Fall Garden Projects

 

It is common to not really want to think about additional work at the end of a gardening season, especially one that had as many heat and water challenges as this season did, but fall is the best time to do many things in the garden that if you wait for spring, you lose your best chance.

The best things to do in Fall to prepare for Spring include:

  1. Remove the old/dead/unwanted plants
  2. Soil Test an amend the soil
  3. Make a compost pile
  4. Start or expand a new garden
  5. Clean your tools
  6. Plant a cover crop
  7. Keep good records and assess what worked

Lets go over them one at a time.

  1.  Removing the old/dead/unwanted plants is common sense, but I commonly see leftover plants come spring time and that can set you back when you want to plant.  Remove all plants that will not be overwintered,  pitch any that have disease or seeds or might be a problem in a compost pile(like thistle, dandelion, or bindweed)  Most diseases are fungal and produce spores.  These spores will become next years disease if left alone.  Do yourself and your plants a favor by removing them.

    Most of the problems affecting tomatoes are fungal diseases. The spores can live in the infected plant material. This needs discarded and not composted. Crop rotate from this spot for three years.

    Clean up is not only for disease management, but also for weed management. The tomatoes that have fallen on the ground, if ripe, will become next year’s weeds.

    The fence and plasticulture will be left in place to solarize for a week or so for disease management then cleaned and stored for next year’s use.

  2. The next thing to do after you have cleared the garden is to think about what soil amendments you can add will help for next year.   Their are several things that can be added:
    • Lyme
    • Compost
    • Leaves
    • Wood Ashes
    • Fertilizer
    • Manure
      • The best way to determine what you need is by doing a soil test.  We have soil test kits for sale in the office.
      • CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW TO SAMPLE YOUR SOIL
      • soil testA soil test shows what you need to add to grow what you need.  It is helpful to get accurate amounts by letting them know exactly what you are planting.  Some fertilizers are helpful to add at planting, some like Lyme need to be added in advance.
      • Soil Testing Factsheet from Ohio State Extension
      • Once your soil test results come back let me know and we will sit down and discuss them.
      • I am a huge fan of adding leaves and wood ashes in the fall.  Adding leaves and wood ashes basically adds the sum total of nutrition from an entire tree over its life of digging deep for minerals.  Leaves have 2X the minerals per pound vs. manure.
      • Fun Facts about Wood Ashes —>wood-ash-facts
  3. Start a compost pile
    • Composting is easy and fun.  It happens two ways.  Hot and Cold.  Hot composting gets hot enough to kill weeds, seeds and diseases while cold composting takes longer, does not get hot, but requires much less work.
      • Penn State Master Gardening has a nice breakdown of hot vs. cold
      • It is important for the pile to be just wet enough and have enough carbons(brown things) and nitrogens(green things) to make the magic ratio of about 25 to 1.  Click Here for a list of compost item ratios –>compost-materials
      • As you can see by my pile I am a cold composter
      • s18
      • Manure is a great addition to a garden or a compost pile.  The overwintering time in the soil or in a hot compost pile will speed the breakdown of any potential pathogens in the manure and it makes a great nitrogen addition to offset the carbons like leaves.   Here is a table of the C:N ratio’s of common manures –>manure-table
  4. Fall is the best time to start a new garden.  That will allow you to get started planting in spring when everything is at its busiest garden wise.  Pick your spot, lay down some newspaper over your new spot or the addition to your current garden and cover with organic matter deep enough to smother anything growing on the surface.  After a winter’s worth of time, you will be able to directly plant into your new garden.  Consider adding some lyme or fertilizer based on a soil test of your new spot to make sure spring starts off on the right foot.
  5. Clean your tools.  This is self-explanatory although I will be the first to admit I am horrible at this.   My hand tools are rusty and look like garbage.   They should be cleaned of dirt and lightly covered in oil to prevent rust.
    • A neat idea to do this is put old play sand and used motor oil in a five gallon bucket and push tools in and out of that.  It will clean and oil them all in one.
    • This chore includes running the gas out of mowers and tillers.   Those cost money and even I remember to do that on occasion.
  6. Plant a Cover Crop   Regular readers of this website will know I love cover crops and use them in multiple applications.  A cover crop can do many things for you like suppress weeds, add biomatter, dig through hardpan and increase fertility.  You can pick your crop based on what you need.
    • Winter rye, oats, Austrian winter peas, crimson clover, hairy vetch and brassicas are common choices for winter cover crops to use this time of year.  They all have their management challenges, although winter rye can be the hardest to manage in spring.
    • Click HERE for How to Manage Winter Rye in Spring

      earth5

      Winter rye will start rapid growth with spring rains and increased warmth. Having a plan to manage this crop is critical.

