Archives for posts with tag: fall planting

Over breakfast this morning, we discussed a few ideas for the next growing season. It’ll be here sooner than we think.

First, we’ll move the peas and beans to the fence. We have two trellises now and rather than let one lie fallow (as we did this past season), we’ll plant one trellis with cucumbers and the other with legumes. We sow the peas and beans directly into the ground (as opposed to starting them inside, as we do the cucumbers) and I am pretty sure that there will be enough sun to germinate the seeds.

Second, we’ll plant the tomatoes in the ground only, not in a raised bed. I’m a bit surprised that we came to this conclusion because I was sure that the tomatoes in the planter would do better than those in the ground, mainly due to the soil being older and more conditioned in the planters (see June 8, 2014, part 2). Perhaps it was Murphy’s Law or maybe our tomatoes were contrarian by nature, but the vines in the ground grew fuller and produced more fruit. Go figure.

Planting only in the ground will mean fewer tomato plants—and, possibly, fewer tomatoes—but each plant will have more space. And because there will be no tomato plants in the raised beds, we’ll also have more room there to plant other things.

Which leads me to the third idea for next season: garlic. And now is not too soon to be thinking about it.

Because it turns out that garlic wants to vernalize—to spend a winter in the ground before sprouting in the spring. That means it needs to be planted now. Back in November, we purchased two heads of seed garlic (one hard stem, one soft) from one of our favorite market farmers, Jay. (By the way, seed garlic is no different from the garlic we eat as long as it has not been grown with any chemicals to prevent it from sprouting.)

Jay mentioned that he always waits until it is cold enough to make his fingers hurt to plant the garlic (and his garlic is always beautiful so he must be on to something). Today fits the bill, weather-wise, and I went out to plant. I first had to prepare a spot for it in the southwest corner of the west planter. I cleaned up the old mulch and fallen leaves, pulled a few weeds, added a topping of fresh compost, and raked it smooth.

I broke up the heads of garlic and picked the best cloves of each type. Perhaps we waited a bit too long; some of the cloves were starting to dry out. Still, I was able to get eight soft neck and four hard neck cloves and dropped them in one-inch-deep holes (root end down, pointy end up).

I covered the area with fresh mulch and gave it a good watering. If all goes well, we should see sprouts (also called scapes) in early spring.

When a pirate buries his treasure, it is not for forever; he expects to come back for it. It may take some time before he can return—there are many ships to rob and his own vessel’s speed is limited by the winds—so it is important that he prepare for an almost inevitable occurrence: that he will forget where he buried for it.

How does he prevent that from happening? Well, the organized pirate makes a treasure map.

And not just any treasure map. If the pirate is also clever (and if he is alive, he most certainly is; most dumb pirates will quickly end up dead), he will incorporate some sort of code into his map. That way, if it falls into enemy hands (a competing raider’s, say), the location of the chest of gold (or what have you) will not be immediately revealed. In the time it takes to decipher it, the original pirate can track down the thief (who, most unfortunately, will probably end up walking the plank) and reclaim his map.

Even for non-pirates, making a secret map to protect one’s buried treasure is a pretty good idea. Except for certain buried treasures.

I’m talking, of course, about flowering bulbs.

When I bury a chestful of these little golden orbs, I want to forget where I left them. One of the greatest joys of planting bulbs is the exhilarating jolt of surprise when the blossoms are first sighted in late winter or early spring, usually pushing through a crust of snow. Having a map that gives their locations away would spoil half of the fun, for me anyway.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I want to leave my buried treasures susceptible to theft. If I thought it would help prevent the squirrels from stealing my precious stash, I would employ the most enigmatic map I could devise.

And if I still caught them plundering my treasure?

Arrgh! I would send those marauding squirrels to Davy Jones’ Locker!

The radishes are still growing and, in fact, look strong.  But their roots have not yet started to expand (we pulled one out to check).  The clock is ticking…

I have often noted that daily changes in the garden are not always readily noticeable but that after our prolonged absence, the accumulated changes are immediately apparent.  I still believe this but after spending the last few days in Boston and seeing very little change on our return, I would add that it is mainly true during the more active portion of the growing season.

It’s the end of the season and many of the plants are already gone (most notably the cucumbers and zucchini) or winding down.  The latter is particularly true of the tomatoes which have not made any significant progress for a couple of weeks now.  All of the tomatoes that were green mid-week, before we left town, are still green today and showing no signs of turning color.  Even the few tomatoes that had already reddened are no redder now.  There just isn’t enough direct sun during the day.

On the other hand, there are signs of life in the garden.  The string beans are getting larger and the stalks are still producing blossoms.  The radish seedlings, just two weeks old, continue to develop (although it is extremely unlikely that they will reach maturity by next week, as promised by the seed packets).  And the lettuce patch continues to surprise us with its sustained growth (even if the older leaves have become slightly bitter).

Over in the ornamental garden, the divided and replanted Siberian irises are sending up new growth, the sight of which was very reassuring after their complete upheaval.  I don’t know whether this is normal (I don’t remember seeing it before) or a response to the late warm weather or to being separated.  But I am happy (and relieved) to see that we did not kill them off.

This evening, I picked the first of the French Filet string beans.  This is the bush variety (as opposed to the Blue Lakes, which are pole beans) and I had to search through the closely spaced leaves to find the ripe ones.  We didn’t do anything with them except to wash them and cut them into bite size pieces.  Raw, they were a nice addition to a salad along with lettuce (our mesclun patch is still producing) and two of the few remaining tomatoes.

Our first string bean harvest allows a nice segue into more recapping of the current season.  The string beans, and the Sugar Snap peas before them, did very well in our garden and we will plant them again next year.  But I think we need to devote more space to them (at least one full-length row) so that there are enough ripe legumes at any time to make a sizeable meal.  This year, we either ate the beans a few at a time or waited until there were enough, taking the risk that some would be overripe.

Of course, if we allow more space for peas and beans we will also have to give up room for other things.  I can’t think of anything we planted this year that I would not grow next year; therefore, we may have to expand the garden.  We probably don’t have enough space to add another full-size planter but we could grow some vegetables in pots or directly in the ground.

Of this year’s vegetables, zucchini would be the most suitable candidate for in-ground growing.  Zucchini plants can be very large—our single vine ended up using as much space as two did earlier in the season—and they tend to sprawl.  Before we pulled it out, our zucchini took up almost half of its planter.  “Don’t Fence Me In” would be the zucchinis’ theme song and it is easy to see why they are often grown in free-form patches.

As for pots, the eggplant and bell pepper plants might do well in stand-alone containers.  Unlike the zucchini, they do not spread out very much.  In fact, the eggplant in particular grew upward as much, if not more, than it did outward.  Neither the eggplant nor the bell pepper grew very large (which may be a characteristic of their respective varieties or due to poor soil conditions) and their smaller size would make them easier to move around as the solar exposure changes.

Right on schedule, the radish seeds sent up their sprouts today (the packet said four to six days and it has been five).  So far, our experiment in fall planting is working out.

If things continue to go well, the radishes will be ready for eating in about two weeks.  They took longer in the spring (by an additional two weeks) so we shall see.