Putting Beck Creek Garden to Bed

By CORY FRONING

Somehow, it’s mid October in Condon, and we’re still pulling rainbows of produce out of the ground!!

Somehow, it’s mid October in Condon, and we’re still pulling rainbows of produce out of the ground!!

Yesterday, October 16th, was Putting the Garden To Bed day. As the rain poured down on my muddy overalls and big winter coat, I flexed my cold-slowed fingers and wondered how an entire growing season had passed since the skies were last dark like this and the soil bare, way back in May. The students and I plugged Bob Dylan into the speakers under the hoop house roof, grabbed our tools, and set out to conquer and winterize our individual patches of garden.

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Kristen was in charge of getting the garlic ready for planting. About five weeks ago, she and I cut the stalks off of dozens and dozens of garlic plants, tied the heads together with twine, and hung them from the ceiling of the attic to cure. Interestingly, curing garlic for seed and for consumption is the same process. While processing and storing food for the winter seemed daunting at the beginning of the season, I have found that it doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming in the slightest. Curing alliums is unbelievably simple – all they need is a warm, dry space and continuous aeration for about two weeks, depending upon the humidity of the air. I prefer to hang them from the ceiling, but they can also be laid out in rows and stacked as long as they are separated by something that allows for ventilation, such as chicken wire.

Hailey and Evan planted the individual garlic cloves that Kristen prepped for them. It is best to plant the largest cloves, because they will produce biggest heads of garlic next year. Ideally, one should cover the garlic beds in hay after they are planted, in order to protect them, keep the soil as warm as possible, and eliminate weeds until the spring.

Mikie took on the dismantling of the hoop house. Although we left the frame and roof in tact, every little arugula plant, cherry tomato, and grass root has been sifted from this dirt. Once a green jungle that was impossible to walk through, this little high tunnel is now a blank canvas for next year!

Students gleefully tugged the last of the carrots, radishes, and beets out of the soil until our wheel barrels were filled to the brim with produce, reminiscent of the CSA members’ jam-packed grocery bags this summer.

Students gleefully tugged the last of the carrots, radishes, and beets out of the soil until our wheel barrels were filled to the brim with produce, reminiscent of the CSA members’ jam-packed grocery bags this summer.

Most crops froze in the hard frosts that began in September, even under the protection of sheets of frost cover. But the kale is an anomaly and is still producing new green leaves! Sophie harvested all the kale she could on Sunday and stuffed an entire trash bag full of it. We’re looking forward to eating kale pesto, kale smoothies, kale chips, and kale salad for as long as we can imagine, and thinking of ways to sneak kale into every meal without Riley noticing.

Riley doing his favorite activity – weeding! (He is a pro)

Riley doing his favorite activity – weeding! (He is a pro)

Lucy amended this bed far more beautifully than I could have ever done. She dug out old crops, weeds, and stones, and turned the soil tirelessly with a pitchfork. Anything planted in this bed next year will be nourished and happy.

Lucy amended this bed far more beautifully than I could have ever done. She dug out old crops, weeds, and stones, and turned the soil tirelessly with a pitchfork. Anything planted in this bed next year will be nourished and happy.

Aspen yanking out rows of bolted lettuce

Aspen yanking out rows of bolted lettuce

Aspen hoeing newly empty beds

Aspen hoeing newly empty beds

After a long day of hard physical labor and mentally concluding the garden season, the students warmed up by the fire and made a pumpkin carrot cake (from our harvest) that was to die for. Beck Creek Garden has been such a wonderful and invaluable part of our time here. In the coming weeks, as we preserve, cook, and share our bounty of root veggies and fresh produce, the garden will continue to bring us together and create a learning experience for all of us.

As always, thank you to all the community members who support BCG and enable these opportunities for myself and our students! Cheers to a beautiful, successful growing season!