Winter gardens should be covered, either with a tarp, mulch or a crop cover. All this will add organic matter and improve soil tillage.
Covered roots of crops can break up “plowing beds” in the soil. Roots and leaves lock the nutrients and legumes into the mix and fix nitrogen. However, cover crops grow very lush during the winter and are often 3-4 inches tall by mid-spring, especially if you’re planting grains with legumes.
I generally recommend legumes like cochineal clover, Austrian winter peas, or hairy vetch in most cases. You may have to wait for the next spring’s drought before you can cover and start gardening. Gardeners also experiment with fabrics mixed with mulch and/or compost as a winter treat. This reduces weeds and allows you to manage soil moisture for early planting.
The mulch may add quite a bit of organic matter, though it can’t trap nutrients and fix nitrogen. The worms are stimulated by mulch cover and do a great job of aerating the soil profile under the mulch. The biggest advantage of mulch is that it can be pulled back in the spring and transplanted with minimal fuss.
If you ever tilled or razed your garden area in the fall, add some lime. A good application rate is 10-15# seconds per 100 square feet of vegetable garden. Lime takes about six months to fully interact with the soil, so the benefits will be ready when you start gardening in the spring. Gardens only need lime once every four years.
With the drought as it was, it may not be too late to plant a lawn but you have to do it. Most weed seed mixtures are planted at a rate of five pounds per 1,000 square feet. Add one pound of seed per week after September 15th to ensure good settling. This would also be an excellent time to fertilize your garden. Use grass products with a mixture of slow and fast-release nitrogen.
Copper is a great fungicide for fruit and berry plants. There are many commercial names commonly available and the list of diseases that slow this remedy is impressive. It benefits apples, pears, cherries, peaches, blueberries, cranberries, cranberries, and other types. Copper should be applied before it rains and before the leaves fall.
What are those big holes?
One day, I noticed some big holes in the ground that weren’t there before. You don’t see anything coming out or going in. But this is not convenient. So, what might make these holes? There are several possibilities, two more possibilities than the others.
Rats make holes two and a half to four inches wide. Holes are generally connected to a modest tunnel system, sometimes old mole edges are used, or finished under a protective concrete slab. Rats need three things in life: food, water, and shelter. But these items do not need to be on the same property.
Since mice are active at night, you may never see them. I advise my clients to look carefully for food sources, first on your property and then on neighboring properties. The success of a rat project often involves good communication with the neighborhood. Compost piles, with fruit and vegetable waste, and bird feeders are often their menu. When the food is removed, the mice may leave on their own. If not, baiting or baiting are really the only options and you have to be very careful not to harm wildlife, humans or pets. Contact me for more information on how to do either or both safely.
The next possibility is ground squirrels. These squirrels live in the ground despite their ability to climb trees. But climbing trees isn’t generally the way they find food, which includes succulent plants, fruits, seeds, insects, carrion, and other strange things. Its population has increased dramatically over the past fifteen years. They make holes that are similar in size and location as mice. You may see them, if you watch them surreptitiously, in and out of holes during the day. Their tunnels are much wider than rats, and they are known to undermine house supports and especially concrete blocks with deck pillars.
This is a local species, unlike the rat, and was common in the District of Columbia. But because they could affect crops, farmers (with the help of the Extension Bureau from the 1940s to the late 1960s) stabbed them hard and sent the population back to almost nothing. During the first fifteen years I’ve been here, I rarely see them. But they came back with a vengeance. Their main control now are wolves. For homeowners, the control measures are the same as for mice, i.e. appropriate baits and traps with appropriate safety measures.
Two other possibilities are rabbits and mountain beaver. Rabbits seem to grow and make holes, but the holes are usually hidden in a thick brush. Mountain beavers, also known as “Boomers” and they are not true beavers, are only found on properties located next to the woods.
District of Columbia beekeepers The event is 6 p.m. Thursday, November 3rd. CCOB will host a hybrid meeting on Zoom and in person at the OSU Extension Office. The topic will be winter gatherings and how honeybees survive the winter. Everyone is welcome. For information on joining by Zoom, email [email protected].
Food Preservation: You can get up-to-date and accurate answers to your food preservation questions by calling our office at 3462-503397 and requesting to speak to Jenny Rudolph.
• The OSU Annex office is fully open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Donate additional garden products and/or money to a food bank, senior centers, or community meal programs. It is much appreciated.
• The extension service provides its programs and materials on an equal basis to all people.
If you have questions about any of these topics or other questions related to the home garden and/or ranch, please contact Chip Bubl, Oregon State University Extension Office in St. Helens at 503-397-3462 or at [email protected]. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The District of Columbia Oregon State University Extension Office publishes a monthly newsletter on horticultural and agricultural topics, called County Living, truly written/edited by you. All you have to do is ask for it and it will be mailed or emailed to you. Call 503-397-3462 to be listed. Alternatively, you can find it on the web at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/columbia/ and click on newsletters.
Oregon State University Extension Service – District of Columbia
505 North Columbia River Highway
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