Winter cropping is super productive because a Lot of Winter Crops are Cut and Come Again! Kale, collards, lettuces, leaf by leaf. Many lettuces and cabbages will ‘come back’ if you cut them off an inch or two above the lowest leaves. Cut bunch/table onions 1 to 2” above ground. They will come back 3 to 4 times. After you cut the main broccoli head off, let the side sprouts grow. Snip for salads/steaming.
Image from Countryfarms Lifestyle – Container Companions! Strawberry, lettuce, beet, chard!
What to plant NOW?! Put in transplants of cabbage and artichokes. Cilantro loves cool weather and is said to repel aphids on Coles/Brassicas! From seeds: arugula beets, brocs, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, peas, parsley (keep moist 20 days unless you presoaked), radish. Fall marks the end of the season for small red radishes and the beginning of the season for larger daikon-type radishes. Potatoes! Reds, fingerlings, Yukon Gold – your favorites! Check those lettuce packets for seed planting depth. Some you spread on the ground and simply pat in, water very gently. Others go in 1/4″ deep. True. Did you already plant fall veggies in August, Sept, or both? Excellent! Plant another round!
Decide where you will put your tomatoes next summer and plant a patch of favas there! They are a great winter cover crop, producing one of the highest rates of compostable organic material per square foot! Being a legume, they add Nitrogen to your soil. Buy the organic seeds at your natural foods store bulk bins! Presprout your favas! Presprouting equals 100% germination and mucho time saved since favas have a notoriously low germination rate! It’s a no-brainer since it is so easy to do! Just be gentle when you plant the babies.
Succession Planting If you also put in transplants of the same plants you seed now, you will automatically have two rounds of planting in, one to mature 6 weeks later and keep you in steady supply!
Gopher Protection – Barriers NOW, FIRST! Bottoms of raised beds, area perimeters 18” deep, 6” above. Make or buy baskets. Make them as deep or as long as your plants need to fit the area you are planting. Aviary wire or hardware cloth. At Pilgrim Terrace, install it just outside your plot border so weeds won’t get entangled in it inside your plot. It’s easy to install even if your garden is already fully planted. Use one of those little trenching shovels specially made for the job! Overlap and fold over adjoining ends of your perimeter wire so the gopher can’t push through it.
Harvest any lingering seeds. Special notes about your Winter Squash: Harvest and Curing – Fruit should be left until the vines are brown and withered, but should be harvested before frost or they will not store well. Optimum is when the stem is drying and the squash is well-matured, the rind hard and not easily broken with the thumbnail. With pruning shears, cut from the vine leaving 2 to 3″ of stem, and cure for 10 days in the field, or indoors in a cool place if frost is likely. Undamaged, they will keep for several months if stored in a cool dry place. Dampness is bad.
Cut your strawberry runners Oct 10 to 15 to put in fridge to chill at least 20 days until you plant them Nov 1 through 5!
Shape your land! Put in bioswales, drainage, hugelkultur, terraces, whatever your land calls for. Remember, Slow, Spread, Sink your water. Keep that precious resource on your property to water your trees, your garden, improve our water table.
Then Prep your Soil for fat growth! Clear away debris habitat for overwintering pests/diseases, spent or unhealthy plants. Now it the time to lay in that compost you have been making, and a generous portion of worm castings! Add some manure to your lettuce, parsley and garlic beds, Brassica areas. Peas are a legume and make their own Nitrogen, but sometimes they can do with a tad more if that soil is depleted. Some spots may need a bit of peat moss. Or, ‘lasagna garden,’ starting with very, very WET cardboard/newspaper (so it will decompose), layer on dry/wet, that’s straw/alfalfa (high in Nitrogen) and green waste like grass, kitchen scraps, until you have a pile 18” high or as high as you can make it with the materials you have. At various points throw on a bit of manure, scatter some soil to inoculate it with soil organisms. If you have some Vermicomposting worms, toss some of them in too. Nature will do its work; your pile will sink down. To plant immediately, scoop open a spot, put in compost, plant your plant. The heat from the decomposing pile will get your plants off to a great start! You want humusy soil that is nutritious with great water holding capacity.
See last month’s Winter Garden Design Specifics! Great tips to organize for successful planting!
Those of you with container gardens, dump out that old spent summer soil, pop in some tasty new mix, a trellis for the peas, anchor that pot! Get going – put in your seeds, baby transplants! You will be having holiday table treats, like crisp lettuces, bunch onions, colorful chards, nutritious kale!
For Pests and Diseases? Drench young plants with Aspirin solution to get them off to a great start!
Enjoy the beautiful fall weather, Dear Gardeners!