Sunday, October 29, 2017

November 2017 Edible Garden Planner

Fall sunset
Saturday, October 28, 2017

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 and not compost.  You don't want to propagate and spread any diseases to other parts of the garden.  A really hot compost pile will kill them but it isn't work the risk going into winter. 

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.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors

I have used an electric composter called NatureMill that we kept in the garage by the door.  It is easy to keep an odor free bucket made just for this purpose in the kitchen 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.

Right now, I went to an outdoor insulated composter made by Jora.  It was designed in Sweden.  It works year round but much better in the summer.  It is important to keep the greens and browns in the right ratio to keep the compost cooking in the winter.  Here are some tips if your composter/compost pile starts having issues  Troubleshooting your compost pile

After your garden clean up, look to give your garden a nutritional boost for the winter months.  Doing a nice layer of compost and fertilizer, topped with mulch, will allow the nutrients to seep into the garden soil, ready to give your spring plants a boost.  The mulch will keep the soil more temperate during the winter months for your winter edibles and keep weed seeds from sprouting. 

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.  Also make note of how many plants make sense to plant for next year.

Keep track of what you eat over the winter to give you a good idea of what and how much to plant come spring.  How much to plant?

Fall is a fabulous time to make new garden beds.  It is super easy, too.  Just use a hose to outline your new bed, fertilizer, put down a layer of cardboard (earthworms love cardboard!), a layer of compost, and cover with mulch.  By spring, the new garden bed will be ready for planting.  Easy ways to make a new vegetable garden bed

Gardening after the first frost
For northern Kentucky, the average first frost date is mid-October.  We have gotten frost warnings in the last week or so but the temps are back up and forecasted to stay that way for the next 2 weeks.  If you can cover your veggies with a portable green house or row cover to extend the season for many cool season crops.  Frost forecasted? Here’s your to-do list  With a portable green house, we have kept lettuce, kale, mustard greens, sorrel, and celery all the way through winter.  You can garden year round in small space

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.  Growing herbs indoors for winter

Surprisingly, we found that peppers and eggplants 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.  Tomatoes are also contenders for overwintering indoors.  All are tender perennials.  I bring in only the ones that did really well that I want to get a head start on next season.

Be sure to use insecticidal soap on any plants you intend to bring indoors a couple weeks prior so you don’t bring in unintended guests.  Just remember that insecticides kill the good bugs like bees as well as the bad bugs so be careful when you spray.  Natural, organic pest strategies and how to make your own bug sprays

I keep my plants out as long as possible to minimize their stay indoors.  There is nothing like sunshine and fresh air for a plant.  Last year, I overwintered all my tropicals and edibles in the unheated garage with a hanging fluorescent light fixture with daylight bulbs.  They all did well except for one eggplant.  The other eggplant did just fine.
Late November potted lettuce
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, dry 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 in this famous French seasoning.  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.  Makes wonderful Christmas presents, too.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence".

For those that keep on going into the winter, I would prune back the plants by about two thirds and strip the leaves from the cut stems.  Do so when there are warm temps forecasted for a few days to allow the plants cut ends to heal.

Use your herbs for your Thanksgiving meal Use your own herbs for your Thanksgiving dinner  More than likely you will have some edibles still growing in the garden.  Take a look and use them in your meal.  Some winter hardy edibles include kale, cabbage, chives, sage, thyme, corn salad, sorrel, plantain greens, celery, mustards, even some hardy lettuces.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What is biodynamic farming?

Biodynamic winery in winter

Saturday, October 21, 2017

I have heard the term biodynamic and wondered what was involved.  Some consider it voodoo science and quackery, a scam.  Others feel it is holistic natural way of gardening. leveraging mystical forces.  The description I like is it is organic permaculture with a spiritual twist.  

Biodynamic farming is actually the precursor to organic and sustainable farming.  It is from Dr. Steiner’s teaching of how to work with the earth and heavens to farm in harmony with nature that the term “organic farming” was coined by those describing Dr. Steiner’s farming approach.
What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

After WWI, the chemical companies had stock piles of bomb making and nerve gas materials.  They repurposed these into fertilizer and insecticides for agriculture, which are toxic to soil microbial life.  German farmers saw that the health of their crops and animals began to decline.  They asked Dr. Steiner to come see and provide guidance.  Dr. Steiner's philosophy I think is summed up nicely by this quote "You need to stop thinking of your farms as factories and envision them as living organisms-self-contained, self-sustaining, following the cycles of nature, and able to create their own health and vitality out of the living dynamics of the farm."

