Posts Tagged ‘Fall Garden’

Seed Savers Exchange: Fall Planting

Here’s some excellent information about fall planting. The narrator is in Iowa, zone 4b; however, you can look up your own average first frost date to determine what to plant or not. Hint: quick growing crops that like cool soil are key.

Mount Mulchmore and the Cold Frame “Skirt”

I had finally whittled down our fifth huge pile of wood chips to perhaps one or two afternoons’ work. After a long day of sessions and calls to volunteers for our local food security week events (which have turned into two weeks of events!), I walked outside to get the mail. Dale, the man building our next door neighbors’ two new porches, cracked up as he watched my jaw drop and heard a loud cry escape my throat. This is the scene that greeted me:

Mount Mulchmore: wood ships on the left, shredded leaves on the right

Mount Mulchmore: wood ships on the left, shredded leaves on the right

I really did almost break into tears right then and there, because I had completely forgotten about asking the man who maintains the apartments on the other side of us to dump a huge pile of leaves “anytime this Fall.” Ohhhhh, man! Have I mentioned I’m actually looking forward to Winter? πŸ˜‰ Anyway, in sighing about this huge pile of extra work to David’s mom, she explained to me that the leaves came from their yard and to “take good care of them.” We joked about her helping me move them, but through the joking I learned that in all seriousness, the guy who maintains the apartments’ yard also maintains David’s parents’ yard, and he specially mulched them for better gardening use. Sure enough, when I returned home and mustered enough courage to inspect the leaves, they were well chopped and already clumped. Since I had just the day prior to delivery said to David, “I really need some leaves for the raised beds!” I can’t complain. “Ask and you shall receive” is seriously evident in my life these days. Almost immediately so.

Yesterday, the “Bed Bed” (a repurposed Sleep Number bed frame) got a couple inches of compost and several inches of leaves:

mulched bed bed

Once I realized that I could use whatever leaves I want now and then bag them up for another round in Spring, I relaxed about the work. It’s windy! Not the best time for figuring out where to put all these leaves. Plus, I have a wood mulch clearance deadline of early next week, so this will work out just fine. Rotted leaves made excellent mulch this Spring, keeping our beds moist and dandelion-free. The plants really love all the nutrients from the leaves as they begin to break down. While cleaning up the Bed Bed, I harvested this giant green onion I had replanted from the store this Summer:

Giant Green Onion and Messa Greens

We had the white part of the onion last night in a homemade spaghetti sauce David made from some Farmers Market peppers, homegrown tomatoes (fresh, dehydrated, frozen puree with oregano), and co-op mushrooms, served over peeled zucchini “fettucini.” Um, wow! David makes the best sauce and soups! (I’m sure all the fresh, local, organic produce doesn’t hurt, either.)

spaghetti

Meanwhile, back in the yard, David was also the master engineer for errant, flying cold frames. Ours is now expertly anchored on all four corners, plus it has a 4-tarp “skirt” to block those nasty drafts that can damage plants even more than snow or frost. Did you know that snow is actually an effective winter mulch for cold hardy plants? “Four-Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman will tell you all about that and more. Anyway, it’s not the prettiest thing we’ve ever seen, but it has stayed in place despite our crazy Northern Indiana gusts:

Cold frame skirt

In the back, you can see a repurposed sheer shower curtain protecting my tree collards until I figure out what to do with them. They were some of our favorite eating this year, but they’re not hardy in Zone 5b unless you can get them buried and majorly mulched. Ours haven’t re-rooted yet, so I’m a bit nervous to smother them. Mr. Gnome kindly oversees the whole shower curtain operation, carrying fire wood just in case those plants need a bit of extra warmth:

Mr. Gnome

Our rosemary also got “fleeced” last night, and it will continue to do so until Yours Truly gets motivated enough to dig it up and pot it inside for the Winter. Poor, non-cold-hardy rosemary. If only you weren’t so pretty and delicious smelling, you wouldn’t need to look so silly:

Rosemary fleece

In the background — above — you can see another raised bed happily leaf mulched. Look at those calendula go!

Calendula flowers, ruby chard, French sorrel, parsley, oregano and kale ... one diverse, happy family

Calendula flowers, ruby chard, French sorrel, parsley, oregano and kale … one diverse, happy family

Inside, I’ve got tarragon and chocolate mint drying alongside a Lone Alaskan Pea Pod! (I planted those too late in the season, in a spot too shaded by my crazy huge lemongrass plant, and I’m sorry to say, I’ve completely neglected watering them for weeks. That we have any peas is a miracle. We have more growing, but I doubt they’ll handle this week’s cold temps.)

