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Garden Clean-up

October 15, 2012

Cows and farm gardens go together.  The photo below shows my dad and brother making green chop for the cows.  What a lash-up.  An Allis Chalmers tractor and forage harvester towing a Farquhar manure spreader for holding and then delivering the green chop to the cows.  The only crop we harvest on any scale now for the cows is grass hay for winter feeding.  Otherwise they do the harvesting themselves by grazing.

Green chop 1950’s

However,  the garden still needs some clean-up after certain crops.  I under-seed cover crop into existing crops that will remain in the garden over winter, but some crops like corn or some of the brassicas I remove.  My criteria on what to remove?  Anything the cows will eat that isn’t too much of a job to handle.  It also gives the soil somewhat of a rotation too if you remove some of the crop residue, and allows for ease of planting a cover crop.


Obviously if you didn’t have livestock to utilize the plant waste, you could add it to your compost pile, or leave the residue where it is to break down over winter.  Personally I’m a firm believer that livestock are an integral part of a vegetable operation/garden for the nutrient rich manure they provide.  I think the corn stalks will add more food value in the manure than if I just left them to rot in the garden.  Plus the cows love the taste treat as you can see in the photos above,  cows watching in all three pictures.


I am going to the cow herd anyway to deliver water, it simplifies my garden cleanup tasks by loading the pickup with spent plants rather than making multiple wheelbarrow trips to the compost pile.  For big jobs like the corn patch or a row of cauliflower I choose to feed the plants to the cows, rather than meter out the plants to the hens who get all the daily vegetable trimmings plus the house compost anyway.


Pigs would also be a natural outlet for garden residue, but I decided not to raise pigs this year so the cows are getting the spoils, and I’m getting a cleaned up garden, which has now been under-seeded with cover crop.

Are gardens done in your area or can you still eke out some harvest?

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. Bev permalink
    October 15, 2012 9:50 am

    We went from many acres down to 2-1/2 acres. Also down to one horse which provides us with a yearly stock pile for manure. Our garden is finished, we have to plant many varieties that take less time to mature. The manure is on and tilled into the garden. Have a manure spreader that helps make the work easier. For many years we pulled and hauled our corn stocks over to our neighbors ranch to his cattle. At our new place we do the same with a ranching neighbor. We even have our neighbors doing the same thing. They used to run everything through a shredder. Their cattle thank us. Our horse gets some but there is too much for her. When we had chickens the plus was to give them all the weeds, old plants, from the garden. They loved it and we got rid of a variety of things that also liked to eat our plants. We miss having chickens but we are happy to get all the eggs we need from our neighbors. We had to laugh. Already planning what to and what not to grow next year. Such satifaction when you look at all that you will provide your family in the coming months.

    • October 15, 2012 10:13 am

      Bev, sounds like a good deal you got there!

      The slugs are cussing me now after I pulled out all those cabbages and cauliflower plants. I don’t irrigate so they were finding lots of cool cover under all the old leaves 😦 I exposed a lot of slug eggs and the birds went right to work!

  2. October 15, 2012 9:59 am

    It is funny what an audience cows are for all types of chores. They do love to watch people work. I see Jane’s big udder in the background…

    What do you have netted down in the center row of the last photo? I’ve got to figure out how to deer proof my strawberries and was thinking this might be a good way to do it.

    My beans got frosted which makes me officially done. Just have to harvest the fodder beets, turnips and cover the garden with leaves for the winter. On the fence about planting fodder radishes – I’m not sure I’ll get the seed in on time…

    My cows are not adventurous eaters and eat only beets and apples. So I got some pigs for some tilling and clean up and trash disposal assistance…

    • October 15, 2012 10:18 am

      AMF, I know they like to watch us work because they are the boss! Or should I say Bos…

      That is deer/Australian shepherd netting 😀 Any root crops that the deer or elk go for I cover with netting…but the dogs like to dig carrots so the netting goes down a little earlier some years 😦 It’s pretty easy to pull back when I want to harvest, but you do need to put some weights on the edges or the wind blows it away. T-posts work good.

      Geez, I am in trouble these days when I go to move cows, they expect treats and boy to do I hear about it if the pickup just has water in it 😉

      • Auburn Meadow Farm permalink
        October 15, 2012 11:02 am

        Well, they don’t call ’em Bossy for nothing, lol.