Biodynamic gardening was developed in Germany in the early 1920’s by philosopher Dr. Rudolf Steiner.  Dr. Steiner believed that the soil, plants, animals and everything in the solar system is interconnected.  The backbone of the method is the making of preparations used in minute amounts to enhance production.  Biodynamic gardening results in much enhanced soil and veggie nutrition and increased top soil depth Biodynamic soil study

Many gardeners feel that the approach is too complicated to implement in their gardens.  However, you can purchase the preparations to add to your compost.  I purchased mine from Malibu Compost.  You can compost in small spaces or even indoors.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors.  

There is a deep devotion to the soil’s health, animal welfare, and the cycles of the moon and stars.  Gardening by the phase of the Moon  It is important that 10% of farmland is set aside as a biodiversity preserve.  As with organic, farms have to be certified to claim their products are “biodynamic” by following the Demeter Processing Standard.

Free range chickens used for pest patrol (control)

As with organic gardening, biodynamic uses only all natural amendments, pest and weed control.  As with permaculture, biodynamic gardening is self-contained with no outside inputs brought into the farm.  Permaculture-companion planting on steroids   Cover crops are used routinely.  The farm is considered a wholly connected organism.  There is also significant emphasis on water conservation and companion planting.  Planting and harvesting is done by the phases of the moon and astral conditions like those our grandparents followed using the Farmers Almanac.

There are 9 “preparations” used in biodynamic (BD):  BD#500 horn manure, BD#501 horn silica, BD#502 yarrow, BD#503 chamomile, BD#504 stinging nettle, BD#505 oak bark, BD#506 dandelion, BD#507 valerian, and BD#508 horsetail.  BD#502-507 are collectively known as the compost preparations.  For the data on how these amendments improve the farm and crops, biodynamic science.

BD#500 is a cow horn packed with cow manure and buried in the ground for the winter; the preparation smells like chocolate come spring.  BD#501 is silica packed in a cow horn buried in the ground for the summer.  BD#502 is yarrow blossoms sown into a stag bladder that is hung in the summer sun and buried for the winter.  BD#503 is chamomile blossoms stuffed in a bovine intestine and buried over winter.  BD#504 is the entire stinging nettle plant ground up and buried in the ground surrounded by peat moss for a full year.  BD#505 is ground oak bark packed in an empty skull with the membrane intact and buried in swamp like conditions for the winter.  BD#506 is dandelion blossoms stuffed into bovine mesentery or peritoneum membrane and buried for the winter.  BD#507 is the juice of valerian blossoms that is fermented for a few weeks.  BD#508 is a horsetail tea.  

Cover crops are important for soil retention, soil nutrition, and soil enhancement

It is best if the preparations are made on the property that it will be used.  Steiner believed burying the preparations in the ground gave cosmic and earth energy to them.  If you are going to purchase the preparations, purchase them from a farm in the same continent.  

Spray applications of 501 and 507 raises the top level depth from shallow to a depth of 14” over several years according to biodynamic wineries.  Using cover crops and adding compost to the soil is the backbone of organic practices that has been shown to increase top soil depth.  Biodynamic farmers believe the spray applications enhance these practices to another level.

BD#508 spray is used to combat fungal conditions.  I sprayed my garden with BD#508 this summer as I had lots of fungal pressure with all the rain we got last June and the rain is even greater this summer.  I did see a reduction in fungal damage.  It takes a few years of caring for the farm to get it to optimal levels.

To try out the benefit of biodynamic in our garden without personally finding the ingredients and making the preparations, I purchased Bu’s Brews by Malibu Compost biodynamic compost tea bags.  I add the compost tea bags to my water pail and water my pots and garden plants after aerating the biodynamic compost tea as recommended.  I then compost the bags in my compost pile that I add back to the garden.

You can purchase wines and food products that are raised biodynamically.  Whole Foods carries many biodynamic brands or you can search for them on Amazon.  Here is a directory of biodynamic product

My sister, mom and I at Beckman vineyards

Over the holidays a couple of years ago, my sister and mom wanted to know what “adventure” I was up for during my stay in the Los Angeles area.  I wanted to visit a biodynamic farm to talk to the farmers to get a better understanding of what biodynamic is all about.  We toured a biodynamic winery, Beckmen Winery & Vineyard in Los Olivos, CA, and an organic, regenerative permaculture urban farm, Fairview Gardens in Goleta, CA,  

The most well known biodynamic farms are likely wineries in the US.  Frey, Beckmen, Quivira, Bass Vineyards, and Benziger are a few wineries that raise their grapes following biodynamic practices.  Beckman Winery is within driving distance of LA.  Beckmen Winery produces excellent wines.  You can visit the winery, have a picnic, and try their wines in their tasting room.