Chocolate Mint, Tarragon and the Lone Alaskan Pea

According Eliot Coleman, fresh peas from the garden are enough reason in and of themselves to justify an entire season of gardening. I guess we’ll see about that tonight! Acorn squash, the Lone Alaskan Pea Pod, and a whole messa greens. Mmmmmmm, can’t wait. I do love fresh food and pretty flowers. LOL, can you tell?

Horizontal Kale and Other Gardening Fun

That title is not an exaggeration! Check out my Winterbor Kale:

horizontal kale

Although my other two Winterbor’s continue upright, this one decided to tip all the way over on his side and shimmy himself clear of the second and bottom InstaBed tiers. Quite the creative wind support! You can see he’s made friends with the French Sorrel, which made a surprising recovery once the giant cherry tomato plant stopped hogging all the light.

In addition to this horizontal action, we’ve got some new long rows ready to rot down in preparation for additional trellis action next Summer. I’ve added two more of these rows, and I have three more trellises to use. If I get everything else done, I might even figure out the next location for the final of our six “combo panel” trellises:

vertical gardening prep

The rosemary and asparagus have settled into Fall’s chill, with the rosemary reminding me daily that I need to dig her up and repot for the Winter:

rosemary and asparagus

We’ve still got the cold frame “Guarden Bed,” which David’s going to help me windproof a bit more, along with a protective tarp “skirt” around the edges. You can see I also added concrete blocks to the back as a northerly windbreak. Those blocks will eventually stand beneath our rain barrels, but I like the alternate seasonal uses for them:

Guarden Cold frame

Despite some wind issues, the Guarden continues to produce amazing goodies. I pulled a nice, big turnip today, along with “a whole messa greens.” Outside, you can’t even tell I removed anything from the lush bed. Our bellies will know, though. Dinner in twenty!

turnip and messa greens

Fall Garden Update: First Frost

Well, it finally happened last night: the first frost of the season! David and I spent this weekend preparing, and I harvested a few final things yesterday afternoon. Here’s a photo journey:

Guarden install

We began installing the cold frame portion of “The Guarden.” Above, you can see the PVC pipes bent into the brackets, in preparation for holding up the plastic tunnel. As when we first put together the raised bed, it would have helped to have read all the directions right away. It turns out that David not only needed to undo and redo his over-eager, non-linear girlfriend’s attempt to build the raised bed herself, but we would have been better off installing at least the PVC pipe before adding soil, despite the heat. We wouldn’t have needed to put on the plastic, but the soil now blocks easy access to add some extra bracketing that would create a tighter seal. Oh, well, live and learn. Plus, soil sinks, so perhaps we’ll have an opportunity next Spring. For now, we’ll have a cold frame that’s not quite as tightly sealed as the original design.

cold frame assembly with David's shadow

Above, you can see it with the plastic covering, and below, a peak through the zippered side vents. It’s very important to vent your cold frame on sunny days! Inside temperatures can scorch cold hardy crops, especially under glass. Think of how hot a sunny porch or sun room can get in winter, and then intensify that by the smaller space and soil activity.

looking through the vents

You can also lift the sides for Fall and Winter harvesting:

cold frame lifting

I just checked on the babies outside, and I noticed an unexpected thing. The plants in the uncovered beds all looked great, whereas the ones under the cold frame were covered in frost. I will need to experiment to see how much of that happened due to added moisture within the cold frame and how much due to the fact that the uncovered beds have already had at least an extra hour of full sun exposure, while the little cold frame that could(?) sits in only partial sun right now due to the lowered sun angle. It might also have something to do with the heat retained by the black beds, as opposed to the white bed that keeps the soil cooler. David’s dad offered to paint the white one to match the others, but we thought that would require too much maintenance. I may reconsider if it makes a huge difference in productivity, though. Live, observe and learn.

I did not seal up the vents all the way, either, so I will try that this time. I needed to leave before dark yesterday for the Inner Transitions book group and thus left the vents not too open and not too closed. It may have resulted in a frost-friendly moisture situation. Since all the plants in there are cold hardy, I think they’ll be fine. Kale actually tastes better after a frost! Still, it was only 30 degrees last night, so I hope I can count on a little better performance in the dead of winter. I might have to break out my row covers sooner than expected! [UPDATE 2: With the vents closed last night, I had zero frost on my cold frame covered plants this morning.]

