Saturday, October 26, 2013

November Garden Planner

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.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October is the time to plant garlic

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October is the month to plant garlic in our Zone 6 garden.  You plant in the fall to give the cloves time to develop a strong root system over the fall and winter.  You will get significantly bigger bulbs next summer.

Garlic loves rich, loose soil.  Raised beds with lots of compost is their dream home.  If growing a garden bed, loosen the soil and mix in generous amounts of compost and top with mulch.

You can plant in the spring and you will get garlic, but just smaller.  Garlic scapes, on hard neck garlic, are tasty adds to spring salads.  The scapes themselves are worth planting garlic for!

This year I am planting Elephant garlic (saved from this summer’s crop) and Turkish Giant again.  I go for the big cloves as they are quicker to prepare.  For whatever type you plant, always choose the biggest and best cloves to plant!  The best gives the best.

If you had garlic in the garden this summer, don’t be surprised to see volunteers poking their heads out come spring even if you don’t plant any this fall.  A nice present.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October Garden Planner

Tomatoes and mums in the fall garden

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The October garden is very productive.  The summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, basil and cucumbers continue to produce at a reduced pace.  The cool season crops like lettuce, carrots, radishes, peas, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are coming into maturity throughout October and into November.

Basil will turn black when it gets close to 35 degrees.  I pull all the leaves when it is forecasted to get close to freezing or any chance of frost.  You can chop basil, put in an ice cube tray and cover with water to then use any time your recipe calls for fresh basil.  It stores best when frozen in water.  You can also make into pesto and place in freezer bags with just enough for a meal.  Gives a whole new meaning to “fast food.”  Pesto is great over pasta, fish, or as a condiment on sandwiches.

I will wait until it gets down to 32 degrees before I strip off the cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes.  You can freeze or dry the peppers and tomatoes.  Tomatoes are a high acid fruit so you can also easily can sauce from them without using a pressure canner, a stockpot is all that is needed.   Be sure to follow any canning recipes exactly so your canned goods don’t spoil.

Make sure you pull the tomatoes from the vine before the vine dies.  Wondering what to do with the green tomatoes?  You have a couple of options.  You can make fried green tomatoes-yum!  Just use some fish fry seasoning; we like Andy’s Cajun Seasoning.  You can also wrap green tomatoes in newspaper and store in a cool, dark location and many will ripen.  Check about weekly to cull any that spoil.  They won’t taste as good as fresh off the vine, but are better than store bought.

October is garlic planting month for the Zone 6 garden!  Garlic loves loose, well-fertilized soil.  Loosen the soil down to about 6 inches, mix in a couple of inches of compost, and plant your garlic cloves about 2-3” deep.  Garlic leaves are one of the first greens you will see in spring.

Now is also a great time to divide any perennials you have, whether they be herbs, edibles or ornamentals.  This will give them all fall and winter to put down strong roots.  Perennial greens are always the first up in the spring.

It is still not too late in early October to transplant fall crops like cold hardy types of lettuce, cabbage, chard, pak choi, broccoli, kale, parsley or perennial herbs.  Meijer, Lowes, and Home Depot have 6 and 9 packs ready to plant.

To extend the season, you can order a mini greenhouse to cover your pots or a part of the garden you have planted your cold hardy greens you want to harvest all winter.  You can also purchase row covers that cover plants and provides protection from frosts, but not hard freezes.

Carrots and winter onions don’t need to be covered and can be harvested all winter (as long as the ground isn’t too frozen) and into spring.

I’ll put our portable, plastic mini greenhouse over the greens in my Earthboxes sometime this month.  One watchout with green houses-they get very, very hot in sunny weather so be sure to open them to allow circulation in fall and early winter.  They will need to be closed up when winter really sets in December sometime. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What's happenin' in the early October garden

Parsley in foreground, garlic chives and marigolds blooming in the background

Sunday, October 13, 2013

This is a time of year that most summer vegetables are winding down and cold crops are growing strong.  With frost, many summer vegetables will die and cold season crops will get sweeter.

We continue to fertilize our vegetables monthly.  We also remulched all our garden beds to give an added blanket of protection to prolong the season.  The mulch will break down over the winter, providing additional organic matter.
New zucchini plants with petunias

Our zucchini and cucumbers quit producing in the last few weeks.  I replanted some zucchini seeds in mid-August and there are baby zucchinis on a couple of plants.  The cucumber vines I just pulled up as I didn’t think there was enough time left in the season to get a second crop going.  It is not a bad idea to replant tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini in mid-August each year to keep these plants at top producing vigor until frost.

Our tomatoes and eggplant are still producing well this year.  For tomatoes, be sure to take all the tomatoes off the vine before it frosts.  You can either wrap the green tomatoes in newspaper and store in a cool place to ripen, make them into relish, or eat them as fried.  For fried green tomatoes, we use Andy’s Cajun batter.  Gives them a nice, spicy flavor.

