December 16, 2018

Thanksgiving and Fall Gardening

Thanksgiving1I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is next week!  Where has the year gone?

Carl Wilson, of Colorado State University’s Horticulture Cooperative extension, offers some good advice on end of season vegetable gardening.  Here’s my summary of his article.

In Charleston South Carolina, where a I live, gardening season hasn’t come to an end but it is certainly slowing down.  While gardeners in all other areas, have put away the gardening tools for the year, others are still thinking about putting their vegetable gardens to bed.  Still others, are planning to harvest through the end of November, and some others are planting winter crops right now.  It all depends on which part of the world you live in.

Mr. Wilson, writes “it all depends on what you like to eat”

If you grow tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and other warm season vegetables, the first hard frost means an ending for you.  In fact, tomatoes actually are best harvested and taken indoors to ripen once night- time temperatures drop to 40°Fahrenheit.

For gardeners who like cool season crops, life is just getting interesting.  Kale, planted in mid-summer is just coming into maturity.  Some believe the crops flavor improves after a few frosts.  Plants will continue to grow and produce leaves for harvest until at least this time of year.  The red Russian variety seems especially resistant to freezes.

Collards are another leafy green that seems to laugh at the cold.  They will survive temperatures down to 15° F.  Again, cold tends to improve the flavor.

Cabbage is best stored in the garden until there is room in the refrigerator or until severe winter temperatures threaten.  On heads grown almost to bursting, gardeners in the know twist plants ¼ turn to partially sever their root.  This will prevent further growth and allows for storage in the garden until you are ready to use it.

Root vegetables also will store for months in garden soil.  Once the soil has cooled, many gardeners will apply a dried grass or hey mulch to prevent carrots, beets, turnips and other underground vegetables from freezing solid.  Dig them up as needed for fresh vegetables up to the Christmas/ New Year holidays.

As for warm season vegetables, promptly harvest the debris struck down by frosts.  A thorough clearing of vegetation from the garden will help prevent the carryover of diseases into the next season.  Garden debris nicely complements dry tree leaves in the compost bin and will produce a welcome soil amendment by next spring.

Once garden space is cleared of warm season vegetables, consider one of two options to improve your garden soil for next year.  If your soil is heavy clay, turn  over all of the soil and leave a large clods on the surface.  Winter freezing and thawing will tend to break these down saving you work.

On both sandy and clay soils, Mr. Wilson recommends a second option.  “Seed a crop of winter rye”.  The seed will require several waterings to germinate and get going.  The plants will grow through the winter and attain a height of 12 to 15 inches by spring.  Their deep roots break up clay soil.  Turning under the Rye in early spring will add valuable organic matter to your garden.

Other crops to seed for winter are lettuce and spinach.  By using mulch or in old window supported around its sides by mountain soil, you can grow salad greens for the winter.  Both lettuce and spinach germinate at temperatures as low as 40° F.  Cast lettuce seed on top of the soil and keep moist.  The seed requires light to germinate.

Interested in dill for next year?  Many gardeners swear that seed is best started by broadcasting it over the soil in fall.  Germination often is more successful than spring seeding.

For some vegetable gardeners, the first frost is in ending.  For others it’s just a beginning.

As for me, I’ll be working through the winter getting my garden store ship-shape for the spring.  I’m in the process of adding lots of new categories, new manufacturers, and new products.

In the meantime, inspired by local nurseries, I’ve added a holiday shop to my store.  Check out the Holiday Shop page and the Gifts page for some inspiration on what to give the gardener this holiday season.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

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Garden Decorative Items & The Empty Nest
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