Racing winter

The parsnips came out just in time. A frost makes them sweeter, but if they stay in too long, the ground freezes solid and you can’t dig them out. Parsnips (ours at least) are large and long, so you have dig deep to extract them. This year they went through a couple of frosts, and we were pushing our luck; other distractions (and a shortage of storage space) made us slow to remove them.

Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer with a column syndicated in a dozen New England newspapers. I enjoy Henry’s practical, accessible approach to gardening. Yesterday he talked about enriching and protecting your soil. It’s not too late for us, but we are way behind in our outdoor work—cutting back flowers in the garden, hilling up around the rose bushes to protect the roots, putting straw on the strawberry plants. We picked the last of our swiss chard the other day (Cherisse used it in an excellent quiche), and so I need to try to pull out those plants, if they haven’t frozen solid in these last few frigid nights. Henry recommends adding compost to the beds, and adding a protective cover (like straw or leaves), to keep the topsoil from washing or blowing away. Our neighbor with the two horses has offered a supply of manure (plenty of it aged), so we can just drive next door and load up the truck. None of it is difficult, but the cold makes working outside more challenging (and a lot less fun), and we have much unfinished (like the chicken coop!). So I am not sure we will get to everything.

Each year is like this. We start in early spring, earnest in our resolve to stay on top of the garden. Yet by winter, when Henry Homeyer is advising people on their final chores (clean gardening tools and store neatly), we are still trying to get through our fall lists.

The great thing is, next year we begin again.


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