Good field sanitation isn’t my favorite farm chore of the season. It’s just not that much fun to take down, clear, out, compost and burn everything it took all season to build up.
But it’s far from a thankless task. In fact, it’s probably the number one way to make the gardens seem like a promise rather than an insurmountable chore the following spring.
I went out on Monday to start the process of clearing out, and yesterday I did a little more. I don’t even know if there’ll be enough time before the snow flies (and stays) to finish all of the gardens, but I’m biting off little two or three hour chunks of work when the weather is decent.
I started (and finished) the northeast garden yesterday, which wasn’t a huge task because almost half of it is in perennial strawberries that I previously weeded. The tomatoes and okra stalks were pulled for the burn pile, and the chard stumps went in the compost pile before the three open rows (about 2 x 25′ each) were raked and smoothed.
Then there is the east garden–the biggest garden that needs clearing of this season’s debris. The central garden is slightly bigger, but that was fallowed this season, so it only needs a final mowing.
There are six rows total–the second of which (sweet peppers and eggplant) I cleared before taking this image. After I took the image, I started on the top row–snipping off tomato and pole bean vines and raking up fallen fruit and leaf debris–transporting it all to the burn pile.
At the rate I’m working, this garden will take at least two more sessions to finish. Then there’s the north central garden and the hilltop, which may only take a half-session apiece. Hilltop is half perennial berries and almost completely mulched; north central is already mostly cleared of vegetation, but needs final weeding and raking.
Today is rainy and chilly–not an ideal day for this sort of work. Since it looks like I’m getting manure early next week, I’m working against somewhat of a deadline, but I can always dress the cleared beds and pile the rest to spread as I go.
I’m actually enjoying it much more than I thought I would–taking my time and making the process of field sanitation a deliberate meditation on the year. Except for the sounds of combines in the nearby fields, it’s quiet out there, and the summer greens have given way to a palette of reds and golds and browns.
Today I’ll work inside though–there’s still produce (even tomatoes!) left to process, and something delicious from the oven (maybe involving some of those thirty pounds of apples in the basement) will make a dreary day into a cozy one.