How can time get away from us so fast? Fall only began a few days ago, right? Fall planting for us began in August, when temperatures were still triple digits. We heavily sowed spinach, lettuce, arugula and other greens throughout August, September and October for a prolonged harvest. Cabbage, broccoli and all the greens we can pick have been the best we have ever had in fall. We have had a couple of freezes this year so far, but fair weather has blessed us. Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are just starting to head, so we are diligent to cover with frost blanket every night. While these crops are cold hardy, they really stay lush and grow a little faster with a bit more warmth in the coldest of nights. The turnips and beets are the size of golf balls. Perfect for roasting! I have never cared for turnips until I started growing them in the fall…..What a difference! Mabes, our spring adopted kitty (she’s six) likes to hide under the frost blanket. Every morning I remove the cover, she’s hiding under one of blankets to jump out like she’s saying “surprise, bet you didn’t know I was here”.
In the cold-frames we turned the soil with compost and a high nitrogen fertilizer to feed cilantro, mesclun and other small greens. Cold-frames are one of the best tools for our winter gardening. Spinach leaf edges can burn if they are left out in the harsh cold winds. One of my favorite winter time salads is mandarin oranges, spinach and toasted almonds with a balsamic vinegar dressing.
The greenhouse is bursting with lemons and limes for a winter treat. We do have to heat the greenhouse to keep it from freezing on those blustery freezing nights to keep the tenders safe and to set blossoms of new fruit. Because it’s warm at night in there, we can take advantage of growing cucumbers, tomatoes & basil for a taste of fresh summer in the dead of winter. We generally have tomato transplants ready to put in the greenhouse beds, but this year we had several volunteers pop up, so we are just going to let them go and see what we get. We should be eating delicious fresh tomatoes in January. Cucumbers are just now poking their heads through the soil. Once they are about 6″ tall we have to keep a close eye on the underside of the leaves for any insects, especially aphids. If aphids move in, we are on close watch to make sure they don’t take over. For a few aphids, we can rub them off. Spraying the leaves, including the undersides with an insecticidal soap will ward off any new comers.
Our crop of garlic this year has expanded to 58 cultivars. Rocomboles, silverskin, creole, artichoke, porcelain, asiatic, striped and turban are all planted with several cultivars in each group. This took several days of prepping the soil, garlic and getting it in the ground. Most were planted on the full moon, while other were put in the day before and after. That is a lot of garlic to get in the ground! Now that the garlic is starting to show its leaves, I’m questioning the amount I got in the ground… Your probably thinking, hum, bet she planted too much?! Nope, I think I had room for just a few more cultivars! Ha, garlic addiction!
New chicks arrived late September. Fall is a better time for us to add new chicks to the farm. They are laying by next summer, when the older girls are starting to slow up by hot weather and the new chicks lay right on through the first winter without slowing down when the days shorten. Plus, we are to busy in the spring time to give them the best care. The chicks are raised in a heated chicken tractor and when they are three weeks old, they are let to roam the orchard. The heat light is left on them until they are about 6 weeks old, when they have full plumage. Of coarse, if it’s really cold, we turn on the light at night. A few of our new chicks have found an attraction to Thistle, our black Nubian goat. They rest on her back several hours out of the day. I don’t know who likes it more. Thistle or the chicks. The chicks have a warm, wide perch and Thistle gets a great massage.
One of my favorite things about fall is the leaves. Such a palette of color from the golden yellows, rustit oranges and reds to caramel browns. We rake a lot here! And love every minute of it. The carpet of leaves on the lawns and in perennial beds are raked, moistened and tossed into the compost or turned into the soil so it can break down for spring. If leaves are raked often, makes the work a little easier. Even if it’s only a wheelbarrow or two a day. I miss the days of our little kids jumping and hiding in the big heap of leaves. Plus they loved to rake too! Often times I find Casper, the perfect cat bedded right into a soft pile of leaves. Not a bad idea for a sunny fall day!
Every October we have a fall harvest dinner. We decorate with old glass bottles filled with fall flowers. Tables and grass are dappled with pumpkins, winter squash and persimmons. Pumpkins are hallowed out and filled with dips and soups. The table is sprinkled with the deeply colored maple leaves, twigs and bark pieces from the sycamore. Dinner reflects our bounty of fall harvests and a celebration of the new season to come.
Now that we are less than a week away from Thanksgiving and garden chores are down to a low roar, we somewhat get a winter break from watering, weeding and planting to replenish ourselves for early spring. Winter crops may need that occasional watering during dry spells, sunchokes can be dug for dinner, crops need continued harvest in cold frames and greenhouses and chickens still need to be feed. These are the things that a gardener can still enjoy during the winter months to keep grounded!
Have a Great and Happy Thanksgiving!