Fall Planting

It’s time to plant for Fall, y’all!

Now, I know you might be saying, “It is still 8000 degrees and it feels like the surface of the sun outside.” Well, guess what? The Pumpkin Spice Latte is being served at a Starbucks near you, so that means its officially Fall regardless of what the thermometer says. Truthfully, though, the night time highs are dropping in to the 70’s even if the daytime highs are staying in the 90’s-100’s. This means, it’s time for SEEDS!!!

The vast majority of Fall crops can be grown directly in your garden from seed. No need to transplant! Not only is it fun, it's cheap, too!

 

We have the great privilege of year round growing here in the desert Southwest! I will often tell first time gardeners that Fall is a much more forgiving season here in the desert. You can grow something anytime here, but Fall/Winter is easier than any other season.

Fall is the season for roots and leaves! What does that mean? Well, think about the foods you eat. Which veggies are you eating leaves? Lettuce, cabbage, kale, chard, arugula, mustard. bok choy…things like that. Which veggies are you eating roots? Carrots, radishes, beets, parsnips, turnips…. Of course there are exceptions. Peas are a cool season crop. Sow peas near a trellis to climb and the seeds will come up when the time is right. Also things like broccoli, cauliflower and Romanesco grow great this time of year. Tomatoes and peppers tend to be categorized as summer veggies, but they actually thrive in our warm Fall weather here in the desert Southwest. While tomatoes and peppers will live through summer with lots of water and mulching, they will almost go dormant. Not producing much past about mid June. But, come Fall, these plants will often flower and begin fruiting again. So, either baby your plants through the summer and get a second harvest in Fall, or put new transplants in mid August through mid September and enjoy peppers and tomatoes before winter sets in.

Fall is also a great time to put in some herbs. Herbs that are good to plant in fall are Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary, Fennel, Mint, Lemon Balm, Sorrel and Feverfew. You have time to put in Basil transplants, although Basil will be killed by the first frost so be sure to harvest when frosts are forecast and make lots of pesto to freeze.

In the edible flower department, Fall is a great time to seed in Nasturtiums, Sweet Alyssum, Snap Dragons and Borage.

Some Swiss Chard and Sweet Banana peppers growing in my fall garden.

Hopefully you have prepped your beds, but if not, pull any weeds, and then use your spading fork to dig in some manure and compost. Fall crops tend to love lots of nitrogen, so you might even consider adding some blood meal this time of year. You don’t need to spend lots of money on soil amendments. If you only have $5 to spend, buy a bag of steer manure and a few packets of seeds. Happy Gardening!

First Time Gardeners| Ivy’s Garden

Today, I am launching a short little series here on the blog about first time gardeners. These posts will be a different in that they won’t include a video. Instead, we’ll share photos and information about several first time gardeners who all have started their gardens in different ways and for different reasons. Hopefully you will see a little of yourself in their stories.

I asked each gardener the same questions:

Have you ever grown vegetables before? Why did you decide to start your garden this season? What are you most looking forward to harvesting from your garden? If you could give first time gardeners one tip, what would it be?

Ivy’s Garden:

Ivy and I have been friends since elementary school. Ivy is a florist (here is her fantastic business…yes, she does weddings,) and creates beauty everywhere she goes. She dreams big and lives life to the fullest. She’s a great friend! Over the kids’ spring break from school, she invited me over to her house so that our kids could play together, but also so that she could share some of her gardening ideas for their backyard. Like I said, she dreams big. She had drawings and plans that included several gardening spaces in her backyard. The problem that day was that most of what she had planned involved building things that we didn’t have the materials for and running water to places in the yard where it didn’t yet exist. I loved all her ideas, but I knew that the clock was ticking on getting a spring garden going. The heat would come on fast. She has a great flower bed right out her back door near where her kids’ swingset was. It had heavily amended soil and a hose bib. After a short brainstorming session, and a look around her shed, I realized that she had everything she needed to turn that unused bed into her kitchen garden.

About a week after our planting, squash, cucumbers and sunflowers begin to emerge.

Newly emerged seeds are starting to fill Ivy's kitchen garden with possibilities!

I had brought my seed portfolio with me (Yes…I have a seed portfolio…don’t judge…) so we talked about what their family likes to eat, and based on food preferences and sun exposure, picked appropriate plants for that space. We decided to do a modified Three Sisters Garden using sunflowers instead of corn, pole beans planted at the base of the sunflowers (after about 3 weeks of growth) fix nitrogen into the soil and use the sunflower stalks to climb.  A combination of winter and summer squash and cucumbers to cover the ground and create a living mulch. A tomato plant, some lettuce and basil tucked in to the corners and the garden was complete. The kids helped us plant seeds, measured distance between plantings and wrote the plant varieties on river rocks with a Sharpie marker while we talked about the history of the Three Sisters Garden and how native Americans understood the important relationships between companion plants. Math, science, anthropology and writing lessons all while planting the garden. And they thought they were just sticking their fingers in the dirt. In about an hour she had her first garden, and her precious kids had a lot of fun planting it!

A few weeks in, the sunflowers, squash and cucumbers have sprouted and its time to plant the beans!

The moral of Ivy’s gardening story is use what you have and just start. Since that day, Ivy has planted a repurposed vintage feed trough that she already owned with potatoes and is using reclaimed railroad ties to make another raised bed.

A repurposed vintage feed trough makes a great container for growing potatoes. 4 inches of soil in the bottom and add straw as the potatoes grow.

Having a long-term plan is wonderful, but it’s also important to start small and scale up as you have the resources. You’ll learn a lot along the way!

Here are Ivy’s answers to the questions I asked her:

Have you ever grown vegetables before? Just a couple of tomato plants, this is a first! Why did you decide to start your garden this season? A healthy hobby I’ve been wanting to start for a long time, now my kids are at an age to enjoy it with me. What are you most looking forward to harvesting from your garden? Any and everything, maybe I’m especially excited to see “mammoth” sunflowers!? We are already building another garden so we can grow corn and watermelon, which has me pretty excited too. If you could give first time gardeners one tip, what would it be? Call the greenest thumbed friend you know and bribe her if you have to, to come over and teach you what she knows and even get you started with her very own seeds! (wink wink) No truly, it’s like anything else, you don’t diet, work out, parent or garden without someone to celebrate with!

The cutest garden gnome ever! She goes out every day to chat with the plants,

To see more from other first time gardeners, click here.