Although we’ve only had one frost to date, cold weather is on its way! In anticipation of cooler weather, we continue to transition the garden to extend the season and prepare for winter. Volunteers recently completed the cold frame (see pictures below) – a covering that helps keep the soil warm and protects plants from the frost. Special thanks to Sara Harper for all of her work pulling together supplies and organizing the build! Unfortunately, we had to remove it from the garden for this year due to a “no structures in the garden” agreement, but we’ll hopefully determine another way to use it in the spring! The exercise of completing the project and facing the challenges of having a very visible garden were both good educational moments.
We’ve also put row covers over two of the beds in the garden to protect against frost. These light cloth coverings in a single layer provide about 4 degrees of protection for the plants. While not much, this is enough to protect our young sprouts from low dips in the temperature in the evening and light frost. The row covers also allow plenty of sunlight and rain to pass through so plants can continue growing.
Students have also planted cover crops on several of the beds to grow through the winter. These crops help protect the soil, encourage worms and other soil bugs, add nutrients, and provide “green manure” for the beds when chopped down and tilled in the spring. We planted four different crops – clover, winter rye, vetch, and buckwheat – to compare how they grow and what affect they have on the different beds. Wynnie and Trevor also attended a workshop before planting – thanks to the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network for the information they shared about cover crops and other gardening tips! For more information about BRPN, please visit their site: http://www.blueridgepermaculture.net/index.html. For more information about cover crops, here’s a pretty comprehensive article from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service: http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/covercrop.html .