A great place to read about cover crops is from SARE, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.  They have a Learning Center Online with great information and free publications.

Try to spend some time this fall working on making your garden better for next year. What worked for you this year and what did not?  Take pictures with your phone to document the garden so you can use that for crop rotations.  I try to add a new plant species each year and get rid of one that was not successful.

Tangerine tomatoes (an heirloom) were a stellar performer for me this year and will go into permanent rotation. Besides being delicious, they were productive, disease resistant, crack resistant, and were the last variety producing for me deep into September.

In spring time when you want to get planting you will be happy to have a new garden with great soil, some compost to add, and clean tools.   That way you can start planting right away.

 

There will be a class on Fall Projects to Benefit the Spring Garden at Grandview Heights Public Library on Tuesday October 16th at 7 pm.

 

SUPER FUN BONUS SECTION: Want to make an easy cheap compost pile you can move anywhere?

dr-mcd-easy-compost-pile

 

Fall Projects to Prepare the Spring Garden Class at Grandview Heights Public Library on Tuesday October 16th @ 7:00 pm.

There will be a class on projects that can be done in the fall that will make your spring garden easier to start and more productive during the season.  Topics will include soil health, composting, garden expansion, cover crops, soil testing and more.  Bring your friends and your questions to this free event presented in partnership with The Grandview Heights Public Library.

 

Click HERE for flyer to download and print –> GV Library Fall to Spring Garden

Hugelkultur and Lasagna Layering Class at The Friend’s Garden on 9/22/18

There will be a free class as well as a garden walk at The Friend’s Garden on Saturday September 22nd at 9;00 am.  Come learn some new techniques to build soil health and incorporating organic matter into your garden.

 

Click HERE for flyer to download and print –> Hugelkultur and Lasagna Layering Flyer for 9/22/18

 

Central Ohio 2018 Fall Weather Predictions and El Nino Update

The most recent edition of OSU Agronomy’s C.O.R.N. newsletter published by my Extension colleagues gave the September and October weather predictions that will impact harvest of agronomic crops.  The backyard grower, community gardener, and urban farmer can use this data to make plans for season extended plantings by applying frost dates and predicted temperatures and rainfall amounts into the planting schedule.

September/October Temperature and Precipitation Forecasts

(credit Jim Noel, C.O.R.N Newsletter, 2018-28)

  • September
    • Temperatures will be a little warmer than normal, with normal predicted rainfall
  • October
    • Temperatures and rainfall are both predicted a little above normal
    • Frost and freeze dates are predicted to be in the normal range

 

What does this mean for plantings? 

  • Make sure to keep row cover or other season extension fabric on hand and monitor overnight temperatures carefully as we reach the October 10th – 20th time period to allow maturity and harvest of summer plantings of green beans or zucchini.
  • General above average temperatures should allow for harvest into fall of late summer plantings if protected as needed.
  • Watch for frost or freeze events to plan harvest of sweet potatoes prior to overnight cold temperatures which may damage tubers and decrease storage life.
  • Timing of over wintered spinach plantings should target early to mid-October for completion.

 

El Nino Update (8/9/18)

El Nino winters in central Ohio average warmer than normal temperatures with less than normal snowfall.  Current the National Weather Service has an El Nino Watch in place.

  • Fall – 60% chance of El Nino formation in September – November
  • Winter – 70% chance of El Nino formation in winter.

 

Source: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center

Growing Spinach Over Winter Using Low Tunnels and Row Cover

Ohio is a FOUR season growing environment.  Winter is often under utilized by the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer  as viable production time.  Using inexpensive equipment with a little planning allows for production of spinach over the winter under row cover with surprising success.

Site selection and preparation is very important for over wintered crops.  These crops will be challenged by weather and sunlight issues.  Areas with shade from deciduous trees in the summer can often be used as an over wintered production location when the leaves fall.  Soil enriched with organic matter will hold on to water and nutrients better as both of those inputs are not easily added over the winter season.

Spinach is an excellent choice for over winter production as it is extremely cold hardy.  As the temperature decreases the plant increases the sugar content in its vasculature.  This essentially acts as an “anti-freeze” to protect the plant.  Growth is greatly slowed by temperature and lack of sunlight.  Growth will pick back up with the arrival of spring.  Seed can be difficult to source in fall if none is left from spring planting.  Make sure to plan to have extra seed for next fall’s crop.

Planting  needs to be completed prior to Mid-October in most years to allow for decent germination and root growth.  Follow the weather prediction models carefully as this can affect timing of planting by several weeks in either direction.

