End of Season Gardening in Charlottesville, or… Planning for a Fall (and maybe Winter) Harvest
I’m usually up early, and once I’ve fed the animals, have tended to email, have checked my calendar, and have taken a look at the current real estate listings (what’s new to the market, dropped in price, gone under contract/sold), I settle in with my cup of coffee to read gardening blogs and research. For about an hour each morning, I read about blossom end rot, squash bugs, soil amendments, cover crops and other topics that interest me. One person I read often is Theresa Martz, a woman from the Northern Neck area of Virginia, who writes several gardening blogs, the vegetable blog being Tending My Garden. I receive notice of her new posts by email, which is convenient. She’s also written a book, with advice based on her 35+ years of gardening in Virginia… Organic Gardening – Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Successful Gardening.
Now that we are past Labor Day, my own garden is giving me its last hoorah… This weekend, I will harvest the last of the beans, I’ll pull the melons that never quite got ripe (I put them in late and then a squash bug borer got the plant; I have another that seems to be going strong so I’m hopeful), and the cukes will be pulled (what a great harvest we had this year!). Because of the squash bug problem last year, I chose not to put any of the summer squash in my garden this year. Instead, Stephen planted a couple of yellow squash in pots and I planted zucchini in a 48″ garden bag on the deck after the Spring lettuce was finished. Both plantings were done late to foil the squash bugs that were traveling through, and both produced nicely for the two of us.
The lettuce, spinach, and kale did well on the deck this Spring, so I’ll be repeating that shortly. Theresa Martz drills the concept of cover crops into you as you follow her blog, so I started incorporating cover crops into my garden plan at the end of last year. It has made a world of difference in the garden. I also do not till the beds at all anymore… I just fork them and clean them up. Then I plant the cover crop, and when it’s finished, I either leave it where it sits and plant my plants among it, or I turn it into the soil and go from there. The two additional practices that have made a world of difference are 1/ building my own compost and incorporating it into the beds as I plant, and 2/ using clean straw as mulch. I can honestly say, my garden did not get my attention as it should this summer. Yet, because of my soil preparation and particular care during germination and early growing, the garden seriously took care of itself most of the summer. And we have enjoyed the harvest.
Now that we are into September and I will begin cleaning up parts of the garden, I thought I might try my hand at carrots. The bean plants will be picked clean at some point this weekend, and I think I will dry them (I froze a dozen or more generous pints a couple of weeks ago). Then I will clean up the bed, fork in compost, and I will be planting two varieties of carrots… one that I hope I will be able to harvest by mid-November and store, and the others I hope will winter over and give me a Spring harvest. We’ll see how it goes.
As I’ve been thinking about cover crops, I think I will see if I can get a late harvest of peas from the cucumber bed. Even if I don’t see a great harvest, planting so late, the peas will add nitrogen to the soil. If I get a pea harvest, then I will have benefitted twice from the effort!
I have one large bed that I let go fallow this year, because it was so buggy last year. I did stick a trio of basil plants in the corner, but mostly it was just rye and then clover (cover crops to add good stuff to the soil). A month ago, I decided it might be fun to try some sunflowers in the bed, and they are now doing very well… that was just for fun. Once they are finished, or maybe even before, I will fork in some compost and plant Winter Wheat. In early Spring, I’ll fold that in to the bed and plant some Buckwheat for a Spring cover crop. I’m hopeful that I can make that bed so healthy, no bugs will want to be there!
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