Monday, October 15, 2018

winding down the garden season

Almost done with the garden this year. Still to do: harvest Brussels sprouts, plant garlic for next year, and lay down composted cow manure in the rows to mellow over winter. We've had a very wet fall, with the area having record flooding. Lucky for us, we are not in the flood plain, so no damage here, but it's been hard to work in the  garden or stay on top of mowing.

We are trying one more ( always one more!) thing this fall. Because of the slope of our land, and easily eroded silt soil in some areas, we do not till the entire garden. We leave sod everywhere except right in the row. It looks funny, and the rhizome like grasses constantly move back in to the rows, but it's the best thing to do if we want to keep our soil. So we mow our garden all summer.

The new thing is taking the flattest fourth of our garden, tilling it all up, and planting winter wheat.
Luckily, the heaviest rains finished before the tilling, but we've still had some erosion. I hand broadcasted, and raked in as best I could, aiming for one inch ( 25mm) of cover.

The wheat has sprouted, and the stand is not too bad for how it was done, I just hope it was thick enough to crowd out weeds next spring.

Because the rest of the garden areas are too steep to risk full tillage, this is the only place where we'll attempt it, so it will make our rotation scheme a bit tricky for the next year. We have come to realize that we are planting a bit too much for the two of us, anyway, so a 3/4 garden will also be a good move.

We'll hopefully be grinding our own wheat next summer. I'll report on how it goes.

The last of the root crops: Beets, cabbage, rutabagas, and parsnips for the root cellar.


  1. Hi Steve,

    I'll be very interested to hear how your wheat goes. I assume you have pretty good drainage in the soil? Tilling is a tough gig on sloping land and it is always risky isn't it? We've cut a lot of terraces into the side of the hill in order to get around that situation. Incidentally the first of about 100 corn plants have popped out of the soil today, and there are dozens of volunteer tomatoes. That is a good collection of beets and parsnip.

    How do you reckon your wheat will over winter?


    1. Hi Chris,
      Over time, wheat varieties have been developed that overwinter and finish growing the next season, as long as winters are not too cold. This link gives a quick summary.

      Winter wheats are often used in conventional farming to enable fall tillage, but with some cover to prevent erosion.
      It also is in crop rotation to break up pest and disease cycles for the corn and soybeans that conventional farmers mostly want to grow.

      The climate here should be ok for over wintering, and the rough lookahead forecast is for a warmer than average winter.

      Sloped land- yes, one of the reason land in this general area of Wisconsin is more affordable is that it's tricky to do broadscale farming. Farmers try to till on contour, but it's a losing battle, and they really need to figure out perennial food crops in much more of the farmed landscape.

      We have started a bit of actual terracing near the house, but it's still a work in progress, and as you well know, it's a LOT of work for a small addition of growing area. Once we have a couple levels up and worth sharing, I will be sure to do a post on them.

  2. Hi Steve, I came by to return the blog visit and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on mine. I also wanted to answer your question in hopes that the information will be useful to you.

    For harvesting our wheat we have two tools for cutting: a European scythe from One Scythe Revolution and a used TroyBilt push-behind sickle mower off of Craigslist. What would be really useful for the scythe is a grain cradle, which we don't have.

    For threshing, Dan made a thresher from a small yard chipper (photo in my post here). It works very well, but it's almost too powerful. I say that because I get a small number of broken grains with each batch. These still make good flour, however!

    For winnowing, you'll also see how I do that with a box fan at the end of that same post. I feed the chaff to my goats.

    Learning to grow and especially process our own wheat has taken quite a bit of experimentation as well as trial and error, but it's extremely rewarding to eat bread from wheat you've grown yourself.
    That's a great photo of your harvest in the wheelbarrow.

    1. Hi Leigh, thanks for the response. For harvest, I got my scythe from Scythe Supply. Since then I learned about Botan, who is just a couple hours north of here, and I actually went up with a friend to learn how to peen and sharpen from him last year. (Still need more practice with my scything technique)

      I plan to make a removable cradle of some sort for the scythe, since I will still be using it to just cut weeds.

      I bought an old antique fanning mill, which I just about have working properly, but still need to get the threshing piece figured out. I'm thinking of doing a drum thresher similar to the foot treadle type, but mounting a bike to it for pedal power. I still have a few months to get that assembled.

      can't wait to grind our own wheat.