Prior to planting:

  • Remove any prior season plant material
  • Amend the bed with compost and fertilizer based on prior season crop use
  • Observe crop rotation
  • Create a seed bed to ensure adequate germination

 

 

Row cover was applied immediately after planting.  This may or may not need to be done depending on location and security.  This row cover was applied as the location will be checked infrequently and deer pressure is a constant concern.  Row cover is fairly effective at preventing this predator.

 

Germination of spinach seed typically takes about 7-10 days.  Water as needed to maintain enough moisture for good germination.

 

 

If the weather allows, the row cover can be carefully lifted off,  making sure not to drop soil or debris onto the leaves, to inspect the planting.

 

 

Carefully monitor the weather predictions so that you know when to add or remove additional layers of row cover.  The ten day weather prediction showed that the weather would drop from a high in the 50’s to lows in the teens.

 

A second layer of frost blanket was added to ensure that the micro-climate under the row cover would be adequate to protect the spinach plants.  Spinach is extremely cold hardy and will make it through intense cold with proper protection in most cases.  Deep cold may terminate less cold hardy crops like lettuce if the temperatures drop very low for any period of time.

 

 

Extreme cold, wind, ice and snow were experienced over the end of December 2017 and through the beginning of 2018.  Snow is actually helpful to over wintered plantings, providing an extra layer of insulation.

 

Picture taken on January 16th. Note that the video shown next was taken approximately one week later showing the extremes that are common in Ohio weather. Removing the row cover inappropriately, even for a short time, can interfere with the micro-climate under the row cover and cause damage to the spinach plants.

 

As the weather allows, once temperatures have risen to at least the 40’s or higher, the row cover can be lifted to inspect the plantings and take a small to moderate harvest.  Make sure to replace the row cover with enough time to allow the temperature under the cover to rise prior to any over night cold periods.

 

 

Growth will be rapid once spring warmth and sunlight return.  The grower will be able to take many harvests during warm days at any point after February in most cases.

 

 

As long as harvest is taken before flowering and temperatures have not risen too high, harvest can continue.  A large volume of spinach can be harvested from a small area using this method.

A Monarch Project

Many backyard growers, community gardeners and urban farmers rely on pollinators as crucial members of their food production systems.  Right now is when Monarch Butterflies are in the chrysalis period with an upcoming trip to Mexico.  This was shot on location at The Children’s Garden at the Hocking County Fairgrounds over the course of 2017 from beginning of the process through the migration period as a way to educate students about pollinators.

In collaboration with Hocking Soil and Water Conservation District.  

Container Gardening Class at The Linden Farmer’s Market on Sunday August 26th @ 2 pm.

There will be a Container Gardening Class held at The Linden Farmer’s Market at 2 pm on Sunday August 26th.  The market is located at Gye Nyame Place, 2830 Cleveland Avenue, Columbus, OH 43224 and runs from 1 – 4 pm.  Come on out to take a class, browse the market, see the vendors, and purchase some delicious fresh local produce, baked goods and homemade treats.

 

CLICK HERE for printable flyer –> Container Class at Linden Farmer’s Market

2018 Farm Science Review September 18 – 20

The 56th annual Farm Science Review is only about a month away.  There are many activities, events, educational presentations and displays over the three days of activity that the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer can use in their production.

Below are the activities at the Small Farms Area as well as across Arbuckle at The Gwynne Conservation Center.  Both educational programs are included in admission including a tractor ride over to The Gwynne.

 

Click on image to expand

 

Click on image to expand

The Gwynne Conservation area is a short shuttle down the road from the main site.  This natural area has educational programming with workshops in multiple locations as well as food sales and restrooms.  Shuttles run all day long of the review each day to take patrons back and forth to both locations.

Click on image to expand

 

Click on image to expand

 

CLICK for Printable Flyer of the Small Farms Area activities for 2018 Farm Science Review –> FSR-2018-Small-Farms

CLICK for Printable Flyer of Gwynne Conservation activities for 2018 Farm Science Review –> Gwynne FSR Brochure – 2018

 

Directions to Farm Science Review

Tickets may be purchased in advance for $7 dollars at The Franklin County Extension office or may be purchased online in advance at THIS LINK.  Tickets purchased at the gate are $10 dollars.

Garden Walk on the South Side @ Family Farms Urban Farm on Wednesday August 22nd

There will be a garden walk to discuss weeds, pests, disease, fertilizers, cover crops, season extension and more on Wednesday August 22nd at Family Farms Urban Farm at 1269 Wilson Ave.  @ 6:30 pm.  The event is free and open to the public.  Bring your friends and your questions!

 

CLICK HERE for printable flyer –> Summer Garden Walk SS 1269 Wilson

CLICK HERE for Directions