Winter garden fun in the Willamette valley

Winter in the Valley is unlike any other place for the type of weather that will hit you.  You can go from sunny to hail to sun and over to rain all in a single hour.  Getting your garden ready this time of year involves a lot of mud and slugs.  Since this is one of the few sunny weekend days that we have had it is perfect to start spreading out the giant pile of leaves that I have.  One of the perks of living in Eugene is that during the fall when the city is cleaning the leaves off the street is that they will be more than happy to drop off a load or two of leaves for free.  Since I didn’t know how far a load of leaves would cover I opted for only a single load this year.  Little did I know that a load is 4.5 yards of leaves.  I think this one load will be more than plenty for what I would like to cover.  The area that I am covering is a strip 10’x50′ that I had planted with a variety of Indian corn called Abenaki corn.  It grew very well in the soil but it was easy to tell that the soil was lacking in nutrients and organics.  The corn is going to be moved to the back garden that gets more sunlight and heat.

This year I am rotating the corn out and planting potatoes on one end and tomatoes and peppers on the other.  A fence shades one end of it in the afternoon so that side will be perfect for potatoes.  One thing that most of the gardeners in my family have noticed is that if you add any type of manure to soil and then plant potatoes you get scabby potatoes.  Hopefully adding the leaves will prevent that problem and add more than enough nutrients to the soil.  I try to use no chemicals on my plants and do everything as natural as possible.  My daughter is having a blast as we dig through the pile finding all the different critters that have already made it their home.  So far we have found two types of earthworm, slugs, ants, beetles  mushrooms, and a lone centipede.  There are many more in there that we have missed most likely.

The pile plus the little bit I was able to spread out before I hurt my back
The pile plus the little bit I was able to spread out before I hurt my back
About half the pile spread out.  With Katy hiding behind the wheelbarrow
About half the pile spread out. With Katy hiding behind the wheelbarrow

I am hoping that the 6 inch thick layer of leaves will help kill off all the grass and weeds below.  I really don’t want to have to spray weed killer to get rid of them.  I might try putting a couple of layers of newspaper down then add more compost on top.  I have had that work great in flower beds to keep control of the weeds.  Not sure if I want to do it large-scale.  That is a lot of work to do by myself.  A six-year-old and pregnant wife don’t make for the best helpers.

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