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Not over ’til it’s over: Fall Garden

So, we’re halfway through October here at Chez Siberia. We’ve had a solid week of nightly frosts in the low 20s. Real ‘scrape off the windows on your car’ mornings. So, for a lot of people here, gardening season is officially ‘over’. If they’ve been efficient, they’ve ripped everything out, thrown it on the compost (except if they had blight on the tomatoes, in which case, they burned all the old plants and then disposed of the ashes), have been raking up the leaves to turn into compost or leaf mold. Game over.

Done.

Nope.

Here at Chez Siberia, it ain’t over until…. Well, it ain’t over. We’ve still got broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale in the garden which will hold. The kale will hold over the winter under the snow, so I will harvest anything higher than about 18” above the ground and once we start getting snow, I’ll make sure I cover it up. Then, I can go out and dig out fresh kale as long as it lasts. The other thing is that, really, for those of us for whom ‘sticking stuff into the ground’ is at least half the fun, right now is a great time. We’ve had the first killer frosts. The ground has started to cool down, so there are things we can put into the ground to over-winter until the spring.

So, today, we marched outside and planted garlic and multiplier onions which I had ordered from Territorial Seed. They always ship late like this, so it’s not as if I had garlic hanging around the house to dry out. There is nothing easier than garlic as long as you have a bed that has been dug over and soft. Just break the bulb into cloves, stick them in, flat side down, every 4” apart and literally forget about it until the spring. They will almost be the first green sticking up once the snow comes off the ground.

The other things I planted are more of an experiment. I’m with Thomas Jefferson in that I believe all gardening should be filled with experiments: growing new things, growing things that you’ve never grown before, trying things out, and trying things that should not work. Pushing the growing season envelop is almost something worth doing. You never know what will work.

I was looking at Territorial Seed’s catalog and they had a section for ‘cold season growing’. Now, Territorial is in Oregon, so their idea of the ‘cold season’ is when it rains more and drops below 60 degrees. But they had a couple of items that I thought, “What the heck – it’s just seed and if it works!!!”

So, I ordered Cascadia peas and Windsor beans. The beans are a type of fava and are rated hardy down to (wait for it…wait for it) 12 degrees F. Twelve degrees Fahrenheit.

I’m going to say that again: 12 degrees F.

Now, I’m not sure if they are saying that once the plants come UP, the plants are hardy down to 12 degrees F., but let’s face it, any plant that is hardy twenty degrees below freezing temperature should be able to handle frost in the ground. Right? Well, that’s the experiment.

I took the soil temperature – it’s down to 51.6 degrees F. We’re back to springtime soil temps now. I planted the peas and beans several inches down, patted down the soil, and then put 3 inches of aged composted stuff on top as mulch. I’m not sure what will happen – shoot, this is an experiment. The question really is this:

1. Will the beans and peas actually make it through the winter?
2. Will the beans and peas actually germinate and come up?
3. How will they do? Will they flower earlier? Will we get beans and peas really early in the spring? I saved seeds for both the peas and the beans and I’ll start them in the spring early and we’ll see if the fall-sown seed starts earlier, and gets us veggies earlier. Or if it’s just not worth it.

How do you deal with fall in your garden? If you’re from areas south of Virginia, you are probably able to grow a fall garden and get things started very early in the spring. But then again, if you are really far south, you may have to give up the ghost by the time May and the heatwave gets there. Do you think planting peas, beans, greens at this point is worth it for you?

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One Comment

  1. Vance says:

    Amazing gardening!

    I honestly thought most plants and herbs stopped growing when the frost and snow came. Now i see you have a plan to plant and grow during this period.

    I must research this more as i will also like to do this for the coming winter.

    Thank you for your post.

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