Monday, September 6, 2010

Time for a Coooool Chaaannge

Like the lyrics of the song, it is time for a coooool change, the mornings now hold the first hints of fall, relief is just a few weeks away. It is time to fill those empty spaces in the garden with veggies that like cool weather. If you preserve food you may want to plant the entire crop at one time to avoid repeated setups of the canning equipment.

Plant now, enjoy sooner!
However, to be in the spirit of 4 season gardening and eating, don't plant all your vegetables at one time. Consider succession planting. Plant just part of your expected fall produce needs now and then keep planting new seeds and transplants every two weeks. Plant at least as much as you think you'll eat, you can always freeze some for later.  Five separate plantings, two weeks apart over a 10 week period can extend your harvest over a 10 week period. This is the one big technique that sustainable farmers use to provide produce through such a large window of time.

Remember your rotation plan, don't plant in a helter skelter fashion, stay somewhat disciplined and try to group plants by family as well by moisture, and nutritional requirements. Of course, group plants by temperature range or frost and freeze tolerances as well. Four season food production is our goal and that is easier to do when you can protect whole rows or beds at one time instead of an isolated plant among hardy plants.

If you haven't already done so, start your Cabbages, Broccoli and perhaps Kale and Collards now. Direct seed Carrots and Beets. Remember Carrots really want consistent moisture for a week or more before they germinate. Try planting Radishes with your Mustards and other leafy crops this fall. The Radishes may help keep flea beetles and other pests away long enough for your plants to have a great start this fall. Start Black Seeded Simpson lettuce now, as the weather cools other varieties (including the wonderful Buttercrunch!) will follow.
The fall garden is my favorite gardening period. Weed pressures are much lower. Cooler drier air really brings the joy back into some of the chores. Don't forget to turn the compost pile, or go ahead and install some of that compost now on the beds where you will be planting fall and winter crops. Make plans to shred and keep those leaves this fall. If you don't have trees on your property you may have to resort to becoming a leaf thief. Leaves are a wonderful component for future composts, run over the leaves with your lawnmower and create a topical mulch for your onions and the beds you aren't using this fall and winter.  Avoid bare soil if at all possible. Uncovered, bare soil is the fastest way to lose soil to erosion, and you lose the opportunity to build soil or add microbial life to your garden. Next year's garden will thank you for the mulches you create this fall.

Lee McBride

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