OOPS! We shoulda done that six-eight weeks ago!
Yep. Fall plantings should occur in late July, August and early September. Things like beets, cabbage, carrots and lettuce should have been planted in late July and early August for Fall harvesting. August additions should have included chives, radish, spinach and fava beans. In September we should have planted garlic and shallots...and maybe some turnips. Now it's October and we're WAAYYY behind the 8-ball! What to do NOW?
As far as crops go, garlic and onions are about the things to plant in October. They'll be ready in late spring next year. But as the cool fall temperatures make us eager to get outside and do something, what can we do? A lot, actually. Here are 5 things you can do in October and November:
- Remove summer crop residues. Leafy debris can be raked and added to the compost bin. Woody stalks can be shredded and added to the bin, as well. Don't put diseased plants in the compost pile! Diseased or blighted plants should be burned. In most parts of the U.S., outdoor burning bans are lifted on October 1. (Check with your local fire department or Forestry Commission.) Using a burn barrel is a safe alternative to open burning and will keep the ash residue contained, making it easier to collect and dispose of. Do not put the ashes of diseased plants back on the garden soil! Bury the ashes in a small pit well away from the garden area. In urban areas, bag the ashes (after they have cooled!) and put them in your garbage container for collection and disposal.
- Mulch fall plantings. If you have deciduous trees, collect the leaves (don't shred them) and use them to mulch whatever fall crops you have planted. (2-4 inches on some of the crops is better than 1 inch on all the crops.) This mulch will retain moisture and provide a warm blanket for the soil during cold winter months. Your fall and winter plants will love you for it! (Excess leaves can be shredded and put in the compost bin.) The leaves will decompose and next spring when you till or turn the soil, you will be improving it at the same time. It's probably best not to include pine needles in this mix, as they do not decompose as readily as leaves.
- Add manure and till the garden. In those areas where you don't have fall/winter crops planted, add fresh manure (LOTS of it!) from whatever source is available. Horse, cow, goat, chicken and rabbit manures are acceptable. Applying them now and tilling them into the soil will give them time to "age" and decompose so they don't burn new plants next spring. This is also a good time to have your soil tested (you do test it every couple of years, don't you??) and add lime and the appropriate trace elements so they will have time to act over the winter and be ready for your spring plantings.
- Tend the compost pile. Add non-diseased crop residues, shredded or un-shredded leaves, kitchen waste and those leftover or rotted watermelons, canteloupes, squash and such. Turn the pile then add the new material and water gently until fully moistened but not saturated.
- Plant cover crops. Depending on your Hardiness Zone, it's probably too late to plant the most effective cover crops. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for the best cover crops for your area and soil type. Even so, you can still plant annual rye grass, beans or other legumes, winter rye and some other grain crops in most areas. In spring, cut them (before they produce seed) and turn them into your garden soil a few weeks before planting your spring/summer crops.
There you have it! Get out there and enjoy those crisp fall mornings and sunny, cool days. The winter cold and snow will be here sooner than you think!