Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Planning your fall garden

Before you get your panties in a wad since I'm talking about fall when it's 100 degrees outside, let me say that a little work now will save you time later.  Promise.

If you've been growing any cool weather crops this year--many types of lettuce, broccoli, spinach, etc--then it's likely they're about finished if not already?  I know my neighbor down the street who has a garden the size of my entire yard just tilled up half his bed because we've had very high temperatures around here, making the tender greens bolt and go bitter.  At the Kiefer Cottage, we only successfully got lettuce this spring (the damn cat ruined everything else), so I can't wait to plant some cool weather plants again for harvest this fall.

So what have I been doing?  And what will I do later?  First let me say, I'm not a tilling fan. Tilling is not necessary, it merely seems the most logical thing to do, stirring up the soil to get it all pliant and cooperative.  Some argue, however, that it's actually quite hard on soil to disturb it too much and suggest planting the seed but otherwise leaving the dirt alone.  For me, I'm just lazy and broke, not having the energy to hand-till and not having the money to rent equipment.  So instead, I've been preparing the soil in other ways.

And if you're thinking that my garden isn't doing that great because I didn't rip the soil to shreds before planting...well, I didn't do any prep whatsoever in this bed, just dug little holes in the soil for the seeds and fertilized with fish emulsion (poop) a few weeks later.  My only challenge was whatever pest dug up some of the seeds, leaving my rows a tad uneven.

Kansas Corn.

Grand sunflower plant.
Anyway, in my failed broccoli bed, I planted an annual grass, which would be considered "Green Manure" in this case since it acts to restore nutrients to the soil without actually using real poop. 

My green manure.  It's a little sad because of the drought, but it's done its duty already.

Very soon, I'll put heavy layers of newspaper over it in a few weeks to kill the grass, and then layer compost, real manure, and whatever else I feel like on top of it all.  That will help build up the soil.  If you've got a weedy bed you'd like to use, put cardboard down because it's heavier and will keep the weeds from breaking through, wet it down with the hose, and then put all the other ingredients (compost, manure, etc).  Do it NOW if you can.  It all needs a few weeks to settle down.  

Note: It is okay if the compost isn't fully done doing its magic and is still has scraps in it.  Just make sure there's a good mix of the food scraps and brown stuff (newspaper, dried leaves) so it all rots in a balanced fashion.  I've even planted herbs straight into half-finished compost and they've thrived.

You should also be thinking about seeds.  You don't want to be scrambling when it comes time to plant, which could be as early as mid-July in the Kansas City area (just google it for yours).  So make your orders or stop by the nursery to pick up whatever seeds you'd like--if you have time, do it this weekend and mark your calendar for when they should go in the ground.

Another consideration, and this goes for any gardening, regardless of time of year, is your tree cover in the yard. If you want to be a serious vegetable gardener, you'll have much more success if you have lots of sun. We had to remove lots of trees because some were dying and others were in the way of the new electrical line we had put in last year.  Now we get plenty of sunshine in the yard, hours and hours of it per day with just enough shade to keep us cooler to play but not enough to dwarf the plants.  I read in one book that vegetables are something like 90% sunshine, so keep that in mind if you have dreams of a record crop and barely a lick of light popping through the green canopy.  You'll either have to cut down some trees or adapt your plans to include more shade friendly plants rather than sun-loving veggies.

Overall, I'm not a gardening expert. I still don't know much about companion planting or how to keep pests away without spraying them (that's why my plants have been eaten up some...I mean, a lot).

But I turned this:

Into this:

And I'm not going to say it was all luck since I've had gardens for years but never one this successful!

If you aren't planning on a fall vegetable crop (because you don't feel like it or because your zone just isn't conducive to it), then let your gardening dreams rest in the back of your mind until the end of summer. The best time to prepare your spring garden will be at that time. Don't worry, I'll remind you again.  I'll remind you so many times that you'd like to reach through the interwebs and strangle me.

P.S. Remember the orphaned pumpkin seedlings from earlier this year?  While the one in the front yard died because it didn't get enough water or sun, one of the vines is happy enough to have started some fruit:

I can't wait to see if this plant produces a mutant gourd!

I've linked up to Savvy Southern Style.


  1. I think I'm going to have to try the newspaper/cardboard thing on the beds that I want to build around the house - and I'll need to remember it for our raised beds that I want to build next year!

  2. What a lovely garden. We didn't till either.

  3. Wow! That's impressive. You're right: all that work over time finally did pay off. And I have GOT to get moving on my fall garden.

    My mom is just now planting her beans and tomatoes, so I have no idea whether we'll get anything from them this year. My neighbor, whose garden takes up about 100 square feet of my side yard, is doing pretty well with cucumbers and pole beans--and she's very generous, too. :-)

    I may try Brussels sprouts this fall. I'd never liked them until recently, when I had them at a local restaurant with olive oil, sea salt, fresh black pepper, and pancetta. OMGOMGOMG, so good. We'll see what develops.

    Thanks again for the inspiration! BTW, it's hot and dry here too in central west Georgia (zone 7b/8). The Saturday faorecast calls for a high of 104. No lie, 104 degrees. Ugh.


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