The Garden Season That Was

So, Last week I promised I would share some pictures of the Food It Yourself garden if it stopped raining before it started snowing. I really should know better than to play chicken with Central Massachusetts weather. However, as I am a stubborn New Englander, I took pictures anyway.

Here is my new, improved and expanded strawberry bed. The majority of the plants survived the dry early summer and the subsequent monsoon-like late summer and fall. Many of them even sprouted runners. I like to think the very strongest have survived. I will transplant them in the spring to give them more space. The ultimate goal is a batch of strawberry jam. I think that is achievable.

The biggest challenge will be preventing the birds from getting the ripe berries before I do. So far, it seems like the least expensive thing to try is hanging shiny things (old CD’s are a popular recommendation) from the nearby trees.  Allegedly, the flashing lights scare off the birds. I suppose it is worth a try. I am also open to suggestions from my fellow DIYeters.

Just to the right of the strawberry bed and the cherry trees I put some cardboard over the grass and weighted it down with rocks.  I am hoping this will knock out the grass and make expanding the front yard garden a little easier in the spring. We get good sunlight in the front yard, it is a shame to waste it on grass.  I might move the bee balm up front and add more varieties of herbs. Front yard gardens are also good for edible flowers.

The chickens have not been laying recently. However, they did spend all summer producing some amazing high-nitrogen fertilizer.  We dumped it directly into our fallow raised bed; In 2019 I think this is where we will grow sweetcorn. Corn loves nitrogen.

Mr. Food It Yourself has been investigating possible reasons why the ladies have stopped laying. Age is one probable factor. Also, they just got through their fall molt. The short days and low temperatures certainly have not helped. While no man alive can change New England weather, we can winterize our coop to take that stress off our little flock.

I will shamelessly brag that all the winterizing equipment Mr. Food It Yourself and I put away last spring was exactly where we thought it was.

Once again, the chickens will spend the coldest months sandwiched between our deck and our garage. We decided to get the coop off the ground this year. Last year the chickens spent a lot of time with wet feet. That is not good for chickens! Mr. Food It Yourself dumpster-dove some large pallets from his workplace. We stapled some indoor/outdoor carpet over the pallets to keep the birds from getting stuck. I think it is important to note that we measured the foot print of the coop and the size of the pallets before we started this process. Good thing, too, because…

We nailed it! After setting up the lights (with a timer), fitting the water trough with a birdbath heater, spreading a layer of bedding and re-installing the doors on the run, we moved the chickens to their winter home. Looks like they are happy!

Yes, this was a challenging year for the Food It Yourself garden. Woodchucks are terrible people. However, we are not going to give up our garden, we are going to keep expanding. Meanwhile, we will keep learning how to work with what we get from the weather and the local fauna. I am glad for a little before I have to start again though. What went well in your garden this year? What do you hope you can improve next season? Share in the comments!