  3. Dana S permalink
    October 15, 2012 10:17 am

    Since, we’re in Western Washington, we are able to keep kale, radish, lettuce, snow peas, carrots and anything else that is fairly winter hardy throughout the cool season. My goal is to have something to eat out of my garden in every season this year!

  4. Victoria permalink
    October 15, 2012 11:06 am

    Here in upstate NY we got a killing freeze (low of 27) last Friday, so the sweet potatoes, winter squash, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and basil are all in. I’ve still got onions, leeks, broccoli, lettuce, sorrel, spinach, kale, collards, parsley, parsnips, and carrots out there.

    For me, my (darling, spoiled, completely indoor pet and not food) rabbits are the garden cleanup crew, along with my compost bins. They’re happy to get lettuce that bolts, broccoli leaves, and anything which the slugs have nibbled on. And their litter goes out into the compost bins.

    I also import manure – if you’re looking for manure, horse barns are frequently the place to get it. A lot of horse owners don’t grow their own hay, so they don’t have fields to spread the manure on. I can get 1-3 month old manure for free whenever I show up and dig it out of the far end of the manure pile at a local barn.

    • October 15, 2012 2:39 pm

      Victoria, wow that’s cold, I’m glad we’ve not got that cold yet. We normally don’t get a killing frost until around Halloween so we’re due 😦 But I will have to get my Naked Seed pumpkins in pretty soon, I don’t care if they freeze, since I feed the pulp to the cows, but it makes the job of extracting the seeds a little messy 😦

      Sounds like your rabbits have it made LOL.

      We get the neighbors horse manure. They have pasture but only use the horse manure on their garden…so I’m happy to take delivery of it! Their loss, my gain, I think!

      • Victoria permalink
        October 15, 2012 3:02 pm

        We usually get our first bad frost in late September or early October, and the first snow sometime in early November. I went trick-or-treating in 8 inches of snow one year growing up.

        • October 15, 2012 4:52 pm

          Victoria, yikes! Nothing that exciting here, except a 18″ of snow the week before Thanksgiving – made butchering turkeys quite the trial! Normally we are just wet here or dry and windy 🙂

  5. October 15, 2012 1:20 pm

    Here in central Florida we are just planting our second garden of the year. The bog tomato fields are setting on green tomatoes now, soon people will se Ruskin tomatoes in there market.

    • October 15, 2012 2:40 pm

      Ellie, OK I’m just a little jealous – although I’m kind of tired of tomatoes 😦 Sounds great!

  6. October 15, 2012 1:38 pm

    We’re pretty much done now and I am mighty thankful for that. Our soil is naturally high in clay so digging out a winter’s worth of potatoes and carrots is HARD work. My hens are now in my garden making short work of the leavings. This was the first year with a greenhouse so that meant hassle free tomatoes right up until early October! A recent hard frost put an end to that however, so the greenhouse is now bare as of yesterday awaiting further amendment before planting seedlings of greens and brassicas (tomorrow). Fingers crossed that I can keep them growing in there for a month or more but as this is the first fall with a greenhouse (unheated), I’m in trial and error mode 🙂

    • October 15, 2012 2:43 pm

      Sherri, you’re spurring me on, I haven’t got my tomatoes pulled yet but we’ve been concentrating on getting stuff outside done during the dry weather. Now that it’s raining like crazy I need to deal with those tomatoes in the greenhouse! One more bout of tomato canning and I’m sticking a fork in it!

      I’ve left too many things in the garden to let the hens loose, but I bet they would have a field day! They sure can work all the debris in and find lots of things to eat we can’t even see 🙂

  7. October 15, 2012 1:47 pm

    We haven’t had a frost yet, most days have been 55 to 60 and most nights lingering around 50, though it did get down to 42 one night. I still have green beans, cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes struggling along, and the broccoli, kohlrabi, lettuce, hubbard squash and chard look as healthy as ever. I’m keeping a sharp eye on the forecast though. We usually get a hard frost on Halloween, and a lighter frost or two the week beforehand and I’ll pick everything and bring it in the night it first threatens. Our prunes are done and I’m picking the last of the apples and pears. The chard should go through winter.

