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Sunday, October 23, 2016


Being a Primer on What To Do and When To Do It
The best fertilizer is the farmer's shadow. 

Keep existing garden hydrated

Harvest tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, okra, squashes, beans and other summer crop

Keep basil pinched to ensure production and prevent the plants from setting seed and dying

Weed as required – keep yourself hydrated and sunburn free.

Try to water only in the evening or early morning

At the beginning of the month, begin to contemplate the Winter garden and look online for seeds to purchase. Remember that soon you'll be able to plant garlic, onions and potatoes so don't overdo it on seeds!

Late in the month, you may start with seeds of cool season crops out of full sun (indoors under lights works too):
Brussels Sprouts
Fava beans
Onions (they are easier from purchased 'sets' or transplants)

Add 3” of mulch to your garden which should cut down on weeding and watering in the coming months. It will also allow the ground to hold water when (if) it rains.

All things being equal, in August, you will be harvesting tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, corn, melons, squashes. Keep the squashes picked or you will have a gigantic squash that is mostly inedible. Pinch the tips of basil back to keep the plant from going to seed and use the pinchings in salads or cooked dishes. Green peppers will become red, purple or yellow if you leave them on the plant until they mature. For my taste, I'll wait until they change color, but many folks like green peppers as much as the mature ones. Beans should be kept picked unless you are growing soup beans, which stay on the plant until the plant has died and is crispy. The pods should shatter easily when harvesting dry beans.

Continue picking summer fruit, learn how to dry, freeze, pickle, jam or can some of the garden's bounty and share with family and neighbors. The summer garden will produce through November in mild years, but is over by the end of September or October in most. As you see plants coming to the end of their productivity, pull the plants and begin to replace them with winter plants or seeds of winter plants. In fact, it often is not even necessary to pull the plant immediately – you can leave the okra or pepper in place and simply begin to sow around it. If you sow too close, you may find you will need to cut the summer plant off, leaving the roots, if pulling them out begins to affect your seedlings. If you leave the roots in the ground, they will rot and become food for the microbiology of the soil and once rotted, channels will remain for water to infiltrate the soil.

Days get shorter and hopefully cooler

Direct seed into the garden larger seeds – peas, fava beans, lentils and garbanzo beans

Direct sow beets, turnips all month long – you can continue to sow beets until late March – you can continue to sow turnips until April – although most folks are rather sick of turnips by that time.

Late in the month, sow seeds of radishes, carrots and parsnips – you can continue to sow carrots and parsnips until January. Sow your first spinach and you may continue sowing short rows of it until mid-February if you wish.

Direct sow any lettuces or other 'salad greens' now through March – and even beyond if you're willing to take the chance! These larger leafy things really do not do well in the heat – oftentimes, even if you get a harvest, they will not be the sweet leaves you were hoping for but instead will be bitter and not at all something you would want to eat.

Set out plants started in sheltered locations.

Use shade as required on young seedlings – nursery flats and a stick.

Continue to sow broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower as in August. You CAN sow Brussels Sprouts, but your harvest will be truncated by the end of cool weather and there is no more reason to plant kale and collards as they will produce on into summer.

Now there are significant short days and almost any winter crop is OK to seed or set out including:
Onions (buy transplants if you can)
Garlic and shallots (plant from bulbs)
Potatoes – white, red, blue, bakers and mashers – all of them, cut into chunks with at least one eye per chunk, allow to 'scab' over for a few days or dust with sulfur to help prevent soil born bacteria from attacking the open surfaces.
You can still direct seed any of the Legumes (fava beans, lentils, garbanzo beans), if you haven't yet
You continue with broccoli and other cabbage family members.

Be warned, there are often Santa Ana winds in October – they dry you and your plants out, keep an eye on the water in your garden if that happens.

By now, most of the summer harvest is in, perhaps you have a few of the Winter Squash still finishing up or some areas of drying beans. In open locations, start planting the winter crops. Try to keep the garden filled with producing plants. If you started lettuce in the shade back in August, you are able to harvest the outer leaves from some plants.

Have you ever heard of celeriac? Related to celery, this root crop has the flavor, but lacks the pizzazz of celery. It is useful in soups, but not for an appetizer tray because there is no channel for cream cheese or peanut butter. And it looks a little 'rooty.' Sow seed in a row directly even though the seed is really small. The root balls get about six inches in diameter if they are happy.

Now is when you can start using the planting stick – this invention makes easy work of succession sowing. Put your planting stick on edge and make a depression in the soil. Sow your seeds in the depression. All other seeds, cover with a small amount of garden soil and water well. Carrots are the exception. Do not cover carrot seed with soil, use vermiculite to cover them. All seeds should be moistened daily until they sprout – this is especially true with carrots. Follow a program of sowing carrots, beets and other root crops every week to get fresh roots all through the season.

In November, things begin to slow down significantly. You can continue to sow all cool weather crops with a shorter life expectancy. While in September you could sow cabbages that take three or four months (the big kraut or storage cabbages), now it's time to begin to limit yourself to the smaller, non-storage, cabbages which take up less space.

This is really your last chance to sow any garlic or shallots – after this, they won't have enough time to mature to fullness before the heat of summer. You can still sow those veggies that don't take so long to mature. I'm still willing to bet on carrots, but not parsnips which take much longer. Beets and turnips are sowable now through April or so.