After David and I finished installing the cold frame, what to my wandering eyes should appear? A hidden (even from the squirrels and rabbits!) Moon & Stars Watermelon, ripe for the picking. It was tiny, grown in a crate, and totally delicious. It tasted like watermelon bubble gum — very sweet and unlike other watermelons I’ve tried. It was the first and only watermelon we got this season before any critters drained them of their juice. Definitely worth the wait! Who harvests watermelon in late October?! In Northern Indiana???

watermelon

The harvest continued, with (non-cold hardy and hopefully, please, please, please perennial if mulched) tree collards and unripe tomatoes:

tree collards and tomatoes

I gathered even more yesterday:

More Tomatoes

We’ve got mint drying for tea and smoothies…

mint

… and lots of lemongrass!

lemongrass

I made another weekend bouquet…

this weekend's bouquet

… and a zinnia and pineapple sage bouquet along with edible nasturtiums and calendula flowers:

yesterday's harvest

I expected to find frozen nasturtiums, zinnias and a dead sage today, but everything’s still bright and joyful. What a bizarre, wonderful world out there! Good thing the flowers inspire me, because I’ve got a boatload of bulbs to hide from squirrels plant.

Cheers!

Late Season Garden Recap

All the gardening books I read keep mentioning “the importance of keeping a garden journal.” On and on, enough already! Part of me just will not start another journal. Then, I realized, I’ve been record keeping all year on this blog, sharing my discoveries, goofs and adventures with fellow and vicarious gardeners. Close enough. πŸ™‚

As the seasons begin to turn, the air gets cooler and dews wetter. Sunflowers have drooped, and mums have arrived on the scene:
Sunnies and Mums

I’m leaving the flowers and seeds for birds and bees who continue to enjoy the remnants, but the artist in me demanded color and fresh life into the Autumn. I found fushia mums on sale at Whole Foods, and my friend, Kimber, gave me a start of “Obedient Plant,” which for now I’ve just placed in pot in a bare patch among the bee friendly flowers and zinnias. On order: Autumn Crocuses — a special Pennsylvania Dutch variety that will bloom into December and provide saffron! I’ve also ordered some ornamental alliums that will look ever so Suessian, though probably not until early Spring.

I will be mulching out a huge swath of front lawn once I get my next load of free wood mulch, so this bed remains temporary until I add loads of compost and extra protective mulch. This front bed turned into the highest maintenance of any garden spot due to the very thin amount of unmulched soil over landscape cloth that formed the bed. I’m sure the sunnies busted through with their taproot, but the rest of the bed (including the sunflowers) required almost daily watering, as well as multiple applications of compost, coffee, watered down pee (oh, yes! Plants love that stuff), and even some organic flower fertilizer. The soil up front is poor right now, and there’s not much of it until I seriously lasagna garden later this Fall. This sunflower/wildflower bed was really just a placeholder this year, so I didn’t get depressed looking at a non-landscaped yard with a hodgepodge of half finished backyard projects visible up front.

Next year will be much cooler! I am now 100% a fan of the wood mulch method of developing and softening soil. I planted a tree this weekend. Meet Priscilla Persimmon, an American Persimmon who was completely pot bound and dying to get into some ground:

Priscilla Persimmon

I had a nice spot all picked out for her, watered the soil to soften it, and broke out the shovel. The ground just laughed at me! Seriously, that shovel, even with my full weight on it, didn’t even make a 1/4 inch dent in the soil. I whacked it for ten minutes and still nothing to show for my effort but profuse amounts of sweat. I finally looked for a different spot where maybe the wood mulch had softened the soil for me all season. I brushed back the mulch, yanked out a garbage bag from underneath, and watched earthworms slip away into soft, black dirt. My first go with the shovel went in a full four inches! It still required a lot of digging and uprooting of some very persistent dandelions and wild violet roots, but I got that tree in with less sweat than the laughing unmulched ground experience.

