Monday, October 31, 2011

Brussels sprouts forming in each stem node
The mornings are getting frosty now; at our location, first frost came on October 21 – in some places we saw freezing fog hovering over low areas.  But the 30th was our first official freeze at 30 degrees F, signaling the end of the growing season for any tender vegetation.  What a difference seven days has made for the annual foliage show!  We are near peak with good autumn weather in the forecast, so those red, orange, and golden streamers should hold on for a while yet even as the most stubborn green oaks turn and join the show.

Our cold-weather crops seem to be unaffected and are increasing in size; cabbage will tolerate a normal frost but will not last when temperatures dip into the 20’s F.  Brussels sprouts are on schedule for a Christmas first harvest.  We have a good stand of red clover which we are using as a cover crop for next year’s corn.

A good stand of red clover will make a great green manure
crop for corn next growing season.
This is last chance to plant garlic in the South, and we confess this turn of the year has kept us so busy with autumn activities that we’ve put it off a little longer than usual.  We will be making that a priority this week.  We saved several of the largest garlic heads from last year and will split them into individual cloves to plant as seed.  Garlic purchased from the store works just as well as seed garlic – in fact that was one of our garden experiments that has turned into a staple for us; we’re now growing the 5th generation of garlic from that original grocery store variety.  Garlic likes rich, loose soil, so we will haul out the tiller and incorporate a lot of milled sphagnum peat moss and some organic fertilizer in the row before we plant. We keep this loosely mulched with fall leaves after it sprouts.

Our Fall/Winter garden; the open space is saved for spinach and peas next Spring.
Our compost bin is more stuffed than a Thanksgiving turkey, and aside from those winter “regulars” we can dust off our hands from another gardening season.  It’s time to tuck next year’s garden in for the winter, and we’re already covering it with a layer of cardboard and fallen leaves through which we will plant next year.  It looks like we will have one more update in November to finish for the year 2011.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17, 2011

Mixed greens and beets thrive in these autumn days.
Fair weather made for a beautiful weekend at the Pumpkin Festival on October 8.  Cloudy skies moved in for much of the past week, however, dropping a slow, soaking rain that was just perfect for sprouting the red clover seed scattered the week before.  While we want that section to turn green, we do not want all the weed seedlings coming up with our fall/winter/spring garden; a quick run-over with the tiller set at shallow depth on a sunny day did most of them in.  Among our lettuce, beets, and other cool weather crops some selective hand weeding cleared the area.

'Northern Lights' swiss chard
It looks like we will be enjoying a nice crop of ‘Northern Lights’ swiss chard by first frost.  Chard is a variety of beet that does not grow an edible root but that makes an exceptionally large top:  leaves are often cooked like spinach, and stalks steamed like asparagus.  Chard is grown where conditions do not favor spinach.  We have enough spinach from last April in the freezer to last until March, so we’re just trying something different.

Cabbage plants have grown large and are making heads; brussels sprouts are adding height—sprouts are now the size of small peas in the nook of each leaf stem.

Cabbage heads are starting to form.
October is time to plant spring bulbs; last year we added hyacinth, muscari, crocus, and more than 200 daffodils to naturalize around the property.  This year we bought 100 Darwin hybrid tulips for the bed around our mailbox.  A past home owner installed weed barrier and filled the area with decorative stone.  All of that had to come out, and we excavated an 8-inch pit, which was no easy task:  if we ever do this again we will invest in a pick-axe!  Good soil mixed with milled sphagnum peat moss and bone meal was returned, and the bulbs topped with loose topsoil and pine bark mulch.  Tulips need several weeks of freezing temperatures to bloom, but our location at 934 ft. elevation is always cooler than town; we’ve already seen rooftop frost.

Our world is taking on a golden hue as deciduous trees move from early to mid-season color.  Pretty soon we’ll be getting out the leaf rake!

Monday, October 3, 2011

October 3, 2011

The first of October brought gorgeous autumn temperatures, cooler than any we've seen since April. We made a garden bonfire and reduced to ashes all our corn stalks and dried woody plants, then tilled it under— Bryan tilled 1,125 sq. ft. all together. This wiped the garden clean like an etch-a-sketch. Two pounds of red clover seed was scattered over one 500 sq. ft. section and raked in, to germinate after the next rain.

Most of the garden has been tilled clean.

We've amassed quite a lot of cardboard to lay over the other part, all except for one row where garlic will grow through the winter. We noticed some of our garlic developed rot in this heavy soil, but it may also have been introduced by using some moldy manure last fall. So to be extra careful this year we will be adding a fair amount of milled sphagnum peat moss which both lightens soil and resists rot. We saved "seed garlic," three or so of the largest heads we harvested last May, to plant this month.  

Brussels sprouts spread their leaves.
The fall garden is really showing up as beets, greens, and carrots fill in empty dirt spaces; brussels sprouts and cabbage are spreading, too. After a good soaking rain last week a bunch of weed seedlings sprouted that will need to be pulled before they crowd out over good plants. By the looks of that lettuce, we could have homegrown salads by next week.

mixed greens in the early morning sun

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Dedicated to the responsible production and preservation of healthy home-grown food to the glory of God. Isaiah 55:10 The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. Organic, or not? We try to raise vegetables organically, using compost and manure. The addition of chickens to our hobby farm means plenty of organic nitrogen to compost! This site gives credible reference to planting information contained in the Farmer's Almanac (