Fall Garden Clean-Up and Bonus Garlic Bed

Fall Garden Clean-Up and Bonus Garlic Bed

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day in my area. Lots of sunshine, mild temperatures and a day full of fall garden chores. On my to-do list was to get the garden ready for the Handy Hubby to mow everything flat with the tractor and mowing machine. It was a great day to be outside and get some of my planned tasks done for the season.

This past summer has been kind of an off year for our garden. Because we were building the new house, I made a conscious decision in January not to plant a large garden. My homemade canned goods were in good supply and I thought I could make it through another year without needing too much. What I did need I could purchase locally from either the produce auction or local Amish farmers. I did plant my 3 raised beds, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes and some peppers.

Benefits of Fall Garden Clean-up

You may be asking, “Why do I want to clean up my garden in the fall?” Come spring you’ll just plow it or till it under anyway (if you aren’t using a no-till method, but that is an entirely different subject). There are a couple of different reasons for tidying up this time of year.

Leaving all that dead vegetation provided nice winter time beds for insects, bacteria and fungus. Taking away those nice winter hiding spots and throwing them out on the street can help reduce their population and save you headache next year.

Removing items like trellises and stakes to store under cover helps to extend the life of the item. Winter conditions can be harsh. Freezing and thawing, exposure to wind and rain all takes it toll on equipment. Let’s face it this stuff ain’t cheap! Who doesn’t want to extend the life of their investment? Plus, you’ll have to do it in the spring if you don’t do it now. If you get it out of the way now you’ll have more time for the fun stuff in the spring.

Finally, I think it is just good for the soul to have a nice tidy space. I didn’t want to look at all that dead vegetation all winter. How depressing.

Green Bean Trellis and Tomato Stakes

The first task I checked off my list was pulling up my bean trellis. I always plant green beans because I can never find the particular variety I like unless I plant them. We eat an heirloom variety called Half-Runners. I have eaten them all my life. Any other bean just tastes, well, anemic to me. Half-Runners have an actual bean inside. You can let them on the vine and let the pod ripen fully and just harvest the white bean or you can pick it earlier when the pod is still tender and eat the whole thing. This is what we do and the results are delicious.

Half-Runners are kind of in between a bush bean (meaning it grows low like a bush) and a pole bean (meaning it sends out runners and climbs anything it can). Beans that grow low to the ground have a tendency to get dark spots on them from the moisture in the ground. I have found that by putting up a fence for them to climb and actively training them to grow on it I have very little “fouling” or dark marks. It also makes them easier to pick.

My trellis is made of some inexpensive livestock fencing. I just zip tie it to sturdy stakes and stretch it out in a long row. I then plant beans on both sides. The fencing is flexible and every fall I pick the old dead vine off of it, cut the zip ties and roll the fencing up into bundles. Once that is done I tie it with some old hay twine and store it with the other garden supplies.

I also gathered all the tomato stakes. I stored the ones that were decent enough to use next year and sent any of the broken ones to the burn pile at the farm. Luckily there weren’t too many that needed thrown out. I inherited some metal ones that will last long past my lifetime, but in recent years I have started purchasing bamboo ones and a few of them were damaged during the season. Luckily I should have plenty for next year. I like bamboo because it is a renewable resource and I got the stakes for a reasonable price. Tomato cages are not something I recommend. I just don’t understand the concept of reaching into the small holes of the cage to harvest what I hope are really bid tomatoes. (Obviously I understand how to do it, but why?)

Finally the last thing I did was to pull all the old dead vegetation from my raised beds and transport it to the compost pile.

Bonus Garlic Bed

The bonus of the day was the installation of a garlic bed and a new onion bed for next year. The garlic bed has been brewing in my mind for some time now. As I get farther along in my adventure with raised bed gardening, I have discovered it suits my gardening needs more to plant beds dedicated to one vegetable. One of those “vegetables” was garlic and I have been wanting to establish a dedicated garlic bed. While working up in the garden I discovered an old weathered frame that came off another project. It had everything I needed, four sides and about 4-6 inches in height. This is all you really need to start a garden bed. Oh yeah, you also need soil, but I covered that in the next step.

Excavation for house construction required we relocate our existing raised beds. We moved them to a spot that is less than ideal. Because of where we located them and the torrential rain we received in the month of July, everything I planted in them turned black and died. They were sitting in a bit of a low spot and with all the rain they had too much water. When we moved them I had suggested just spreading out the dirt and starting new with fresh compost. The Handy Hubby replied “that’s good dirt”. Being a farmer all his life he would know. For this reason and the fact we have a tractor with a loader bucket we moved soil and all when relocating them.

Knowing that we were going to relocate (again) the raised beds, I shoveled some of the dirt from one of them to use in the new garlic bed. Now I just need to order some garlic and plant it.

