Fall in Le Jardin du Chef

Greetings from Le Jardin Du Chef at Halter Ranch!

As Summer has come to a close and we are in the midst of Fall, it is a great time to reflect on our first growing season here on the ranch. This year we were able to set an excellent foundation for the culinary garden program. I am excited to enter the next growing season with more knowledge, a clear vision, and motivation to grow good food for our guests. This year I single-handedly grew and managed the one-acre garden for Chef Paul. He used the produce for his delicious seasonal dishes served in the Halter Ranch Tasting Room. Yes, you read that right! The salad and vegetables on your plate were grown within eyeshot of where you were consuming it. Few restaurants or tasting rooms can say that about the food they are serving!

Throughout this year, I grew a wide variety of crops for Chef, including radishes, beets, chard, kale, basil, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and flowers (to name a few)! After a busy year of watering, weeding, planting, and harvesting, I will let most of the garden rest for winter. In this blog, I will dig into the details of how I am managing the garden through winter and how I plan to reinvigorate our soil after a busy and abundant year.

Allowing your soil to recharge is vital after a bountiful growing season. Some crops are called heavy feeders, which means they use a lot of mineral nutrients present in the soil during their lifespan. This leaves the soil depleted of those valuable nutrients, and it is my job to make sure we replenish the soil nutrients so we can continue to grow healthy and prolific crops. A way to revive your soil after a growing season is to incorporate cover crops. Cover crops are an important fixture in any growing season. They help establish more sustainable garden management, improve soil health, suppress weed and disease pressure, reduce erosion, enhance moisture and nutrient availability, and support native pollinators. Cover crops have a big job in the garden and will play a significant role in the overall health of Le Jardin Du Chef. Since cover crops suppress weeds, this reduces the number of herbicides used. Cover crops also allow for more carbon sequestration, which means that more carbon dioxide is stored in the ground, thus helping to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Cover crops also help reduce soil erosion, increase soil moisture, and help with water infiltration. Another benefit is that they serve as forage for native pollinators by providing nectar.

The different cover crops I chose for this winter are organic crimson clover, organic peas, and organic oats. The crimson clover will help increase the amount of nitrogen in the soil, act as a soil builder, and reduce soil erosion. Plus, its blossoms provide nectar to beneficial insects such as native pollinators. Field peas fix a high amount of nitrogen into the soil and are great at suppressing those annoying winter weeds. The oats are fast-growing and act as a trellis for the peas. Oats will add a high amount of biomass to the soil and prevent erosion. Once these cover crops are established, I will maintain them through winter and, come springtime, will use my flail mower to chop them down. After they have been chopped, I will go through with my tractor and incorporate them into the soil. This adds a significant amount of organic matter to the soil and will increase the amount of nitrogen.

Before I plant my cover crops, I need to prepare the soil. This year I am going to add a mixture of amendments to alleviate the dense clay soil. I will also be adding organic compost and organic worm compost to help activate the soil. I am taking all these steps to set us up for a successful 2022 growing season.

​Here at Halter Ranch, we take the health of our soil seriously. It is our job to manage the land in sustainable ways to maintain the vitality of our planet and our ecosystems.

Here are some tips on how you can get your winter garden ready! First, remove all the residual weeds and plants in your garden from this last season. It’s time to rip out all the tomato and zucchini plants! After you have removed them, you can add an amendment of your choice. This year I chose gypsum and sulfur to help with the clay soil. Spread your amendment evenly and water it in. After your amendment is watered in, add some compost and till your garden. Once you have tilled, you can now spread your cover crop seed. After evenly scattering your cover crop seed, make sure to rake it in so that the seeds have proper contact with the soil. This will increase your chances of proper germination. Finally, you can irrigate your garden, or you can wait for rain! Your cover crop seeds should start to germinate in 7-10 days.

Here at Halter Ranch, we take the health of our soil seriously. It is our job to manage the land in sustainable ways to maintain the vitality of our planet and our ecosystems. I am honored to be able to steward this land in sustainable ways. If I did not take care of our soil in Le Jadin Du Chef, I would not be able to grow healthy, delicious vegetables for Chef Paul.

Make sure to check back in with us in late winter to get a head start on ideas for your spring garden!

Date Published: November 01, 2021

Category: Blog

 Haley Trengove

Haley Trengove

Haley Trengove, Estate Culinary Farmer