Small Space Gardening: Fall Chores | Recent News

Small Space Gardening by Diane Dryden is a series of garden articles that will run all summer long with information for both new and experienced gardeners. Every two weeks, articles will be updated as the gardening year progresses; from selecting a site to harvesting in the fall.

WASHBURN COUNTY — With the official arrival of fall on the 22nd of this month, there’s a lot of chores in the garden. Whether your garden has been in the ground, raised beds or containers, it’s time to stop summer crops. The only crop that can still be planted this year is garlic.

If you have room, I say, why not? Garlic does not overwinter well in containers, so you will need to plant the crop in the ground. Any time after the official twenty-second autumnal equinox will do. Garlic is sensitive to day length and ripens during the longest days of summer. Fall planting gives it a head start for next year’s growing season, and it will be one of the first things to show up.

It is extremely easy to grow, but soil preparation is necessary for the best and biggest bulbs.

Garlic needs deeply cultivated, well-drained, rich soil with neutral pH soil. Adding compost or well-rotted manure to the bed is always a bonus.

Be sure to buy your buds from someone at the farmer’s market, not the grocery store. Most of what you buy commercially has been treated to last a long time. It also prevents germination. To be safe, buy local and organic products.

Do not separate the cloves more than 48 hours before planting to prevent them from drying out. The biggest cloves will produce the biggest bulbs. Plant individual pods, peels intact, pointed end up, 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Mulch with 5 to 8 inches of straw.

To ensure a good harvest, fertilizing and watering are essential next year when they emerge from their winter siesta. One inch of water per week should be sufficient.

The hardneck variety is what grows best here in the north, and sometimes around the summer solstice your garlic will send up a stalk of seed called a scape. These should be cut to encourage the plant to put its energy into forming the bulbs.

These green landscapes wrap in a loop and are delicious when added to salads, stir fries, soups, scrambled eggs or anywhere you want a sweet onion taste.

Leave a flower stalk or two standing to help you decide when to harvest garlic. About four weeks before harvest, stop watering. This usually happens in July.

When the bottom third to half of the leaves have turned brown in early August but the top leaves are still green, it’s time to harvest. Keeping an eye on the two stems you have left, when they unfurl and straighten, they are ready to harvest.

Hang garlic by bunches in a cool, well-ventilated shady place for a month to dry. Once the leaves, roots and outer husks are completely dry, brush off any loose soil, trim the roots to ¼ inch and cut the tops an inch or two above the bulb before storing for the winter . Save your larger cloves for planting next year.

Saving the seeds of the largest vegetable is a good idea, whatever it is. If you’re a seed saver, you already know how important plant genetics is. If it’s pepper seeds, tomato seeds, or squash seeds, choose one with all the characteristics you like and save those seeds.

Whatever seeds you save, make sure they are well dried before packing them for their own winter naps. There’s nothing worse than pulling them out in the spring and seeing them all moldy.

Speaking of moldy, if you’re looking to store unripe tomatoes, wrap them individually in newspaper or hang the whole plant upside down somewhere out of the cold.

Crop rotation is just another thing to consider for next year. You should not plant the same crop year after year in the same soil because of the remnants of pathogens. Plus, there’s a crop rotation method that makes sense. Take corn, for example. It depletes the soil of nitrogen. Beans add nitrogen to the soil, so it makes sense to plant beans where corn was the year before.

If you want to give your in-ground garden soil or raised beds a real boost, fall is the perfect time to plant a cover crop that acts as a green manure. In other words, it is a specific crop that is planted in the fall that is cultivated and then uprooted and dug into the ground, thereby improving soil fertility. Unless you do this periodically, your soil will tire and soon not be as productive as it once was. It’s a simple way to cultivate more good soil.

Cover crops allow the nutrients in the green manure to be released and made available to subsequent crops. This immediately results in an increase in the abundance of soil micro-organisms from the degradation of plant matter which helps in the decomposition of this fresh matter. Green manure is a crop specially produced to be incorporated into the soil while it is still green.

We buy winter rye seeds from our local feed store. We sow it as soon as the beds are devoid of any culture on all our beds and let it grow until after the first hard frosts. We then use the tiller to incorporate the crop into the soil. Not only does it add nutrients, but it also makes the soil more loose and loamy.

Before the seed catalogs start rolling in, it never hurts to have a tentative plot plan laid out for 2023. Decide what worked well this year and figure out if it’s something you’d like more of. ‘next year.

This year we have grown several types of dry beans. The pintos were climbers and the turtle black beans were of the bush variety. Both were plentiful, and since we now have a gallon of each, we will grow less if we grow them again next year. How many pork and bean meals can you eat anyway?

We already know that we will be planting more potatoes in empty cat food bags and planting a lot less zucchini. Our spring bulbs will come in October 11th, thanks to the Farmer’s Almanac calendar, and the garlic will be planted and heavily mulched the same day.

Until then, he waits for the Indian maize to dry, plants the cover crop, continues to dry the seeds of tomatoes, peppers and beans for next year.

It is also time to empty or cover the containers we used to grow the tomatoes. There’s nothing worse than filling containers with rain or wet snow on the ground and then freezing. The water expands as it freezes causing the container to crack and become ruined.

I hope you had a successful year with your gardens, big or small, and are excited to start again next year. Thank you to all of you who have shared their gardens with us. You have all been an inspiration to me, as I hope to have been to others.

Previous articles on gardening small spaces:

  1. Sun Patterns and Soil Types
  2. How to read seed catalogs, packets and the difference between perennials and annuals
  3. Plot planning, starting bulbs, crop rotation and saving toilet paper tubes
  4. Starting seeds using grow lights, heating pads and toilet paper tubes
  5. Starting seeds, determining how much of each you will need, soil types
  6. Growing Herbs and Starting Potatoes
  7. First crops, container tips and creating a successful compost pile
  8. 3 sisters, looking at the moon, and finally, planting your garden
  9. Garden Update, Berry Bugs, Annuals Vs. Perennials & Trees
  10. Ponds and water features, wildflowers and garden update
  11. Blight, mildew and mulch. No, they are not lawyers, but just as intrusive
  12. Second crop, seed conservation, garden visit and some summer recipes
  13. A garden visit, dried herbs, no-no carrots, pain au chocolat and zucchini, tomato pruning and saying goodbye to wasps
  14. Another garden visit, harvesting beets, potatoes and Nadapeno peppers
  15. Harvest Moon, crop rotation, tomato pruning, preparing containers for winter and interview with a gardener

Last Updated: Sep 17, 2022 9:40 AM CDT

Terri S. Tomasini