Summertime into Autumn
Making Our Beds
In late August, we were quickly headed towards the window for fall planting, for both vegetables and overwintering flowers. We had a lot to do to prepare in the main 'vegetable' garden, which is now being converted into an extension of our flower garden. As we finished weeding out the Bermuda grass, it was time to prepare the beds. The garden had previously been laid out in a rough grid of 3 rows with 8 beds each, but we wanted to combine 2 of the rows so that the beds would become 1 longer one. As we worked, we also straightened out the beds and made sure everything was a consistent width and length.
After marking our bed dimensions and shaping the existing bed, we added a layer of organic compost on to the top. Then we added a layer of leaves to protect the soil. These leaves are from last fall, so they're a little decayed- which means they're an excellent top layer to our living soil.
For our bed prep, no tilling is involved! Except for a little bit of soil moved in order to straighten and lengthen the rows, the existing soil was left undisturbed. This will help keep our soil nice and healthy, without disturbing the soil's ecosystem or aggregation.
Planting All the Seedlings
Remember the over 1000 seeds we started in the last blog? They're now ready to plant! The collards and kale were ready the fastest, in about 3 weeks. There ended up being two beds available in the new flower garden, so we planted a row of kale and a row of collards there. These plants will hopefully be available for harvest in both late fall and winter. Some of the other fall veggies we've planted this year are beets, radishes, and lettuce.
The flower seedlings took a little longer to be ready to plant, but that was okay. We used that time to prep their beds. But over the past few weeks, we've planted them all from the plant shelf indoors out into the garden. We've planted sweet peas, poppies, lots of snapdragons, and many more!
This crop is so charming, I had to give it its own section. The best part of radishes - which can be sown in spring or fall - is that they reach maturity in as little as a month. I planted a variety of radishes a couple of weeks ago, and they've been growing fast! When they had their true leaves, I thinned them out a little, and gave the sacrificial seedlings to our bunnies as a snack. The radishes left behind are just starting to plump up, and should be ready to harvest by early October.
We also transplanted our gladiolus into a nice long bed in the new flower garden. The gladiolus had big, strong bulbs, and some were even ready to be divided into two plants. In the next week, we will transplant our irises into this garden, and we will be able to divide those as well. It's exciting to know we'll have these beautiful blooms to look forward to in spring.
After planting the collards and kale, we covered them with a floating row cover. But for a few hours each day we often leave them uncovered, which ended up being enough for the pests to get in. At first I thought that the little plants' stems and leaves were being eaten by slugs, but upon further investigation, it turned out there were tiny caterpillars on the undersides of a lot of the leaves. So I flipped over all the leaves, removed the caterpillars, and, well, disposed of them. Every day after that I would check the leaves, and would remove the caterpillars I found. Eventually I stopped finding any, and without the damage to their small leaves, the collards have been able to hit their stride, and are heading quickly towards a size we can harvest from.
Harvesting the Bounty
Even as we put seeds and young plants in the ground, our mature plants are sharing their bounty with us. A lot of our time is spent harvesting - right now it's lots of peppers, beans, and okra. They benefit from being harvested frequently, every day if we can.
One of my favorite vegetables we grow is dragontongue beans. They are a beautiful heirloom bean, pale yellow with dark purple speckles and streaks. They are super delicious and they get giant - I've never eaten one that was so big it was tough, and I've eaten some whoppers. Our late crop of them just started producing in the last couple weeks, and I'm happy to have them.
Along with a variety of vegetables, we also harvest our muscadines to turn into jelly, and as always, we continue to harvest our flowers a few times a week. We have also started harvesting certain flowers and eucalyptus to hang and dry, so we can have dried flowers when winter comes.
Tucking the Babies In
As we reach the end of September, we're reaching the end of a lot of hard work. Almost all of the 'old veggie' garden has been weeded, the veggies have been cleared, the rows have been prepped, and flowers have been planted that will grow throughout the winter. We've gone ahead and put row covers on to keep in moisture, regulate temperatures, and have it all ready to go when frost comes. Overwintering flowers is definitely an exercise in patience and hope. These little babies have to make it through about six months before they bloom! But this is shaping up to be our biggest and strongest crop yet by a lot, so there's plenty to look forward to.
Bagheera update! He continues to diligently protect us from nefarious woodchips, so all is well.