvested in the conventional sense; instead the entire stand is worked into the soil in the spring just as the plant begins to reach maturity.
Certain legumes, which are a staple in most cover crop mixes, will actually fix nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the plant's root system. When the plant is incorporated into the soil, those nutrients along with all the organic matter from the tall stand benefits the soil we will soon be planting into.
With a little practice and experience you can achieve a significant gain in fertility, a suppression of weeds and have the piece of mind that you are giving back to your soil instead of just take, take, take.
Again, this year we will be stocking Crescent City Hay and Feed with the cover crop mix that we use on the farm. That mix contains fava beans, vetch, peas and rye grass, along with an inoculant, which creates a favorable condition for beneficial bacteria to ensure germination of the legume plants.
If you have never tried to plant a cover crop over the winter, we urge you to give it a try. We will add that plantings tend to do better when sown before November.
So, do your best to have the garden, or most of it clear by then to ensure a decent head start on the winter weather.
One last thing worth mentioning was the huge success of our Farm Shindig this year. Thank you to each and everyone who came out and showed their support for the farm. Lots of folks came out to watch sheep shearing, dig potatoes, eat some delicious food and listen to some great music.
If you missed it, look out for next year's event. Happy gardening and happy fall.