If we think of gardening as a year-long venture then we can make a master plan to follow each month.
This way we can anticipate our next activities and check them off if and when we do them so they don’t get forgotten. Here’s an example for this month:
• Keep harvesting
• Harvest mature seed from plants you’ve left to grow out. Dry out seed, package, label with this year’s date and store in cold, dry spot
• Sow mustards, radish, rocket, turnips for their tops, scallions, top-set onions (Egyptian), onion sets (for their tops), fava beans, corn salad, dandelion, Jerusalem artichokes, over-wintered lettuce into flats or cold frame
• Sow main crop of garlic in last week of October, but save a few for the cold frame for garlic chives during the winter
• Remove spent crops and sow cover crop in their place
• Transplant overwintering onion seedlings into their permanent spots
• Amass ingredients for the compost heap
• Dry and roll up hoses
Some crops will be fine left to fend for themselves in inclement weather, but others will do best if protected. Here’s an easy way to protect a small area, like a patch of escarole: make a square wooden frame big enough to enclose the plants you want to protect. Staple a sheet of clear plastic on all sides and the top, leaving the bottom open. When frost threatens, place this box over the plants and hold it in place by hammering in a stake outside one corner and tie twine around the box and the stake. Remove on hot days so the plants won’t die prematurely.
I’m still harvesting many crops including summer-sown peas. Little Marvel and Oregon Sugar Pod ll are fast-growing bush peas that I’ve been picking since Sept. 14. I planted these peas an inch deeper than in the spring on July 17 because they germinate better in the cooler, deeper soil and hand-watered every day until they were an inch high. Then they went on the same twice-weekly watering schedule as the rest of the garden.
I’ve tried growing climbing peas for fall harvest and found the season too short for pod creation, but bush snap peas pod earlier and provide a nice feast every few days. Once they’re finished I’ll pull them out for the compost heap, leave the roots in place to rot and sow cover crop on top, shallowly raking it in and covering it with mesh to keep out those blasted Stellar jays. Remember that peas use the nitrogen sequestered in their root nodules in pea production, so once we’ve eaten the peas, we’ve also taken away this nitrogen.
Next week I’ll re-visit compost heaps.