By Brent Gray
It won’t be long until we have our first really cold weather, so it is not too soon to begin moving those tender plants you want to keep to a warm, sunny place for the winter. The last harvest of tomatoes, peppers, and other tender vegetables should be done before Jack Frost takes these plants home to their fathers. What are you going to do with all those green tomatoes, red tomatoes, peppers, or whatever? Eat as much as you can, process the rest (canning or freezing) and give the remainder to hungry friends, neighbors or a food bank.
As the warm growing season winds down, it is time to relax a little, enjoy the fall colors, the crisp cool days, and start to make plans for the garden next spring. The dormant season ahead would be a good time to establish or expand a flower or vegetable garden. Adding soil amendments or taking soil samples now will allow plenty of time for planning—as well as planting—the garden next spring. A good way to give the garden a face lift for the fall is to apply a fresh layer of mulch—nothing makes the garden look neat and tended to better than new mulch!
It is not too late to seed the cool season annuals and wildflowers in the areas that will not be mulched. Don’t mulch those areas of the garden where you rely on reseeding to repopulate your beds. You can dig up and divide the spring and summer flowering perennial plants now, or anytime during the dormant season. Be sure and water the divided clumps well to aid in good root growth.
Clean-up any dead or spent plants, in particular summer annuals that look ratty—replace with colorful fall annuals, seed cool season flowers, or just cover the area with mulch. Don’t forget to leave some seedheads for the wildlife. Take advantage of these nice cool mornings and head out into the garden with a pad and pencil to jot down ideas and sketches to improve the garden. For example, take notes of what worked, what didn’t. Maybe you need a screen plant here. Or maybe you need to plant a tree over there for shade or color. You might need to move that plant that is blocking that pretty view out the window, or poking you in the eye every time you walk past. The dormant season is a good time to move those plants that are crowding their neighbors.
Begin to pour over those catalogs that you are getting in the mail. Don’t get too bugged eye with all the glossy pictures. Choose wisely! Base your decision on affordability and suitability for the situation. Is it adapted to this region? Will it remain in the space allotted without excessive pruning? Will it serve the purpose you intended?
Observations from the Truck Crops Experiment Station trial garden
Toscano dinosaur kale is more productive than Nero di Toscana. These two cultivars of this popular lacinato kale were both growing well and had the same amount of feeding damage from the diamond backed moth larva. The Toscana just had larger plants with larger leaves.
Gardeners who prefer white sweet potatoes should try Bonita. It produces as well as O’Henry with brighter white interiors.
Golden Sweet snow peas should be given a try.
Sugar Cube cantaloupe produces small fruit that can easily be eaten by one person. This is one of the “personal” sized fruit that is meant for small families or individuals who don’t need three pounds at one meal.
The only lettuce that was not exhibiting seed stalks was Sierra. This is a red tinged Batavian head lettuce. Batavian lettuces are not as tightly packed as crisp head (iceberg) types, but are more crunchy than butter head or leaf types.
Try Jing Orange okra for a splash of color in the vegetable garden next summer. This cultivar is a brighter color than the burgundy colored red cultivars. It is not bright orange but more of a cinnabar or dark red-orange.
Be sure to water! One big rain every three weeks is not enough water for vegetables.