Putting the garden to bed

Jerry Apps
Apps' son Steve sowing winter rye on the garden.

Putting our garden to bed is an annual event that we have followed for more than fifty years at Roshara. It involves several steps, followed carefully each fall, usually in early October.

The first step is to remove the electric fence, with its skinny steel posts and two wires that surround the garden from the time of planting to autumn, when the garden season ends. The electric wires, the first one about four feet above the ground, the second one about a foot off the ground, successfully keep out the deer and wild turkeys. But not the rabbits. This year, for the first time ever, we had a problem with rabbits chewing on our broccoli and cabbage plants. Somehow, they missed the beans.

Next, we remove all the vines from the pumpkins, squash and gourds along with the tomato and potato vines. These are taken a distance away from the garden, as they often contain diseases, especially blight.

These days, my son Steve does most of this work. I mostly watch. He cuts the sweet corn stalks into little pieces, which he leaves on the ground. He also leaves the grass-mulching materials that surrounded the tomato, cabbage and broccoli plants. With the rototiller, he works the garden, burying the mulching material and corn stalks.

Finally, he sows winter rye over the entire garden, providing a cover crop for the winter. Once sowed, he works in the seeds with the rototiller. Next spring he’ll work the green rye into the soil, adding more organic material to our sandy Waushara County soil.

OLD TIMER SAYS: Another job finished for the season.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to