I am a big fan of organic and working with and supporting nature.  Biodynamic farming embodies this approach.  The additional layer with biodynamic is the preparations used in small quantities in your compost piles to impart the energies of the earth and sky and being self-sufficient within the farm itself.  Dr. Steiner believed all was connected together as a living organism.  Even though scientific proof of how the energies are imparted is a mystery, studies prove the soil and nutrition of plants in a biodynamic farm is higher than conventional.  

We find out more each year of how interconnected everything is.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Plant a last minute edible fall/winter garden

Overwintering onions in pot

Sunday, October 8, 2017

It’s not too late to plant one last garden. Plant now, and enjoy harvesting these 17 veggies through the autumn, into early winter and some even all the way through winter.

If your want to ramp up the flavor and nutrient value of your fall meals, consider planting the season’s last garden using quick-growing crops such as greens, cabbage and radishes. It’s not too late to get plants in the ground for fall and winter harvests and definitely if you live where winters are mild. In fact, many plants get sweeter in chilly weather, and some hardy plants can be pulled right out of the snow for fresh eating like carrots and onions.

If the thought of fresh-picked salads and hearty, nutritious sautéed greens on your fall table appeals to you, use the information here to sow your fall garden and enjoy homegrown flavor, nutritious produce this fall and winter.

A few of the plants listed here can still grow from seed, but for most you will want to use transplants to make the most of the remaining growing season depending on how quickly it gets to freezing in your area.  If you haven’t already started seeds for transplanting, seek out transplants from garden centers.  The ornamental kale and cabbage for sale are not only pretty, but also edible!  Check well-stocked local stores for sturdy, healthy-looking plants. 

Make sure to add a scoop of finished compost to planting holes and organic fertilizer to add nutrients to soil that may be depleted after the summer harvest.  Espoma is readily available at most big box and hardware stores.  For greens type veggies, the general vegetable garden fertilizer is a good choice.

Choose the Right Varieties
In addition to choosing the right plants for cold-weather harvests, you can also increase fall and winter harvests by planting specific varieties. Look for varieties marketed as: fast-maturing; short and compact; textured (such as curly kale and Savoy spinach), winter-hardy, frost tolerant, overwintering, for every season, year-round, remarkably cold hardy, etc. 

Because daylight hours are getting shorter in the fall, you will need to add about 2 weeks to the “Days to Harvest” your seed packet gives as the seed packet dates are based on spring planting.  Plants grow slower in fall because the days are getting shorter instead of longer. 

The list below starts with the produce that will be ready for harvesting the quickest.  You will want to get the slowest growers (at the bottom of this list) in the ground as soon as possible; you may be able to continue sowing seeds of some of the fastest crops into October or beyond.  Those that are planted as transplants can be ready 2-3 weeks sooner than the dates listed below.

If sowing seeds, be sure to keep the soil moist.  Seeds sown in the fall have the same needs as seeds sown in the spring.  Outdoor seed starting tips

