September 19, 2017

Fall Garden 2017

I always feel like I'm behind the power curve when it comes to the fall garden. Our state cooperative extension says July and August are the months to plant fall crops, but July is too hot and August too busy with picking and preserving, so it seems that I'm usually doing my fall planting in September at the earliest. The garden has always been neglected during harvest months, however, so there is usually quite a bit of preliminary work to do before I can plant.

I started with my no-show Swiss chard bed. I tried several plantings of chard this summer, but without success. I used my broadfork to loosen the soil to pull out the wiregrass.

Broadfork for loosening soil for wiregrass removal.

I like using my broadfork for this, because it's quieter and less disruptive than the tiller. It doesn't go quite as deep as the running wiregrass roots, but I'm able to loosen and pull out a lot of it.

I planted sugar beets, lettuce, and radishes here.
The popcorn just behind it will be ready soon too.

Just above that (to the left in the above photo) are my sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato vines look good, don't they?
I'll harvest these some time next month.

And above that is our one raised bed where I grew multiplier onions last winter. As an experiment to try and kill the wiregrass, I covered it all summer with a tarp. This worked quite well and the soil didn't require much work.

Broccoli, Savoy cabbages, and collards.

The plants came from the feed store. I never can resist a pretty display of packaged garden plants. The sprinkler pipe is hooked up to one of our rainwater overflow tanks.

Dan added a 2nd, 300-gal rain tank to catch the
  overflow from our large rainwater catchment tank.

After the plants were in, I seeded the rest of the bed with white Dutch clover. The clover will be a living mulch this winter.

Early this spring I did my first experiment with clover in the garden as living mulch. You may recall that I put in a swale at the top of the garden on one side and pulled out three wheelbarrow loads of wiregrass in the process. I'd noticed that wire grass (Bermudagrass, actually) prefers full sun and doesn't grow well in other plants' shade. I wanted to see how well a living mulch would work to keep the wiregrass at bay.

Clover, wiregrass, and cushaw vines.

It worked fairly well, except that Bermuda is a warm weather grass while clover is a cool weather legume. When the clover went dormant for the summer, the wiregrass took advantage. The clover is coming back in patches now, but wiregrass dominates whatever area its in, so I don't expect the clover to push it back.

Cushaw winter squash.

In the midst of the clover and wiregrass are cushaw winter squash. They were planted late so I won't get as many as I'd like, but each one is large, and they are great keepers. I use cushaw instead of pumpkin for pumpkin pie and other pumpkin goodies.

I also cleaned out the hoop house. After I let last year's winter veggies go to seed for collecting, I did all my summer planting outside, so the hoop house has been neglected all summer. There was a lot of unwanted growth there that had to be pulled.

Still under shade cloth, but all tidied up! We talked about moving
the hoop house to the other side of the house closer to the kitchen,
but that will have to wait. Work on the barn takes priority.

That unwanted growth included wiregrass, of course. (And yes, I have watched Back To Eden and no, mulch does not deter wiregrass because it's indeterminate. I pulled out one runner that measured almost nine feet! That's why mulch doesn't deter it.)

I did make one exciting discovery in there. Do you remember that I planted garlic bulbils in one of the hoop house beds last year? Well, they made it!

Baby garlic plants, planted about a year ago.

They started well and then this poor little box became so overgrown with weeds that I gave up hope for the baby garlic plants. But even after a summer of neglect, they made it!

Speaking of garlic, I also turned one of this summer's green bean rows into a garlic bed. The green beans were where I made my double-dug swale rows, so little preparation was required there, except that they had sunken a bit so I added finished compost from the chicken-compost piles.

First garlic poking up.

The second double-dug row is for multiplier onions this year. I like the multiplier onions because they do so much better for me than globe onions. Plus, they reproduce themselves so I don't have to buy onion sets every year!

One last photo - this year's winter wheat.

We actually got this planted at the end of August, which was perfect! It's spotty but doing well.

I'm still harvesting okra, tomatoes, and an occasional cucumber. Still to plant: turnips, carrots, beets, parsnips, kale, mustard greens, and more salad greens. At least I've gotten quite a bit in before October. 👏 For me that's pretty good.

How about you? Are you working on your garden too?

Fall Garden 2017 © September 2017 by


Harry Flashman said...

I always feel like I'm behind the power curve. No matter what I set out to do, I find ten other things that need doing along the way.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Wow! I didn't realize you had that great hoophouse! Having a hard time. Plant things and they don't germinate or something eats them or my lettuce comes up but doesn't seem to grow! Hoping I can coax along some greens for this winter eating. Never could keep up to all your doing! Your doing a great job! Nancy

Leigh said...

Harry, that's it exactly! Some things I don't even want to start because of all the necessary preliminaries!

Nancy, I'm having the same problem, i.e. seeds not germinating. I can't help but wonder if there's been a weakening of our seeds somehow.

Kev Alviti said...