    • October 15, 2012 2:45 pm

      LR, I wish I had a few green beans left, but they didn’t like the last heat spell and kind of gave up. I finally pulled the poles and left the bean vines for fertilizer just the other day. I think we’re about due too for a major frost. The freezing level is moving down and they’re calling for mountain snow this weekend. I think fall is definitely here to stay 🙂

  8. October 15, 2012 1:57 pm

    We were just discussing this last night. I had a banner year for tomatoes and at some point I just couldn’t pick any more. I was thinking I should send in the turkeys to clean up behind all the tomatoes. I can’t imagine what I’ll do next year once all the volunteers start to pop up. We have pigs, but no decent way to move them where the tomatoes were and keep them from digging up everything else while they were at it. Do you think the cows would be ok with all the tomato plants?

    • October 15, 2012 2:53 pm

      Linda, the turkeys will eat them, but you will have some volunteers for sure 🙂 I never have given the tomato plants to the cows just the sheep or poultry. In the back of my mind I am thinking the alkaloids in the leaves and stems of solanums aren’t good for cows, there are lots of plants sheep and goats eat that are poisonous to cattle. I guess I would err on the side of caution and not give them the plants.

      I’m with you, I am dreading my last tomato picking that I need to get done right away!

      • October 16, 2012 8:47 pm

        We are hopefully going to build a house on our land, finally. Our son is helping to design it and one of the things I wanted was a utility room, right next to the entrance because I wanted to dump all the veg from the garden somewhere out of sight instead of hallway like we do now.

        • October 17, 2012 7:34 am

          Joanna, I know it’s hard to find places for everything during the transition from garden to final storage 😦 Congrats on the new house:)

  9. October 15, 2012 9:52 pm

    We had the killing frost a couple of days ago, not so sharp that it totally decimated everything and I may have just got the beans to hang on in there with garden fleece. I think, they need another week to ripen for seed. We still have kale and broccoli. Fodder beet is gradually being brought in so that the chickens can eat the leaves at a steady rate and all the squash are in. If the long term forecast is to be believed then we maybe in a rush to get everything in except the kale, the temperatures maybe set to plummet, which does happen here sometime between October and December – which doesn’t help planning.

    • October 15, 2012 9:53 pm

      Here being Latvia that is 🙂

    • October 16, 2012 4:58 am

      Joanna, it sure seems like it comes fast when it does. I’m not looking forward to the first real hard frost 😦

  10. Chris permalink
    October 16, 2012 11:05 am

    I’m just wondering why you import your neighbor, horse manure when you have so much cow manure….is it better?? And, would love to see some photos of your farmhouse…would bet it is a beautiful, old place, settled into the land that has been in your family for so many years!!

    • October 16, 2012 11:18 am

      Chris, so much cow manure LOL. We don’t have enough to go around for sure. And the best part of the horse manure is the carbon that comes with it in the form of chips/sawdust/shavings. Excellent for the compost piles and the pastures. And I can’t beat the price, they deliver it…

      Our house is a continuing work in progress…and not very photogenic actually 😦

  11. October 16, 2012 11:35 am

    Ah yes, less than photogenic houses…We’ve been living at our current place for about four years. It’s amazing how much time, effort and money we’ve put into the garden, orchard, livestock and all of their upkeep. But the house- not so much. If I can just keep it clean in case the neighbor drops in I’m doing well. It seems like as the fall starts to come with all of it’s rain and cold I start thinking about the order of things. Like, why didn’t I fix up the house first? A work in progress is exactly what it is. With no end in sight.

    • October 16, 2012 11:56 am

      Linda, I know exactly what you mean, it’s always something, and it all costs a lot and takes time. I just got all the flint corn husked and hung to dry and off the floor! One less thing to trip over. I thought the other day…hmmmm rain, now I can clean up a little in the house, and then I realize, hmmmm rain, mushrooms! No Pioneer Woman snapshots here that’s for sure 😦

  12. Chris permalink
    October 16, 2012 2:34 pm

    I was just thinking that it is probably one of those, beautiful, old farmstead homes you see where a farming family has lived for many years….they are never perfect and always a work in progress…and that’s what makes them beautiful….to me!! 🙂

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