Tractor Tire Onion Bed

The other bed happened at the spur of the moment. Our contractor completed the chimney on our new house about two weeks ago. Left over from the chimney construction was a large pile of sand. The sand pile was preventing the Handy Hubby from doing some grading to stop water getting into our barn. He asked what should we do with it? I said, “if you got an old tractor tire we could make an onion bed out of it”. He thought that sounded like a pretty good idea. Off he went and returned with an old tractor tire from the farm. He used the loader bucket to dump a bunch of sand into it. Voila! I’ll mix some compost in with and it will be ready to plant next spring.

Cleaning up the garden for the year is just one of the chores that gardeners find themselves doing this time of year.The type of gardening and location will determine what is on your list. For example, if you live in Florida you certainly wouldn’t want to plant bulbs this early, but here in Ohio it is the perfect time.

Some of the many things I didn’t mention was cleaning and winterizing tools and lawn equipment, pruning fruit trees, cleaning out flower beds, gathering herbs and nuts. Fall is a busy time for gardeners and homesteading types like me. If you’d like to explore the topic further here are a couple of great resources:

https://www.motherearthnews.com/

https://www.farmersalmanac.com/

Search “fall garden chores” on both sites for some good articles. Mother Earth News also has some articles on what to plant for a fall and winter garden.

Let me know what your thoughts and comments are below. I’d love to know what you are working on this time of year and I’m always looking for new resources.

Amish Inspired Texas Sheet Cake

Amish Inspired Texas Sheet Cake

Who doesn’t love chocolate and who doesn’t love cake? (Well I have a cousin that doesn’t like chocolate, but she’s just plain weird.)

When it comes to comfort food chocolate cake is at the top of the list and this recipe for Texas Sheet Cake couldn’t be more simple. It literally takes 15 minutes to put together. And the icing, the icing is even simpler than the cake. You just pour it on and spread to cover. Better yet its a recipe that comes straight from Amish country. When it comes to comfort food you can’t get any better than an Amish cookbook and that is where this recipe comes from. Trust me I know, my heritage is dripping with Amish influence.

I love cookbooks and I especially like old cookbooks. Luckily I have a Mom that generously feeds my habit. When she and Dad were downsizing I inherited all the cookbooks she had collected over the years. Many of them were the locally produced variety. The type that were made up of recipes contributed by the members of the organizations that were publishing the books. They were usually fund raising efforts for churches, the high school band, local 4-H club. One in my collection was produced by the workers and friends of the Der Dutchman restaurant in Walnut Creek, Ohio. Anyone familiar with Walnut Creek knows that it is small town right in the middle of Ohio’s Amish Country. If you are ever there stop and eat at the Der Dutchman for authentic Amish cooking. Same as I make, but I don’t have to do the dishes.

This cake is so decadent and so delicious that the original recipe called for 1 full pound of powdered sugar for the icing! I measured it out by weight and it totaled 8 cups. Eight cups of powdered sugar. Talk about rich! However, I’ve done some experimentation and have cut that back considerably. It’s still really rich and decadent, but if you want to use the full 1 pound feel free.

What I love about this cake is it comes together so quickly. It takes about 15 minutes to put it together. The bake time is 15-20 minutes. While its baking you put together the icing. As soon as it comes out of the oven you spread the icing on and let it cool. No need to let the cake cool before you ice the cake. It is a great last minute desert. Most of the ingredients are standard pantry staples. Can’t wait to try it huh? Well, here’s the recipe.

 

Amish Inspired Texas Sheet Cake

Cake:

2 sticks butter
1 cup water
4 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a jelly roll sheet pan (some may call this a cookie sheet, just make sure it has sides)
  2. Melt butter in heavy bottomed saucepan. Add cocoa and water. Bring to a boil on medium heat.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Pour into prepared sheet pan.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Pretty simple. When making I will measure out my sugar and flour into 2 separate bowls. I’ll add my baking soda to the bowl with the flour. I take this extra step so that I can dump things in quickly. After I bring the cocoa mixture to a boil I will take the pan off the heat briefly and add my sugar, stir it up and then add my eggs and sour cream. I take it off the heat and add sugar first to cool it down a bit so I don’t scramble the eggs or curdle the sour cream.

I add the wet ingredients first (I know sugar is dry, but when it melts it gets more liquid) because when you add the flour the mixture can get a bit stiff. Don’t worry at this point. After I get my sugar, eggs and sour cream mixed in I put it back on the heat to add the flour. The heat helps to make the batter less stiff. I just keep stirring so I don’t burn the flour. Once everything is combined I quickly pour it out into my pan and spread it with a spoon or spatula.

While the cake is baking in the oven start the icing.

Icing:

1 stick butter
4 tablespoon cocoa
6 tablespoon milk
5 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. In heavy bottomed saucepan melt butter with milk, cocoa and vanilla. Stir constantly and bring to boil.
  2. Add powdered sugar. Stir to combine
  3. Pour on cake immediately after removing from oven.

I usually make this in the same saucepan as I made the cake. Just rinse it out really good. One less dish to wash. I usually have the icing done before the cake is done. I take it off the heat until the cake comes out of the oven, then put it back on the heat to warm it up before spreading on the cake. The icing will harden up as it cools down.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as the Handy Hubby and I do. I’d love to hear how you and your family like it.