Any plant that has a disease, do not compost!  Throw away.  Composting may not kill all spores and you could be spreading the disease next season wherever you use the compost.

JalapeƱo with cabbage and petunias
Peppers love this time of year.  They are native to the mountains so they love this weather.  They will continue to produce even after frost.  To prolong the season, I put the pots up against the house.  You can also bring them indoors and they will produce for weeks inside.  When spring comes and you put them back outside, they will get a jump start on producing next year.

I have two Ancho Anaheim peppers that are ready to harvest.  I did not get very many off the plant, but they were nice sized and enough for the chili powder I’ll use for making chili this winter.  The Pimento Elite I planted this year produced many peppers but they just wouldn’t turn red.  Peppers get sweeter when they ripen, but are good to eat even when green.  The jalapeƱos were the same, many peppers but stayed green.  The cayennes were prolific and slow to ripen.

For the sweet peppers, the rabbits kept them ate back to the stems for most of the year.  I finally put a wire cage around them and they are leaving back out, but likely too late for any peppers.  The one pepper they didn’t eat was the Sweet Red Banana.  I got a few off this plant.  The taste was very nice.

I harvested the basil and made pesto in mid-September. The basil plants are quickly regenerating.  I should be able to get another harvest from them before frost hits.  These are very tender annuals and will turn black with the first frost.  You can dig them up and bring them in for the winter.  Place them in a full sun spot.  You can put them back outside again in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.

I planted some chard, spinach, Redbor kale, Winterbor kale, savoy cabbage, Georgia collards, buttercrunch lettuce, crisphead lettuce, some pretty ornamental kales and mustards (both are edible), and reseeded Earthboxes with lettuce seeds in mid-September.  I also put into flats some 9 Star broccoli.  This is a perennial broccoli.  It looks like a cross between a broccoli and cauliflower plant.  

All are doing well.  Many lettuce seeds have sprouted.  The transplanted lettuce, spinach and chard are large enough to harvest leaves.

The Golden Cross 45 that I harvest the heads from during the summer have 3-4 little mini heads that are ready to harvest.  They are really cute!

The spring planted broccoli is regenerating with the wire cage around it.  The Savoy cabbage is big and beautiful with two harvestable heads.

Cabbage, kale, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, chard, onions and other cold crops are get sweeter with cool weather and a nice frost.  If the taste of these are too strong for your palate right now, give them another chance after frost.  Our Egyptian walking onions are lush and green.  The bulbs are filling out nicely.
Savoy cabbage in foreground, thyme at right in background
This is also the perfect time of year to reseed your lawn or transplant perennials.  I separated flowers and herbs to take to our lake retirement house.  I had two really pretty Italian dandelions in the Earthbox.  I took the smaller one and replanted at the retirement house.  Dandelions are perennials and very healthy to eat.  The Italian and French types have been bred to have large leaves.  Great to make salads.  

Many herbs are perennials-garlic, sprouting onions, lavender, oregano, chives, sage, tarragon, thyme, savory, salad burnet, and rosemary.  Bay laurel is a perennial at our Zone 7 retirement house, but not in Zone 6.  I have kept it in a pot for years, but will be planting it at the lake.  It will actually become a tree when planted in the ground.  The rosemary I planted last year at the lake is quickly becoming a very large bush.  I give as many branches as possible away!

Fall is a great time to cut back your herbs.  Save the stems, place loosely in a paper bag, put in a dry location, and in about a month you will have all the dried herbs you and many family members will need for the next year!

We are also still getting fruit from the garden.  Strawberries are perennials.  The ones we planted this spring are sending out many runners.  I took some runners and replanted at the lake.  The everbearers  and Alpine strawberries are still producing berries.  Our fig tree is also still producing figs.

The sunflower seed heads are just starting to blacken.

Fall is a bountiful time for gardening.  I have planted many winter hardy varieties of lettuce, kale, collards, mustards, and cabbage to keep the garden producing into December and hopefully beyond.  With the portable greenhouse, we will have greens all winter.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quick tip-prepare for frost

Cloche over a pepper plant in the spring

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Jack Frost is close to a callin’.  With frost comes the end of the signature summer vegetables like basil, tomatoes, peppers, and summer squash.  You don’t have to worry about your cold crops like spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli or lettuce; frost just makes them sweeter.

To prolong the season for your potted plants, move them to a sunny spot and place close to a wall.  Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs will also do well indoors.  Our cayenne pepper plant thrived indoors in the winter and took off running the next spring.

For all plants, you can use plant covers.  These can be in the form of plant fabric covers (don’t use plastic), cloches, or a sheet.  

We gather our pots of greens together and put under a portable greenhouse so we get greens all winter long.

For fall, leave your beds tidy.  You can bury or compost the dead plants as long as they were healthy.  Adding a layer of mulch will provide an extra blanket of protection and warmth.