A while back in December of last year I did a post about the research farm that is in my Extension region called the Eastern Agricultural Research Station, nicknamed EARS.
EARS is turning 50 years old and they are inviting everyone to come out for a free field day and tours of the facility including experts talking about what research projects they are working on. It will be Sunday October 2nd, from 2 – 5 pm. I cannot make it due to a family event unfortunately, but I get to go out there all the time. I highly recommend if you have the free time and are looking to do something fun you take a drive over to Belle Valley to see this really neat place.
Click here for a printable PDF flyer to share or take with you. –> 2016eastern50yearcelebration-ears
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:
- Remove the old/dead/unwanted plants
- Amend the soil
- Make a compost pile
- Start a new garden
- Clean your tools
- Plant a cover crop
Lets go over them one at a time.
- 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.
- 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:
- Wood Ashes
- The best way to determine what you need is by doing a soil test. I use Spectrum Analytic.
- CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW TO SAMPLE YOUR SOIL
- A 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Looking for a summer cover crop to smother weeds, provide pollinator habitat and add biomass? Try Buckwheat:
Buckwheat cover crop at the Logan Community Garden
Looking to drill through hardpan, smother weeds and increase fertility by increasing organic matter? Try Sorghum X Sudangrass:
Sorghum X Sudangrass at Wallace Community Garden
Want to prevent erosion, add biomass, add fertility through nitrogen fixing and keep your ground working for you over the winter? Try rye, vetch and crimson clover as a blend:
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. 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.
SUPER FUN BONUS SECTION: Want to make an easy cheap compost pile you can move anywhere?
A few interesting things to note as the gardening season winds down. My community garden is open until November 1st and I will most likely still be harvesting at least a few things until the end of the season such as parsley and leeks.
Speaking of Leeks…….
I know right? Would you like to Know How to Grow Leeks?
I am starting to get some peppers. Mostly chili-types like banana peppers.
I have not gotten a single bell pepper this year and barely have gotten any the last three years. The bell pepper plants have decent size but the leaves are a little curled and brown at the tips and the flowers fall off without being pollinated. I need to spend some time to figure out what the heck is going on before I waste any more time growing bell peppers.
My Sorghum X Sudangrass is coming back with a vengeance. That is its nature and one of the reasons why I chose it for my garden. When it is cut it doubles down on growth. It is now back up to near 6 feet tall. I might have to mow again! I need some cattle I think.
Do not give up on your garden just yet. We are supposed to get relief from the heat with some rain. Plenty of time left before first frost date and most vegetables like fall weather just fine. I am hoping for a late tomato harvest if the plants set flowers. I will be harvesting herbs, peppers, eggplant, leeks, butternuts and tomatoes for hopefully another 4-6 weeks.
So last week Sam and I went to Webb’s Perennials to pick up a donation of perennial herbs. We picked up rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano to plant in the bed that we had prepared earlier and amended with compost. We spaced out the herbs to allow growth and spread and planted through landscape fabric to hold the weeds down for a little while after adding a slow release organic fertilizer to get them a good head start before winter.
photo credit: Sam G.
Next step was taking my truck to Athens-Hocking Recycling Center to pick up some mulch to cover the newly planted herbs. Then spreading the mulch out over the bed and watering in the plants.
Looks pretty good. The herbs will all spread out and cover the bed within the next two years or so. They are ready for a light harvest right now but will be best left alone to get ready for next years season.
We have already started into Phase II planning with some initial site preparation. The plan is to get six raised beds in before winter so they can be filled with soil/compost and planted with cover crops.
Hocking Gothic photo credit: Sam G.
Sam and I want to send a huge THANKS!! to our newest project sponsor.
- Athens-Hocking Recycling Center
I really enjoy when I get to help with projects that will have many positive impacts in our county. Especially when they involve things that I like to do where I also get to share my knowledge. What a Waste is a program by NFESH, The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, with sponsorship from the Walmart Foundation that aims to combat the problems of food waste and senior hunger. Food waste is collected at the Scenic Hills Senior Center, delivered to the Athens-Hocking Recycling Center where it is made into compost. The project uses composting and gardening to utilize waste by turning it into food. What is not to like with that?
As for me, my part was minimal. A little planting help, the use of my truck to get mulch, some transplants and some shared knowledge. This post is to acknowledge the good works of others.
Some pictures to enjoy of the event:
pic credit: Sam G.
Pic credit: Sam G.
The raised beds in the pictures were built by Sam and Brad at the Food Bank. They are accessible so you can garden if you are in a wheelchair or if it is difficult to get down to ground level. It will make it easier for more people to enjoy gardening.
pic credit: Sam G.
A big thank you to:
- The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger
- Walmart Foundation
- Southeast Ohio Regional Food Bank
- Lowes, Athens
- Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers
- Whites Mill, Athens
- Scenic Hills Senior Center
- Logan Public Transit
- Ohio State Extension, Hocking Co.