Archive for October, 2012

Fall gardening now. Already looking forward to spring

Well the summer is definitely over and we are in the midst of excellent fall weather.  I love the transitions between seasons…the tug-of-war between hot and cold…dry and wet.  The plants, the birds, the mammals, and the insects all make adjustments and manage to survive.

An ambitious gardener can make some adjustments and have excellent crops into late fall and get a jump on things late winter.  All you need is some well timed plantings and a a system for moderating temperatures and you can extend the use of your garden by 2 months on each end the traditional gardening times.  Four months of extra growing times means  four months of extra delicious harvests and gourmet meals to go with them.

The simplest thing to grow in the fall is a crop that really has to be planted in the fall…garlic.  Early October is the time to get cloves in the ground for a late May/June harvest.  Buy quality garlic bulbs from suppliers such as   I grow Elephant and Russian Red varieties and save about 1/3 of my harvest each summer to plant again in the fall.


The next easiest plants to grow have to be root crops such as turnips and beets.  Toss these seeds in the ground, keep them damp for a few days and they provide amazing harvests of their roots and their delicious and nutritious greens.



Investing in a quality row cover such as Agribond 19 and row cover supports such as hoop loops is a bit more high tech than the other crops, but the rewards are worth the expense.  I have the most beautiful lettuce, radish, kohlrabi, and cabbages growing under covers now.  We’ve been eating salads for weeks and will be eating cabbage and kohlrabi well into November and maybe December.

floating row covered bed




Lots of lettuce

Fresh lettuce and sweet peppers

If you’re fortunate enough to have a greenhouse, you can keep many plants alive and thriving with just a little supplemental heat.  I brought in a bunch of my super hot peppers and some sweet peppers and have a milkhouse heater set to 38 degrees.  It only kicks on when we have very cold nights…keeps the greenhouse just warm enough to keep the pepper plants alive.  In the daytime the heater isn’t needed as the greenhouse traps a lot of heat and the peppers thrive.

White habaneros…HOT HOT HOT!

Ghost Peppers

Trinidad Scorpions

Ok…now that you’ve got some good ideas for next fall, it is time to start thinking about early spring 2013!  I will be offering an early gardening class in late February or early March depending on the weather next year.  For $50 I will be providing instruction on how to plant a spring garden, Agribond and hoop loops to cover a 4 foot by 8 foot bed, and all of the lettuce, onion, beet, kohlrabi, and kale plants to fill the bed and some other seeds to complete the most awesome salad garden you have ever grown.  I’ll have more details in January and will be taking sign-ups for the class then.










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Frost Preparations

Most of us dodged the last frost chance a couple of weeks ago…I think this Saturday night/Sunday morning we’re going to have a much higher chance of frost that will likely kill any tomato, pepper, squash, cucumber, or bean plants you have growing.  Plants like kale, lettuce, spinach, turnips, carrots, beets, cabbage, and radishes can handle the cold temps and it actually may spur them to grow vigorously.  My lettuce, radish, brussels sprouts, and cabbages are doing very well now and I’m looking forward to a great fall harvest.

If you have lots of tomatoes on the vine, it’s time to bring them in.  There are a lot of schools of thought out there with how to handle them, but I’ll try to make it simple and easy for you to best use these fall survivors.
If you have fairly large tomatoes…on the verge of ripening, but not quite there yet (turning from dark green to bright green), use a pair of garden shears to snip them off of the vine…leave an inch or so of stem on them to avoid opening a wound on the stem end that may cause them to rot.  Place them in a single layer in cardboard boxes and store them in a fairly warm area of the house…near a south window if you can.  Some may ripen on their own in a few days.  The others you can speed up their ripening by putting them in a paper bag with a ripening banana or ripe apple.  Close up the bag and check it every day or so.  The ripe banana or apple will give off ethylene gas and should get those big green tomatoes to ripen up in a few days.
If you have lots of smaller, dark green tomatoes, don’t bother trying to get them to ripen.  They are immature and will likely rot before they ripen.  It’s best to pick them and then use the in green tomato recipes: fried green tomatoes, tomato relish, green tomato pie, tomato chutney, pickled green tomatoes, etc.  Don’t freeze the green tomatoes as they get a rubbery texture when frozen and then thawed.
Now for hot and sweet peppers…it’s best to pick them all and let the plants die.  Chop up the peppers up and freeze them and use them in omelets, stews, etc all winter long.
Super Hot peppers such as Bhut Jolokia, Habanero, Trinidad Scorpion, and others can be brought in the house or greenhouse and they will grow for another month or two and ripen the fruit on them in November and December   Prune them back to just a few stems after you pick off the fruits and water them sparingly until Spring.  They should sprout new leaves and produce heavily for many years if you are lucky.  
Once the frost has killed off everything, it’s time to remove all of the vegetation from the gardens and toss them in the compost pile.  Add a layer of compost and/or manure to your beds now and they’ll be ready to plant in the spring.  After that chore is done, start planning for next year’s garden!  I’ll have my plant list ready to go in February and will be offering spring gardening classes in late February/early March.  


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