I'm still planting! You made me laugh about the "back to eden" method. it seems everyone wants to recommend it when you mention weeds yet very few practice it!
As for you're chard, I start all things like that (beets as well) as transplants now. Works great, I get great spacing and they're already ahead of the weeds.
I've put in winter salads and spinach lately, everything else was seeded and transplanted last month really. onions and garlic to go in soon and maybe soem fava beans to over winter as well.

Madness, Trouble, Squish and Milkbone said...

Leigh (and Nancy)
Are you having problems with seed you saved yourself not germinating, or seed you bought? If you are having trouble with seed you bought you should try a different supplier. You should expect about 90% germination from seed you buy. In my experience "Feed & Seeds" don't always have good quality seeds. You can try some online vendors. I'm not sure whether they would have what you are looking for but Seedway is a good place to buy since they also sell to large farms. That means they have very strict quality control. They do have organic (or at least untreated) seed, but I'm not sure whether they have what you want.
BTW, I'm fascinated by the barn/hayloft building! I'm temped to just show up at your place one day and insists Dan teaches me this magic.

Ed said...

Our garden is toast, as in dry as toast. We finally got an inch of rain, the most rain since May 1st but I've given up on our small garden this year. I'm glad the big garden on the farm gets irrigated or we would have had a big zero in the harvest column this year.

Leigh said...

Kev, I've been thinking quite a bit about starting everything in pots and later transplanting into the garden. It seems like it would make things easier on many levels. I just need a good place to do that. No greenhouse yet, but it's in the plans.

Cecilia, it's really been a puzzle. Some of these are saved seeds, and others come from at least three different mail order companies in various parts of the country. I'll have to look into Seedway.

The barn is looking good isn't it? Dan would tell you that his teacher was YouTube, LOL.

Ed, that is so frustrating. I am so thankful we had a better summer this year. Even so, irrigation helps a lot.

Goatldi said...

I got a tub going with half radishes and half lettuce. I am also working on fodder and fermentation for the chickens and goats. Looking forward to planting a few more veggies in the green house. Need to get a post up on my blog now that I have remedied the fallen laptop.
Love that your garlic survived!

1st Man said...

I read in Houston books about planting early for Fall in August. Um it's like 110 here then, there is no way I can do that then. It's all we can do to get the yard mowed and edged, ha. Thankfully we have a very late frost so we still have time. Hoping to get started by 1st of October. We'll see!!

You have a beautiful garden started, can't wait to see how well it does for you.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, a tub is good! And I hope we get to see your greenhouse soon! Really wishing I had one for starting seeds, but it will just have to wait. At least I can plant! Would love a blog post about your foddering system too. Glad your laptop is fixed!

1st Man, most years my fall garden goes in in October and November! If we have a mild winter things do well, but if it's cold, I just consider it an early start on my spring garden!

Rain said...

You have done more than quite a bit Leigh, it's very impressive!! Your hoop house, my gosh it's awesome. And your squash looks like my pumpkin growing! I planted a few things for hopes of having a winter garden. We have yet to build the cold frames, but summer is back for now, so I don't have winter gardening on my mind at the moment!! :)

Leigh said...

Rain, I know what you mean about not thinking about winter gardening in summer. That's why my fall garden is always late! LOL. Glad to hear you've got some things growing though.

Sam I Am...... said...

I plant in containers because I have Bermuda Grass here too. I never heard of 'wire grass' but that is exactly what it is and it will cut your hand like wire too! Moving from the North I had no idea that it is a gardener's worst enemy! You do really well considering you have it too. You are now my role model for gardening in the South!
I used to be a great gardener in the North but became overwhelmed down here. I truly admire Southern gardeners! I have not planted anything yet for Fall/Winter but plan on it. I would love to get some of those onions you talk about. A neighbor I had up North had some and they were wonderful! We have wild onions here that pop up in the yard but since I had to spray for poison ivy and oak and sumac....I don't dare pick any of them. The long fork looks like a great tool. I think I need one of those! LOL! Your garden looks great and you can tell there was a lot of work that went into it. Your sweet potatoes look great. You inspire me!

Leigh said...

Sam, unfortunately Bermudagrass is one of the two major pasture grasses planted in the south! For those who want easy care pasture, it doesn't matter that it's invasive and will choke everything else out. They like it because it's drought tolerant and can withstand heavy grazing. Once I accepted that there's no way I can get rid of it, I just looked for ways to deter it long enough so that I can get a harvest. But it's really annoying in my herb and flower beds in the front yard, because those are perennials and it grows up through any depth of mulch I apply. It can't be hand pulled so my front yard usually looks pretty ragged. Sigh Oh well.

M.K. said...

That was fun to read about! I also felt like I was late putting some things in, but I did anyway! Sweet potatoes are very pretty. I'm quite happy with my bush beans. They're now in flower. I'm enjoying the fall garden because I do hate the summer heat. Thankfully, my husband put some things in, but even still, we waited mostly until early September, as you said.