This changed my Autumn plans, as there’s no reason for me to order the trees and shrubs I’d planned if I can’t get them in the ground. Six months of rotting compost and wood mulch will not only kill weeds, but will make it possible to plant what David calls the “English Major plants” I want: quince trees, black currents, the other American persimmon, elder trees, and a variety of roses. “Well, I am an English Major! And who needs apples and peaches when you can get them everywhere? Quince and elder are magickal plants, almost like herbs, and roses. Of course, we need roses. You know, for the hips. Vitamin C, of course, and winter color. Plus, the faeries like roses. You can’t have a garden without roses! And the persimmons, they’re a winter crop. It’s all about the winter. This street in Goshen is ugly in the winter. I need some pretty things to look at and eat.” David’s most accommodating to “the Big Faery.” πŸ˜‰

Anyway, that’s the front yard, which next year, while all these new plants are just teeny, tiny little $4-7 starts, I will be growing Scarlet Runner Bean teepees with their gorgeous edible red flowers and beans — one of the most dramatic edible ornamentals I’ve ever seen. In addition to providing high interest and beauty, plus some privacy along with the sunflowers, their nitrogen fixing aspects will improve the soil for other plants. Win, win, win, win! On the front facing trellis by the soon to be lasagna gardened herb area, will grow an edible ornamental sweet potato whose blossoms look strikingly similar to its relative, the morning glory. And then, the Fairy Tale Pumpkins. Oh, my! I am most excited about these for next year. Fifteen pounds of edible ornamental loveliness and whimsy each, supposedly the best tasting pumpkin raw or cooked, and a top pumpkin pie variety. Equally important for my purposes, the Fairy Tale variety is practically immune to the squash beetles that destroyed my squash in crates this year. Next year, squash will go directly into the ground and up the trellis!

Speaking of ground, the Amish Paste tomatoes I’ve practically ignored since planting, are currently my happiest tomato plants. They climb the trellis and thrive among the grass and weeds, and they’ve shown zero signs of blight, unlike five of my other plants, that nevertheless continue to produce. We’ve not tasted a ripe Amish Paste tomato yet, but there are a bunch of green ones ripening as I type. Next year’s tomatoes are going in the ground, too. We have more trellises made of “combo [cattle and hog panel] wire” that can support 40 pound pumpkins, according to our friend Jay.

Amish Paste

Speaking of Amish, I’ll soon be planting the Trumpet Vine start our Amish friends gave me two weeks ago. It’s currently rooting in some sand and rooting hormone, but I’ll need to plant it at just the right time, since the other three starts died before taking root:

Trumpet Vine start

It will eventually give us some backyard privacy on the shady side of the backyard and remind us some of the lovely hummingbird attraction we had in Madison:

Trumpet Vine Madison

And now for the backyard. Here’s where we began this Spring:

The Start in 2013

And here’s where we are now:

Fall Winter Bed

The “Guarden” bed — the white one that will look like a Conestoga wagon this Winter — has been mostly planted, and the Spring and Summer raised beds are flourishing! A few nights ago, I soaked seeds during the Waning Moon in order to give my root crops a better chance of starting:

Soaking seeds

With any good gardening fortune, we will have Scarlet Nantes carrots, Early Harris parsnips, Rutabaga (Swedes), golden and Chiogga beets, purple top and gold ball turnips, and Chinese Rose radishes to go along with the many greens I planted on the last Full Moon:

Greens

Winter Greens two

I will transplant those in another week or so, during the Waxing Moon. I hate to say it, but that Moon stuff works! I bought Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2013 as my appointment calendar, because it conveniently lists good planting and harvest days, as well as Moon signs and other astrological events. Very handy, indeed!

Did you notice the straw on that “Guarden” bed? Well, we now have two straw bales, in preparation for winter veggie mulching, as well as some hard core lasagna gardening (aka “sheet mulching”):

Straw bales and the new bed

The above is a partially completed project for next year’s medicinal herb garden (as opposed to the culinary herb garden out front and interspersed with our veggies and fruits). I’m still debating what goes on the back trellis there, but the one to the right, which faces our front yard, is the one on which I intend to grow the ornamental sweet potatoes. The soil in this particular patch is incredibly poor, as attested by the unhappy tomatillo plant and the many happy thistles. Fortunately, most medicinal herbs thrive in poor soil, actually preferring it to rich, dark loam. Waste not, want not! πŸ˜‰

I still need to plant spinach and mache in the Guarden, but that will wait until the proper Moon phase, LOL!! But seriously. Last but not least, I’ve got leftovers from store bought celery and bok choy taking root in the kitchen window, just waiting for transplanting outside:

celery and bok choy

Oh, pardon me, Mr. Recycling Grasshopper! I see that you are last but not least:

Grasshopper Recycles

That’s right. Stay on the compost bin, away from my kale, but thank you for posing so nicely. πŸ™‚