spreading compost and other winter preparations

Garden Work

gnome and pile
compost bins compost barrel
winter prep gardens

A beautiful warm fall day for garden work. We were out cleaning up the yard and gardens – getting ready for winter. My main project was COMPOST.

My old wood compost bins have finally composted themselves. After 10 or 15 years. Two homemade untreated fir bins. I pulled off all the old decayed wood, then carted the compost to my garden beds. My 2010 plan says there will be tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes and peppers in these home beds next year, which need a nice rich soil. A couple of the beds were cleared out earlier and already have a layer of spread compost with cover crops growing well. Now the rest of the beds have piles of compost. I’ll buy winter rye seed tomorrow (my local hardware store sells it by the pound). Then these beds will be set for winter.

I also have a nice compost barrel this year (new this spring). I’m still getting the hang of how to use this. I piled in some yard waste (old hydrangea blossoms) and gave it some good spins. I’m planning to move this next spring. For now, its near the kitchen door, but next year I’ll put it by the garden beds in the sun to help heat it up. I’m also looking for a good buy on a shredder to generate fine brown material to mix with my kitchen scraps.

The other task-of-the-day was putting away pots. Often I leave them out all winter and find them cracked come spring. I’m so ambitious this year. I emptied most of the pots and stacked them in a sheltered spot. I emptied a pretty pink rose from one pot and stuck this in the ground in a sheltered location. Same with my lavender. I removed it from its pot and planted it next to the rose. This is lavender planted from seeds on Feb 21. Its grown nicely and I’m looking forward to some good sized plants next year.

lavender winter prep

22 Comments. Leave new

  • Composting is fun! I just posted on the results of my first compost pile. Regarding cover crops, I've never tried planting them. I figured that I would just put down compost in my beds and hope for the best next year. Is it wise to grow a cover crop if your beds are somewhat small?

  • Don't know how many leaves you have available, but I'm loving my leaf shredder vac/blower. It is a Toro, and electric. It's a bit loud, but works great, and is especially nice for getting leaves out pf places where it is difficult to rake.

  • I just use my lawn mower to shred all the leaves I get.

  • Marian(LondonUK)
    November 9, 2009 2:25 PM

    Thinking of getting a Gnome he looks ready to do some work there!
    Your pot clearing and tidying has reminded me I have seed trays, pots and bird defence netting sitting around the side of my house waiting to be washed and put away ready for the new season.
    Marian(London UK)

  • I actually meant a paper shredder.

    In the fall, I'm just adding unshredded leaves to my tumbler. I have lots of brown matter now.

    My problem is the rest of the year. I don't have a good source of brown material then, but lots of green (kitchen scraps). Thought I'd get a paper shredder and use my newspaper and other paper waste. Does anyone else do this?

  • Kalena,

    Compost is really important, cover crops optional.

    You do need to turn the soil in the spring if you plant a cover crop. They add a bit more organic material, loosen the soil, and reduce run off of nutrients over the winter. If you can plant a legume, they add nitrogen too.

  • I tear up newspapers and junk mail–don't bother with a shredder, althoug I have one stowed somewhere and it would make things easier.

    I figure that anyone who not only pieces together all the little bits of my credit card number from those darn checks they send all the time, but also does it after picking through coffee grounds, rotting lettuce, etc, might even deserve to pull off the scame for their hard work. (Not really, but I find it unlikely anyone would try.)

  • Kathy – I shredded newspaper (lots of newspaper) and mixed it into the soil for my winter garden. The area was home to a fantastic crop of peas. Turning over the plot this fall, I couldn't find any trace of paper. I've also put down sheets of newspaper and flattened brown cardboard boxes in the bottoms of my raised beds to cut down on weeds (spurge is my biggest problem and the ants like it) – No weeds of any kind this summer. Digging down last weekend, I can find only a few small scraps of paper and/or cardboard.
    I think, however, this year I'm going to rip the newspapers by hand and see how that works. I haven't tried any other type of paper or cardboard.
    – Daisy in AZ

  • I will try tearing the junk mail and newspaper. I wasn't worried about secrecy, just thought tearing wouldn't make the pieces small enough for quick composting and efficient mixing in the tumbler.

    I'll start collecting torn paper and use it soon as this batch finishes.

  • Your compost bin is quite nifty looking. I just got a compost bin from my town hall (they sell them every fall). This is my family's first try at composting and yours looks like it would be a lot easier to turn. we use a long pole that was once a gardening tool that has been long rusted.