16 Varieties for Winter Gardening
Ready for harvest in: 3 to 9 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: For small and fast maturing radishes, broadcast seed directly in beds, or use chicken wire as a guide to space seeds 1 inch apart. Harvest after a few weeks in the ground and before the bulb becomes too hot and fibrous. You can sow seeds once a week for continuous harvests.
2-Turnips  All about turnips
Ready for harvest in: 5 to 10 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Harvest when roots are mature, but before they become bitter. A “neck” will begin to form when the root has reached maximum size, and quality will decline as the neck elongates.
3-Spinach and other hardy greens   Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 7 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Transplant seedlings about 6 weeks before first frost. Harvest the leaves around the outside of the plant; always leaving 5 leaves on each plant.  This will let you harvest for weeks from the same plants.  Other hardy greens include miner's lettuce, corn salad, sorrel, arugula, salad burnet.
4-Winter hardy greens  Fall and winter greens
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 7 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Sow seeds directly into the garden or pot.  Harvest the leaves around the outside of the plant; always leaving 5 leaves on each plant.  This will let you harvest for weeks from the same plants.  Winter hardy greens include miner's lettuce, corn salad, sorrel, arugula, salad burnet, cultivated dandelions.
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 12 weeks for leaf lettuce; 11 to 13 weeks for head lettuce
Can survive frost: Yes (depending on variety-try Winter density, Rouge d’Hiver, No Name Red Leaf, Arctic King, Continuity, Salad Bowl, Mottistone to name a few)
Fall planting notes: Keep transplants indoors until soil cools. Lettuce seeds won't germinate in hot soil temperatures, above 75-80F.  You can also broadcast seeds in cool soil every two weeks for a continuous harvest. I like starting my seeds in a pot in a cool area and then transplant into the garden.  Harvest in early morning for best taste and structure.  
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 8 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: I like getting the transplant pots with several colors; then separate and plant into the garden. Harvest sequentially as leaves mature, 1 to 2 outer stalks per plant; be sure to leave at least 5 significant inner stalks per plant for continuous harvesting.
Ready for harvest in: 7 to 8 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Harvest as soon as leaves begin to become dull/less green and bulbs stop increasing in size.
Ready for harvest in: 7 to 16 weeks, depending on variety
Can survive frost: Yes (the denser varieties are the most hardy)
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Harvest at peak size and succulence, before leaves begin to yellow and split, and before plants go to seed.
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 9 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Harvest sequentially as leaves mature.
Ready for harvest in: 8 to 9 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Heads grow fast. Harvest before flowering begins. May produce secondary heads. Harvest edible leaves, too — they are even more nutritious than the buds.  I love the leaves in salads.
Ready for harvest in: 8 to 11 weeks
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Carrots don't appreciate being transplanted.  Sow directly in the garden or pot.  You can use the thinnings as tasty baby carrots and salad additions. If you do start in a pot to transplant, handle the transplant carefully and make sure its main root is pointing straight down when transplanted.  Harvest mature roots at maximum diameter while they are still sweet. 
Ready for harvest in: 8 to 12 weeks
Survive frost: Light
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Cauliflower heads often develops in just a few days. Harvest at full size, before it begins to yellow.  Making sure the head is covered by the leaves keeps the head a nice white.
13-Brussels Sprouts  
Ready for harvest in: 11 to 13 weeks
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Grows best in very fertile soil. Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. When a node begins to grow a bulge out of the stalk to form a sprout, remove the leaf just below it to optimize growth. Harvest when sprouts are at maximum plumpness, before outer leaves become fibrous and sprouts becomes bitter.  Sprouts can be harvested well into winter.  
Ready for harvest in: 10 to 13 weeks
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Transplant when seedlings are about 3 inches tall or sow directly in the garden. Choose best seedlings (healthy and vibrant green) to transplant. Harvest outer stalks carefully, leaving 3 to 5 large stalks per plant for continuous harvests.
Ready for harvest in: 12 weeks
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Harvest outer leaves to leave inner leaves to continue growing.  In mild climates, collards can be harvested all winter long.  Baby leaves are good in salads, larger leaves are great steamed or cooked.
16-Onions and Shallots  Everything to know about growing onions
Ready for harvest in: Next spring for mature onions, 6 weeks for green onions
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Onions, leeks and shallots like loose, rich soil.  Be sure to plant varieties for the length of daylight your zone has in the summer.  It is the number of daylight hours that stimulates the onion to form bulbs.  In our lower Midwest garden, we need intermediate onion types.  Don't be tempted to grow Vidalias in Minnesota; they just won't make bulbs.
17-Overwintering Fava Beans and Peas  Grow a European favorite-the fava or broad bean
Ready for harvest in: 4 weeks-Next spring
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Inoculate the seeds to get the nitrogen nodules that support more vigorous growth and nitrogen in the soil.  There are snow peas that are ready to harvest in just 30 days.

How Low Can You Go?
Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a decent vegetable harvest even into early winter. Several plants will grow well into the snowy months, and a good frost sweetens them by forcing the plants to make more frost-protecting sugars.

Can Survive Hard Freeze
(nighttime temperatures between 25 and 28 degrees): 
• Broccoli
• Brussels sprouts
• Cabbage, regular
• Carrots
• Chard
• Collards
• Fava beans
• Kale
• Kohlrabi
• Lettuce (depending on variety-look for winter hardy)
Onions, leeks, and shallots
• Overwintering peas
• Parsley
• Radishes
• Spinach
• Turnips
• Winter hardy and perennial greens  Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden

Harvest Longer
In fall, promote faster growth by packing plants a bit more tightly than you might normally do. You can extend your growing season by adding thick layers of mulch around plants, or by using season-extending techniques such as row covers. When nights get chilly, protect plants by covering them with a cloth or blanket.  Extend the season with protection for plants

You can use the greens you get not only for salads but also for juices and smoothies.   Grow your own smoothie and juice garden

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Plant peas and broad beans in Oct/Nov for early spring harvests

Overwintering Austrian peas in early April
Sunday, October 1, 2017

If you’re after a really early crop of broad beans or peas, why not sow them in autumn?  They can be sown from October to early November and with just a little protection from harsh frosts you could be harvesting peas and beans as early as April and pea greens all winter long.

