Tag Archives: fall gardening

Fall, A time to relax?

IMG_4749.JPGNot in my neck of the woods. I would have to say that fall is one of the busiest times of they year for us. It’s time to prep for winter. Pull out spent summer crops to make room for late fall and winter crops and get beds amended for those beds, ensure we have enough frost blanket, scrub the greenhouse and bring in citrus trees and other tender potted plants, It’s hunter, gatherer time. We need to ensure we have enough feed for the animals to last until the first cutting of hay in May if not more. Hay can be scarce if we have a wet spring and the first few cutting are ruined. So the more in store, the better. I thoroughly clean the chicken coop, scrubbing the nesting boxes, roosts, feeders and waters. knowing I won’t return to this chore until spring arrives. With only sixteen chickens a light raking and a few buckets for the compost once a month seems to be enough through the winter months. I like to fill drums with organic chicken scratch, layer pellets, enough to last the winter. While filling the drums I sprinkle diatomaceous earth food grade lightly over all the feed. This helps keeps any winter bugs out of the grain, but is also an excellent wormer for the chickens. Garlic is a big part of fall and consumes plenty of “spare” time. We plant over 50 varieties and I seem to treat each clove as if it were the last crop on earth. Harvesting of sweet potatoes need to be done before it freezes or it will ruin them. Greens, brassicas are planted right up to our first frost (and sometimes beyond) in abundance for fresh winters harvest and when the frost come, we cover with hoops and frost blanket and row cover. Our garden turns into a white winter wonderland. I uncover once a week (could do more if time allowed) to check on soil moisture, and possible bug infestation, which is rare and to see if any crops are ready to harvest. In the dead of winter when temperatures reach the coldest, these crops pull through for us and provide fresh garden produce if covered. Winter squash, apples and potatoes are hauled to the small root cellar we dug several years ago. This keeps the crops cool, allows some moisture to keep food fresh and is a great place to store without taking up precious space in our home. I always dust our potatoes with agriculture lime, which keeps them longer by hastening sprouting.
Persimmons, quince and the last of the apples are harvested and then preserved in the beginning to mid part of November depending on forecast. A frost will sweeten them, but a hard freeze can ruin the whole crop.
While I don’t do much composting during the winter time, I do spread the last finished black gold around garlic, leeks and onions to provide protection and turn the heap one more time.
Leaves become very abundant after the first freeze. These get added to the compost heap, turned into the garden soil and a large portion is shredded and made into leaf mold.
Then there is the 2:00 am panic of the first hard freeze. Did I get the heater on in the greenhouse? Did I cover any crops that may need a little extra cover…The pumpkins? I decorate our yard and porches with all our pie pumpkins for fall and a little frost won’t hurt them, but a hard freeze will ruin their storage ability turning them to mush.
I am the do it yourself “project” queen! When my sweet husband thinks things might simmer down, when this year it was time to rip up the old driveway and put in new. At first rough calculation we figured 8 yards of cement, as a, well, guess. Not to big of a project, you know a weekend job, haha! This little project jumped to 26 yards. Math, maybe not a strong point. While that wasn’t enough, I decided to pull out the old wood floor in the barn and milking area and put cement in there as well….at the same time and much cleaner. Hummm….a little extra with each section poured…I can make my life a little easier later on by cementing the chicken coop as well! Clean up will be a snap! Yes, project queen! With a little help from our kids and a friend, we buzzed through this project…in six long weeks. You know, a little weekend project in my eyes!
This fall we started a CSA. We have done farmers markets and provided other CSA’s with produce for over a decade, so we felt we were prepared to launch Desert Sage CSA without a hitch. I love growing produce, but planning has become more crucial and my hap hazard planting will definitely have to be more organized. So the end of November, my early spring crops will begin by seed in the greenhouse. Onions, leeks and shallots. Mid-December cabbage, broccoli, kale and other greens begin with two-week succession plantings begin and continue through February as at that time direct sowing begins.
So, a time for rest? Probably not, so I think a person would have love what she does….and love the product of her work! So do I enjoy fall? More than anytime other time of the year! There is no better harvests, no better smell then fall and color is totally amazing.