You may have some harvesting to do, but the garden can be a little bare this time of year. All the summer crops are gone and winter crops are just babies – except turnips and radishes, which take from four weeks to 8 weeks from seed to harvest. Broccoli. Broccoli does not need much succession planting and is a star in the winter garden. Cut the main head of the broccoli to eat, and begin to watch for the side shoots. Keep them picked and you'll have a whole ton of broccoli to eat over the coming weeks. This is not true with cabbage or cauliflower, which only give one harvest.

You almost have to have a good flashlight to garden! Really, if you can find time do a little here and there – if no rain, take up the slack with the hose. You can still sow carrots (and that'll be the last ones for this year); beets, turnips and radishes are all still on the sow list. If you have broccoli plants to put in, this would be about the last month I'd do that; cauliflowers aren't usually that tasty when they mature in the heat. Start seeds of cabbages (the smaller ones) and begin to think about where things will go in the garden for summer. Keep small lettuce plants on hand and every time something comes out of the garden, pop a lettuce in its place – lettuce is pretty, edible and fast! You can't have enough lettuce!

Try to go to holiday parties and enjoy a social life – the garden will still be there in January.

You can harvest radishes, turnips, maybe some lettuces and other greens. Perhaps you have a head or two of broccoli that will float your boat. Early cabbages might be ready to harvest soon, but the bigger kraut cabbages will take longer. The root crops (except radishes and turnips) will not be ready. If you have been reading the seed packets, you will note that my commentary disagrees with most of them. Because we sow in Fall, unlike the rest of the US, our days are getting shorter and cooler, meaning our crops take longer than the packet says they will, which was written for Spring and longer/warmer days.

Keep planting in the ground: lettuce, short season carrots, beets, potatoes, celeriac, radishes, spinach,

Start in containers: lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, (these last two can be started now, but their production will be reduced by the coming warmer weather, both will last into the summer, but the flavor of kale grown in the heat is not the sweetness you expect, they are more bitter), peas, fava beans, lentils, garbanzo beans

Seed catalogs are in the mail! Most gardeners are now looking longingly and drooling to figure out which tomatoes, peppers, beans and other summer crops you will be planting. You will order too many seeds despite promises to yourself to not do it this year. You'll do the same thing next year...

You are eating good by now. You've got broccoli, lettuce, peas, fava beans coming in – maybe a few baby beets and turnips, you are about sick of radishes which have been coming for months.

In the garden, you can still direct sow lettuce (and other salad greens), beets, radishes, spinach, and the first of the summer plantings: purple beans.

Start in your six packs early tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, summer squash – I usually try to do this around Valentine's Day.

Otherwise: If you haven't over-ordered your seeds for summer yet, get busy. You're not playing by the rules.

Continue to purple beans, lettuce, radishes, beets, radishes, spinach, You can begin to set out plants of basil, early tomatoes, later in the month, if you have space, sow early sweet corn (the exhortation for space comes from the fact that corn is a wind pollinated plant and there must be plants in a block large enough to ensure pollination between the plants – do not plant individual rows of corn, plant in a block).

Continue to sow seeds of tomatoes and basil if you need to do succession plantings of these (each plant should produce for several weeks, if not two months). Now it's time to sow peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, all squash.

You can now put out beans of all colors, lettuce and still some radishes, beets, spinach if you love them. For summer, though, you can set out plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, you can start planting all corn now, if you have the space.

Add three more inches of mulch to your garden, whether it seems to need it or not.

You can still start more tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons and squash and okra, Note that cucumbers, melons and squashes tend to get powdery mildew in our part of the country and a good strategy is to plant a second follow on set of plants. When the first planting gives up, the second planting takes over. You cannot do this with melons or winter squashes which must remain on the plant until they are fully ripened before picking.

Step back from your garden and take a look. It's really getting powered up about new – soon your neighbors will be getting tired of all the great vegetables you are sharing with them!

You can continue to set our plants of basil, eggplant, all melons and all squash and cucumbers. Begin to plant your main crop of green and yellow beans and all the dried beans, which will be left in the garden to dry on the plant. If you have room, plant more corn too.

Continue to sow as you did in April, but it's getting late – peppers, eggplants and basil are still OK to start, but will not have a lot of time to produce as they would had you gotten to them earlier.

Plant in the ground: all the above; you can still get a crop, but it might not live to its full term – furthermore, setting them out in June is hard on them – the heat can be problematic. If you do, you might have to supply some shade on extremely warm days.

Earlier tomatoes, cucumbers and beans are a part of your diet by now. I'm sick of zucchini already, how about you? Peppers are getting ripe, you can see the okra coming on – get it while it's small and don't over cook it! That keeps it from being slimy.

Start your pumpkin seeds in 4” pots to get them going, then take a nap, with my permission.

Plant in the ground only out of extreme necessity – you will have to water almost daily until they are established. Do not plant without mulching. Water as needed, early in the day or in the evening.

For starting seeds this month, I recommend you continue napping.

Now it's already time to begin to think about your cool season seeds. Get out your catalogs and prepare to over-order those like we did at the beginning of the year or get online. Try not to buy your seeds locally -you get fresher seed online or by ordering directly from the seed company by phone – your seeds are in perfect climate conditions until they begin to pull your order.

If you do tomatoes right, by now you have enough to open your own Italian eatery.

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