Lowther: Preparing garden for fall, winter

As the summer garden winds down I’m preparing for fall and winter.

As the summer garden winds down I’m preparing for fall and winter.

I rake up summer mulches and put them beside the compost heap, ready for fall composting. Back east where winter comes hard they can leave their mulch on the garden, but our mild winters foster hordes of slugs and pillbugs nestling under mulches, ready to demolish spring plantings next year. I protect my soil with cover crops instead.

Cover crops, also called green manure, are plants sown when no edible crops occupy the bed or under some crops toward the end of their growing season. Certain types of grains, legumes, flowers and greens have been bred specifically for this purpose. They help clean the soil of noxious weeds and disease, retain nutrients and bring up more from the sub-soil, protect the soil from erosion, and add nitrogen to the soil when they’re dug under while still tender and green.

Cover crops dry out the soil in spring through transpiration — that’s the movement of water up from the soil, through the plant and out of the leaves as it evaporates, allowing for earlier plantings come springtime. Legumes contribute a great deal of nitrogen to the soil and grains grow huge root masses that hold onto the soil and nutrients;

This week I’ll sow crimson clover under the beans, lettuce and brassicas, and as plants finish and get pulled up I’ll sow cover crop in their stead. Each cover crop grows best in a certain season; crimson clover, fava beans, corn salad and many grains grow well in fall and winter. Although growers recommend buckwheat for summer growth because it dies over winter, I’m using it in conjunction with fava and crimson clover because it still adds biomass and the roots hold the soil in place, but mainly because that’s what I’ve got.

I won’t be watering any more this year so I’ll pull out all the soaker hoses, drain them and carefully wind them up so they won’t kink. Some of these hoses are more than 10 years old and they still work well.

The tomatoes keep producing prodigiously under their plastic tent that keeps them quite warm and dry. Some books recommend laying the plants down on their sides on the ground for warmth and covering them with a plastic-covered frame, but when I’ve followed this advice, I’ve lost too much of the crop to slugs and pill bugs.

I find that tomatoes ripen well into October and are easy to pick when strung up vertically. I read that new suckers can be nipped off when tomato plants finally get pulled out and these suckers can be potted up for Christmas harvest. I plan on giving this a try.

Now, I must go and tend to the latest batch of tomato sauce. My 10 plants have produced more tomatoes than any I’ve ever grown, more about this later. One last thought— cucumber season can also be prolonged by covering with plastic at night; just make sure to remove the plastic on hot days unless you want them cooked prematurely.

Just Posted

Wildfire sparks at Mayo Lake in Cowichan Valley

It is suspected to be human-caused

Cowichan Capitals make another trade with camp on the horizon

New arrival Vincent Millette will be on hand when camp opens on Aug. 20

Have you seen this white Ford flatdeck truck? It’s stolen

North Cowichan/ Duncan Mounties ask for help in locating a stolen truck

B.C. wildfires 2018: Hazy skies impacting crews in spotting new fires

18,000 people are on an evacuation alert, with 3,000 homes under an evacuation order

Minister optimistic after 2 days of Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Canadian and U.S. officials met in Nelson Wednesday and Thursday to discuss future of the treaty

Man dies in B.C. police cell while awaiting court hearing

An independent investigation is underway after a man died while in Penticton police custody Aug. 16

RCMP appeal for tips, dashcam footage in German tourist shooting west of Calgary

The Durango crashed into the ditch after the shooting near the Goodstoney Rodeo Centre

2 nurses attacked at B.C. psych hospital, union calls for in-unit security

PHSA says that in-unit guards would do more harm than good

Former B.C. optician won’t be jailed for sexually assaulting minor

Kenneth Pilkington sentenced to 24 months’ probation for offence three decades ago

Red Cross now accepting donations for those impacted by B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Red Cross is asking for help now and in the weeks and months ahead.

B.C. program to educate parents reduces ‘shaken baby syndrome’ by 35%

Period of PURPLE Crying was launched nearly a decade ago

UPDATED: Vancouver Island community under evacuation alert due to wildfire

BC Wildfire Service says steep terrain near Zeballos poses challenge as “out of control” wildfire approaches homes

Most Read