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Putting Your Garden to Bed

Fall garden clean up is essential to the long-term health of your garden.  If you get your garden ready for winter properly, it will make a big difference next spring.  You won’t be dealing clean-up, catch-up and diseases, you will be enjoying the simple pleasures of planting early and enjoying the spring bulbs. 

Typically you want to start getting your garden ready for winter right after the first frost has killed off most of your tender veggies.  If your garden plants are no longer producing and earlier clean up can certainly be done.  My tomatoes and squash are no longer producing and there are no green one left on the vine.  So out they go today!

old corn should be removed before winter months

Pull up, spray off and put away any cages or stakes used in the garden.  Remove all of the spent plant material from the garden.  Dead plants, old fruit and vegetables and any diseased plants should be removed from the garden beds and disposed of.  If the spent plant material was healthy, it can be composted.  If any signs of disease, it should be disposed of either in the trash or by being burned.  You can risk re-infecting disease to your garden if you compost diseased plant material.  Rake any left over debris.  If left in the garden, insects and disease can overwinter in it.  I like to till to soil.  You can work some fall leaves into the vegetable garden soil at this time and they will break down over the winter.   Don’t just layer over the top and leave for the winter months.  Till it in!  This is the time to spread compost, composted manure or other fertilizers onto the vegetable beds.  By doing this now your soil will be looser and easier to work in the early spring months.  You can also plant a cover crop for the winter which will add tilth and fertility to your soil for future plantings.

Continue to water trees until the ground freezes if you haven’t receive fall rains.  Especially evergreens. 

Wrap the base of young fig trees with burlap.  Young trees can die back completely if the winter is extra cold.  I like to wrap loosely and fill with straw or leaves as an extra insulation.  Don’t uncover until ALL chances of frost are gone in the spring.

Rake leaves often.  The work can seem daunting if you only rake once.  A little here and there is certainly a lot more enjoyable.  Besides if leaves are left on the lawn to long, they can get slimy, smoother and weaken the  grass.  You can run your mower over the to break them down if done often or catch them in the bag and use the shredded leaves as a winter mulch in perennial  beds or just add them to the compost pile.  They are great for that!  Leaves that haven’t been shredded will take longer to break down and they can repel water and stay dry for years.  So shred them if possible either with a chipper shredder or running your mower over them.  Make leaf mould simply by piling shredded leaves with a sprinkle of water in layers and left to sit for several months.  Of course turning often and adding moisture will break them down faster.

Apply fertilizer to your lawn in the fall encourages winter hardiness and promotes quick greening in the spring.  I really like using Cotton Seed Meal for this.

Do one last weeding and discard any weeds that have weed seeds.  Any seeds left will germinate next year and come back to haunt you.  One crabgrass plant has the potential of producing 10,000 seeds in a season!  To bad they aren’t tasty!

Leave perennial seed heads for winter food for the birds

In the perennial gardens I like to leave some seed heads of my Rudbeckia, Echinacea and other perennials for winter interest and feeding the birds.  I do however,remove them after the seeds are gone.  This gives me a little sun and  time in the garden on warmer winter days.

Pull out all annuals that have been hit by frost and toss into the compost pile. 

Plant spring bulbs before the ground freezes.  Put a tablespoon of Bone Meal into the hole where the bulb is going.

Don’t cut back roses back yet.  This should be done early spring.

Preparing your garden, especially the vegetable garden will help your garden stay healthy from year to year!

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Fall Gardening

Fall Spinach, 2010

Wow, it’s hot out there and thinking about planting a Fall garden just doesn’t seem logical!  Well starting a fall garden in most areas take place just after the Summer solstice.  This is the time to start your fall transplants from seeds indoors or in a cooler greenhouse.  Starts such as, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and kohlrabi.  These are planted late summer to be ready early fall. To determine when to start planting, find out the first average frost date, count back the number of days from the first frost date to the days to maturity of the veggie, which can be found on your seed packets.  I like to add a week, just in case.  Most everything you plant in the early spring you can plant in the fall.  Many vegetables flavor improves when nipped by a light frost.  Don’t forget about the root crops.  Carrots, beets, radishes, rutabagas and turnips.  Roots crops can be kept in the ground through the winter with a covering of straw  or mulch in milder climates.  I love to store root crops in the ground.  They are fresher, and no inside storage room needed! 

