12 months of gardening | Vanburen

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Sitting here in my garden at the end of September on a sunny day with a temperature approaching 80, it’s hard to believe that in a few short weeks the summer garden will be gone. I will particularly miss the tomatoes and fresh peppers, as I had so many that I could regularly share with the neighbors. Although there were dry spells and insect infestations that required more effort, overall it was a very good year for productivity. There are similarities from year to year, but there are also differences. It makes gardening interesting and challenges me to adapt to changing circumstances. And because I love gardening so much, the summer garden shift won’t slow me down to grab the opportunities and rewards of the fall garden.

Right now my cool weather crops include carrots, scallions, Swiss chard, cabbage, radishes, peas, and lots of green salads. In the interest of trying something new this year, I planted a 30 gallon pot of mixed greens, which included arugula, endive, red kale, red and green romaine, salad bowl and Lalla Roses lettuce. I’ve cleared up enough over the past two weeks for a salad every night. I expect this to continue well after the first frosts.

A final warm-weather crop that can still be planted is garden cress. It can reach maturity in less than 4 weeks. This edible herb is related to mustard and has a peppery and tangy flavor. It goes well in salads and on sandwiches. Since he likes 45 degrees and above, he would need to be covered on chilly nights. Nutritionally strong, with potassium, vitamin C, B-6, magnesium, calcium, and fiber, she can be easily grown indoors during the winter months.

Cool-weather crops that could still be planted include kale, mustard, spinach, cabbage, turnips, and Swiss chard. If the really cold weather continues, you could harvest these items until December. And cold frames and other season extensions would allow harvests until next year.

Cover crops can also be planted. They are often referred to as green manure because of the benefits to the soil in the garden when turned over in the spring. Legumes are particularly popular because they extract nitrogen from the air and return it to the soil for use by subsequent crops. They have been used since ancient Greece and Rome. Choices include clovers, cowpeas, field peas, and hairy vetch.

The other advantages of cover crops are that they slow down and / or prevent erosion. They produce biomass and add organic matter to the soil. And, they can attract beneficial insects.

It is not yet too late to plant onion and garlic cloves. Both will be sufficiently developed by spring to make tasty green additions to salads.

And don’t forget to plant spring flowering bulbs, like daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, Siberian scilles, chionodoxa, grape hyacinths, wood hyacinths, wood hyacinths and tulips. . These can do well next year even when planted as late as December. There is nothing more exhilarating than the first color of spring flowers after a long, cold and gloomy winter.

Last month’s column spoke briefly about cleaning up the fall gardens, but it deserves more discussion. Cleaning old vegetation is very important to prevent overwintering of insects, eggs and diseases. Some burn it to eliminate all risk. If you can’t do it, at the very least, remove it to a remote location. If you have yard waste collection, include it with this.

Some compost it, which if you are an advanced composter will also work. Most pathogens and viruses will be destroyed with stack temperatures of 131 degrees or higher for at least three consecutive days. Some bacteria need more than 150 degrees, but don’t let your stack go over 160 degrees as this will start to interfere with beneficial biological processes. Be sure to wear a mask when turning your stack to limit exposure to pathogens.

There is another perspective that encourages us not to clean our gardens until spring. If you have had few diseases and few insect problems, or if you have introduced beneficial insects, it is suggested to wait. There are more than 3,500 native bee species, important for pollination, which need protective places for the winter. Many butterflies are pollinators and also need winter shelter. Ladybugs, famous parasite eaters, take shelter under leaves or rocks and at the base of plant stems. Not cleaning the garden benefits insectivorous birds, such as chickadees, wren, chickadees, nuthatches, phoebes and bluebirds.

Many predatory insects, such as killer bugs, lacewing, bigeye bugs, ground beetles, damselflies and many other pest-eating bugs, overwinter in your garden as adults, eggs or pupae. . They start eating these “bad guys” as soon as they emerge in the spring.

This choice is best for organic gardeners who have kept the use of botanical pesticides to a minimum and encouraged pollinators and other good insects. Most of these beneficial plants will have emerged after seven days of temperatures of at least 50 degrees.

Before we leave this buggy problem, let’s talk about spiders. Many of us react with horror and disgust when they find a spider in the house, but they should be listed under the “gardener’s friend” category. They do an incredible job of limiting insect populations. While they also eat our friendly bugs, there are a lot less of them than the bugs we don’t want. So in the balance, the garden benefits from the presence of spiders.

There are website builders, hunters on the move, like wolf spiders, and ambushers who wait, like crab spiders. The last two types benefit the garden the most. They are especially fond of caterpillars, thrips, cucumber beetles, grasshoppers and bedbugs, but also eat aphids, leafhoppers, leaf miners and spider mites, to name a few. But to receive their benefits, we must heed the call from my friend and mentor Lalla Ostergren, “Go organic! »Indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides destroys the balance of nature in the garden, increasing the need for more pesticides. Bad bug populations grow faster than good bugs. Difficult to find the balance. When I use a pesticide, it is a plant that degrades quickly in the environment, and I only target problematic bugs. When a little is good enough, don’t use more. My favorite method of organic bug control is overwrite (or is it overwrite?). I find something very satisfying about it.

October will see our first frost of the season, so start making room indoors for the houseplants that are now outdoors. This first cold spell can surprise us and some tropical plants will die in the 1940s. It is better to move too soon than too late.

For the garden, have blankets, such as old sheets and blankets, ready to go when the first frosts are forecast. Many fall crops can handle temperatures into the 20s, but that’s if it happens gradually. Going from the 50s or 40s one day to the 20s that night does not allow plants to “harden” or get used to the change. In such a situation, be prepared to protect crops that could normally endure low temperatures if they had time to adapt. A few years ago a mild autumn and a staggering covering as needed saw me harvest my last tomatoes in December!

When some say it all seems like a lot of work, I remember what Lalla was saying.

“Every plant needs a mix of nutrients for its health, so it sends out its tiny roots to seek and find. Then we eat the plants to get the nutrients we need for our health. What a wonderful process! We are responsible for the health of our plants and our plants are responsible for our health. She always made it fun.

October is a glorious month, as the last vestiges of summer are disappearing and the first signs of winter are beginning to be felt. Take a walk and enjoy the change.

Hope to see you in the garden next month.


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