By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
October brings about a chore I look forward to and also regret having to do.
The task that I refer to is putting the tomato garden to bed for the winter.
The past 6 months I have slept, breathed, lived, and eaten with my garden in some form of fashion.
I have dreamed of what this year’s garden would be like when it matured much like a mother dreams of what her child will be like. I have breathed life into my tomato garden from planting the seeds to protecting my seedlings from the harm of slugs, damping off, and my husband’ size 12 feet. I have lived with my garden through my toll of maintaining my garden and by the many Fresco dinners I have enjoyed next to my tomato garden.
Before I begin putting my tomato bed down for the year I make sure my garden journal is complete. I always like to note what was planted, where it was planted, and how it did in the garden. I also like to note any unusual weather conditions that could have affected the outcome of the tomato garden. Once I am sure that my journal is complete am ready to start bedding down the garden.
Since I use the red plastic mulch my process of bedding down the garden is a little different but besides removing the plastic it is the same for everyone. The first of October begins the process of removing the red mulch I laid down for the tomato season. Then I smooth out a remaining grass clippings, and newspaper through the garden. Wheat or rye is then seeded as a ground cover for winter. This step will help me produce beefy tomatoes when the ground cover is tilled under.
Tucking a tomato bed in for the winter is an important step that many gardeners forget to do. But taking the time now will make a healthier garden next year and also a more positive experience for the novice and experience gardener alike.
So as George Burns would say, Good Night Gracie I will say adieu to my tomato garden for the 2010 garden season. Each jar I open, each sauce I use I will think of how wonderful the tomato season was and come January I will start planning again but for the garden season 2011. And come March I will pull the garden blanket back and awaken the fertile land again with the warming sunlight, fresh air, and hardened off seedlings ready to explore the garden frontier.