A few things to remember when planting in the fall is it is warm, warm enough that your plants and seeds will need watering more often. Much more often than in the spring!   Seeds won’t germinate if you soil surface stays dry more than a few hours.  I have to water several times a day to keep the soil moist here in Southern Utah.   When planting lettuce seeds you can plant and cover with a row cover right on top of the surface.  This will keep the soil cooler, moister and shade the seeds to help them to germinate.  You can water right over the top of row cover until the seeds have germinated and up about 1/2″.  This will also help to keep the seeds in place.  Once seeds have germinated you can cut back on watering and remove the cover in the evening time to prevent sun scorch.  This same cover can be used again when a freeze is expected.  Soil should stay moist, but not soggy.  When planting seeds in the fall, plant them just a little deeper than you would during the spring.  When planting in the spring the soil is cooler and the further down you go, the cooler the soil, the slower the germination.  Sometimes if planted to deep seeds can rot.  Fall soil is warmer, so planting just a little deeper will ensure the soil is cooler and  more moisture is there to help with the germination process.   Take peas.  In the spring I plant only 1/2″ deep and in the fall I plant a full 1″ deep.  The surface dries out very quickly in warm weather.   When transplanting your new tender starts out, do it in the evening.  If planted in the morning  they are more likely to wilt and be stressed.  Plants that have been stressed never produce to their potential. 

Planting Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower):  When planting Brassicas, amend the soil with plenty of compost.  If your starts are a little spindly, plant them one inch deeper then the original soil level.  Work about 2 tablespoons of all-purpose fertilizer in the hole.  Make sure you mix the fertilizer with the soil.  You don’t want the fertilizer to be in direct contact with the roots.  One thing that I am always doing is experimenting in the garden.  Sometimes good and sometimes not so good.  But I never consider it a mistake, only a lesson learned.  Last year I used 1/2 teaspoon of granular mycorrhizal fungi  in each planting hole.  The results were amazing.  Twice the size of broccoli heads on the ones I used the michorizae .  This was side by side plantings in the same bed.  I will be using this on all my Brassica crops from now on.  All  Brassica benefit from a firm soil, so heel (firm the soil in around the plants) the plants in well.  Victorian master gardeners check whether plants are properly planted by gently tugging a leaf.  If it tears, the plants are nice and firm, if the plant pulls out of the ground….replant.  Cauliflowers are temperamental.  They do best in fertile soil, humus rich, moisture-retentive, free-draining soil in a sheltered, sunny part of the garden.  Cauliflowers need regular watering.  They are totally unforgiving, and you can allow them to dry out!  Kale is such a great crop to grow in the fall, because of its ease to grow and ability to hold over through the winter.  And if covered with row cover it will continue to grow all winter long in milder climates like mine.  Kohlrabi looks and tastes similar to a turnip (only better).  The bulbous edible portion grows just above the soil line.  I have used the bulb in place of cabbage for making cole slaw.  Fabulous!  Cabbages are heavy feeders that require fertile soil rich in organic matter and consistent moisture, especially close to harvest to prevent cracking.  Harvest when sizable and tight when squeezed.  Brussel sprouts should only be grown in milder climates in the fall and covered through the winter.  It takes about 3 months before sprouts first appear.  They take patience.  But then again, that is the whole gardening experience……….

Fall planting can be one of the most rewarding crops.  You don’t have near the bug or disease problems that you usually do in the spring and the weeds have slowed to a milder pace.  Fall is my absolute most favorite time of the year.  Some say it’s the end of the growing season, I call it just the beginning of another growing season.  If you haven’t grown a fall garden before, give it a try, enjoy the harvest!

All Purpose Fertilizer,  Mycorrhizal Fungi

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