Saturday, October 26, 2013
November is a beautiful time of year as Mother Nature is getting prepared for the cold, wintry days ahead. Late fall chores should include cleaning up your garden beds, reflecting on the gardening season completed, and preparing for the first freeze.
Garden bed clean up
To prepare your garden for its winter slumber, remove gardening debris from your beds. For any diseased vegetation or seeds, be sure to throw these away.
This is a good time to decide if you would like to make your own compost. Compost is referred to by gardeners as “black gold.” It provides nutrients, beneficial microbes, fertilizer and overall improves your soil’s condition.
I use an electric composter called NatureMill that we keep in the garage by the door. It is easy to keep an odor free bucket made just for this purpose inside to collect fruit and vegetable scraps and empty weekly into the composter. The small indoor buckets are called compost keepers or bins and come in a variety of decorative styles. You get finished compost in a couple of weeks. You can store the compost you are making in a trash bag to use when preparing your spring beds. It is great for flowers and vegetables.
Reflection on the past garden season
While the past gardening season is still fresh in your mind, now is a great time to jot down some notes on what went well, what didn’t, and what you would like to research over the winter. Make a list of the varieties that did great that you want to replant, which plants you want to be sure to have more of next year.
Gardening after the first frost
For Cincinnati, the average first frost date is October 27. If you can cover your veggies with a portable green house or row cover to extend the season for many cool season crops. With a portable green house, we have kept lettuce, kale, mustard greens, sorrel, and celery all the way through winter.
If you are using pots, putting the pots on the south side and close to the house will keep them from getting frost bit. It seems to extend the season for 2-4 weeks.
You can also divide a piece off your herbs, put them in a pot, and bring indoors on a sunny window to have fresh herbs readily available. Chives, thyme, rosemary, savory, tarragon, salad burnet, and oregano can also be harvested into December from the outdoor garden.
Surprisingly, we found that peppers are great candidates from bringing in for the winter. Our Jalapenos and Cayennes continued to fruit for weeks indoors and when put back out in the spring, had peppers a month earlier than when using new plants.
Be sure to use insecticidal soap on any plants you intend to bring indoors so you don’t bring in unintended guests.
For the herbs you cut back earlier in the season to dry, November is a great time to now strip the stems of the leaves and put into jars for winter cooking. You can make your own “Herbes De Provence”. Thyme, oregano, rosemary, savory, basil, tarragon and lavender are common herbs used. I mix them up in about equal amounts and store in a sealed Mason jar. It is great to add to just about anything-sauces, chicken, fish, potatoes, garlic bread.