The advantages of autumn sowing is that your plants will be able to develop a strong root system over the fall and winter, overwintering and bursting into growth again in spring, meaning that you get an earlier harvest in next year’s garden.

Broad beans are also called fava beans.  You want to choose the varieties that are cold hardy.  Some that fit the bill are Aquadulce Claudia, Sweet Lorane, Superaguadulce, and Broad Windsor to name just a few.  Favas are best sown in October or November to allow them to grow into hardy young plants before winter sets in, strong enough to withstand the winter frosts. Then, when the warmer spring weather arrives, they quickly put on growth and produce delicious broad beans in early spring. 

Round-seeded pea varieties are ones that you can typically plant in the fall for spring harvests.  Their greens are a great addition to winter salads, too.  To name just a few that can overwinter, try Douce de Provence, Austrian, Kelvedon Wonder, Meteor, and Douce Provenceis peas.  This will ensure the young plants are established before the winter sets in. Their pretty flowers are a welcome sight in early spring.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October 2017 Edible Garden Planner

Pepper plant covered in peppers
Sunday, October 1, 2017

The October garden is very productive.  The summer vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, basil and cucumbers continue to produce at a reduced pace.  These crops are very prolific right now.  The cool season crops like lettuce, carrots, radishes, peas, cabbage, beets, broccoli and cauliflower are coming into maturity throughout October and into November.  Flowers, bees and butterflies are abundant in the fall garden.

Now is the time to save seeds from your favorite fruits and veggie plants from the season if you haven't done so already.  The plants still producing well this time of year are great ones to make sure you have some seeds to plant again next year.  The varieties that do well in your garden conditions are ones you want to invite back!

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.  I also dry some to add to my "Herbes de Provence" seasoning mix.  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.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil...

Bee on zinnia with purple and white basil flowers
I have plenty of pesto from last year so this year I am letting the basil flower.  The bees just love it!  Bees favorite flowers are those with the small flowers like basil.  The purple holy basil flowers mixed with the white sweet basil flowers are quite pretty, too.

Other herbs will do just fine through frosts like parsley, rosemary, thyme, chives, savory, and sage.  It takes good snow cover to stop these herbs.  Many winters you can harvest these herbs the entire season for cooking.  Cut back the extra now, dry and make into seasoning mixes which you can give to the whole family at Christmas.   Make your own "Herbes de Provence" 

I will wait until it gets below 32 degrees before I strip off the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.  You can freeze or dry these veggies.  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.   Preserving the tomato harvest  Be sure to follow any canning recipes exactly so your canned goods don’t spoil.  For more on preserving your extras for year round use, see Preservation garden

Daily harvest in the early fall garden
Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants are tropical perennials that can be brought in to overwinter.  If you have a favorite plant you would love to have in your garden next season, bring it in to an attached garage or even your living room.  I have overwintered peppers and eggplants.  You get a serious jump start on the season in the spring.  I am bringing in my favorite sweet pepper plants, the tiny hot pepper plant Chipetlin and my white eggplant to overwinter.

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.  A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!  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 and November is garlic planting month for the Zone 7 garden!  Plant in the waning cycle of the moon.  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.  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......  Garlic leaves are one of the first greens you will see in spring.

Chard in the forefront with morning glories in the background
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 (like chard, sorrel, cultivated dandelions, salad burnet) are always the first up in the spring.  This is the perfect time to plant any perennial plant.  The fall and winter allows the plants roots to grow deep, preparing it for a fast start in the spring.  Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden

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.  You can check your neighborhood nurseries for bedding plants.  I use my Aerogarden to start from seed cold hardy crops I want in my fall and winter garden.  Starting them indoors gets them going quicker.  With less sun and cooler temps outdoors, plants grow much more slowly so getting bedding plants or starting indoors gets your fall veggies to full size quicker.  Add about 2 weeks to the "Days to Harvest" timing for fall planted edibles.

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.  Preparing the garden for frost

Portable greenhouse with potted salad greens inside for winter growing

Winter hardy kale, spinach, Austrian peas, 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 grew Austrian peas last winter and they provided greens for salad all winter long.  They have very pretty flowers, too.  Come spring I had lots of early peas too.

I’ll put our portable, plastic mini greenhouse over the greens in my Earthboxes sometime this month or next.  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.