  • Kathy … I'm in the lawnmower corner. One of my energy indulgences is a hefty-horsepower bagging mower. Just this week I ran it over my garden waste, my wife's perennial bed and the lawn, grass with tons of leaves. I like to do it when everything is wet since that's what compost likes. I got over two cubic yards of stuff from a quarter acre lot with one day's work. Now this will not get me two yards of compost but each year with all of my composting I get about three yards of compost

  • Lawn mower sounds great! What fantastic compost you will have.

    I have a tiny lot – less than 1/8 acre – no power mower. I have one giant Norway maple. Its dropping all its leaves now, coming down fast. So the tumbler is working well now.

    The tumbler is fantastic. Very easy to turn. And this past month, with the leaves mixed with my kitchen scraps, its working great. Its been getting so hot its SMOKING! A sign of lots of compost being made fast.

    But my kitchen waste is generated all year long. In mid summer, I tried just putting the kitchen scraps in the barrel and, of course, it didn't compost. It turned to liquid stink because its only rich green matter. So I need a regular source of brown material.

  • Two thoughts. Shredded paper will work but you can also gather up those bags of leaves that some neighbors put out for pickup. Plastic bags keep them dry till you need them and then you can reuse the plastic bags. You can also work with a business to pick up their shredded paper but then you have to know that they do not shred paper with heavy metal inks.

  • Hi Kathy,
    I've been trying to grow lavender from seed and so far havent had any luck. Did yours take a while to germinate? I'm going to try again as its now spring and would love to grow my own lavender borders but am unsure what I'm doing wrong. Lauren

  • My lavender was very slow to sprout. And very poor germination. I planted lots of seed in potting soil under lights on 2-21-09. By 3-9-09, one tiny little sprout. By 3-28, 4 sprouts about 1/2 inch tall, but smelling very nice. The photo on this post in the orange pot the three lavender plants still growing. I hope they will survive the winter. I'd love to have a yard full of lavender.

    This seems like a good article on line about growing lavender from seed: http://www.essortment.com/home/growinglavender_sdam.htm

    They say its not a project for the impatient. Fresh seed is important. I mail ordered mine from Burpee (Provence Blue) and planted it right away.

    Good luck. I may try to start a few more this winter.

  • I just love compost! This time of year I just layer it on top of the soil and let the worms do all the digging for me over Winter!

  • Kathy,
    I just started following your blog and I'm really impressed with your work. I live just north of you outside rt128.

    I'm really starting to get interested in locally grown food and we participated in a CSA out of NH this year. But I really want a functional Kitchen garden next year.

    Do you think I should I be preparing my plot now? I haven't even cleared anywhere yet…and certainly don't have any compost. It's just a grass right now.

    Any advice you have for a newbie would be greatly appreciated!


  • I was out spreading compost again this morning – at my community plot. What fun.

    Lori, You can start a garden any time that you have the time. You can get a head start on preparing the soil by starting now. Or wait til spring.

    Use string and stakes and mark out a nice sunny level area. Then remove the grass layer and compost it or turn it under into the soil. Then you can spread on fresh or composted manure, and/or compost. At least couple inches of this. As Matron says, this will get the worms working for you. Top it with hay if you want to (for looks and to hold in warmth).

    In the spring, pull back the hay, turn the compost under and plant. How exciting to think about a new garden!

    Here's a previous new garden post or mine. There are other ideas here and comments about new gardens.

    Have fun!

  • Kathy,

    If you have access to an office where there is a shredder, you can bring home large bags of shredded documents. Our office has a large size commercial shredder and someone else does the shredding for me. Otherwise I think a shredder sounds like a fantastic idea, and the newspaper, too. I use a lot of newspaper in the garden, and cardboard, too.

  • I shred my Norway maple leaves with a Toro electric leaf blower that turns into a shredder. Then I store the shredded (and greatly compacted) leaves in two trash barrels so I can add them to the compost all year long. I don't need the barrels anymore since we compost/ recycle so much! I never had luck with Norway maple leaves left whole- they just mat together and take forever to break down.

    I haven't used shredded paper because I wonder what chemicals might be in the paper…

  • Your tumbler looks very full in that picture. Remember, if it is packed full, when you turn it nothing will have room to move so no actual mixing will occur.

  • I am about to empty it for the first time. The compost will go into a new garden area. Next time I will not fill it as full. I now have a good supply of greens (kitchen waste) and browns (shredded junk mail) and am looking forward to filling up another load – but not so full.


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