|I am not above letting the animals work for me in the composting department!|
It may seem like an odd time to be gardening, but now is the time to prep the beds for next year among other things. Not to mention that there are greens to be growing that aren’t bothered much by the winter weather.
With all the leaves falling, now is the time for building the compost piles. I have never shredded mine and have never had a problem with them breaking down. However, if you want to speed things up, you can run over them with the lawn mower. If you have a bag to catch the clippings, it will make things even easier. I basically pile the leaves up along with horse manure, that we ALWAYS have plenty of, and let that break down over the winter and early spring. Usually by April or so, it is ready to use. If I have an area where I plan to make a new bed or garden, I pile it up in that spot and then I don’t have to move it come spring. I don’t even till in spring, I just dig and plant. The earthworms will do a pretty good job of mixing it up.
If you have small livestock, you can compost even easier. In our barn stalls, we use the deep bedding method. I bed the stalls with at least 6 inches of wood shavings, old hay, and leaves. The deep bedding absorbs all the urine and poop ( not large animal poop like cows or horses) and the heat generated by the bedding decomposing helps keep the animals warm. Then in the spring when its time to clean out the stalls, all of that bedding goes straight to the garden and flower beds. Same with the chicken house. Load after load of leaves goes into the hen house and all winter they scratch and poop making for some very fine compost by spring.
As for what to grow, Swiss chard, kale, arugula, and turnip greens do very well. If the greens are young and a deep freeze is coming, a simple row cover has worked for me. Once they are up and about 8 inches tall, they haven’t even needed that cover. Experiment some and find what works for you. A package of seed is only a $1.00. so if you mess up, you haven’t lost much. But, if you succeed you will have your own produce in the middle of winter!