On the Farm: It's Finally Fall!
It’s finally here! That breath of truly fresh air, the brilliant clear blue sky, and the subtle change in the colors of nature. I always feel energized by this particular change in season. After not wanting to be outdoors for the last couple of months, I’m motivated to get outside and work in the gardens! This is a wonderful time to garden and a prime time to start winter vegetables and even plant shrubs and trees.
In the last few weeks, several Middle School Outdoor Education lessons have been devoted to the school's vegetable garden. Students cleared out all the weeds and tired summer vegetables. They added new soil and compost and learned the concepts behind the Square Foot Garden and USDA hardiness zones. If you think you don’t have room to start a vegetable garden, or you don’t know where to begin, this is the method for you! Check out the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Batholomew. Starting vegetables from seed is a rewarding and cost-effective way to start your veggie garden.
So, what seeds can you plant now? The list is quite long: lettuce, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, parsley, turnips, collards, spinach, arugula, and peas are all excellent candidates for fall sowing. Late October into November is also an excellent time to plant onions and garlic. If you delay planting a little past this optimal time, don’t worry! You can always cover your tender seedlings with glass or plastic in the event of a hard freeze. (Because the school vegetable garden tends not to get an abundance of winter sun, we cover our beds with plastic for most of January.) Mulching your seedlings is another way to protect them through the winter.
Fall is an excellent time to plant shrubs while winter is a good time to plant trees. The cooler weather means trees can send all their energy into establishing strong root systems as opposed to producing leaves and flowers.
Another wonderful thing about fall is bird migration. Now is the time to watch for those rare migrants that grace our bird feeders. Keep your birdbaths and birdfeeders, including your hummingbird feeders, full for hungry birds crisscrossing the country. Resist the urge to trim off dead flowers as those also provide wonderful sources of food for these feathered friends.
So, while some may see the end of summer as the end of the abundant garden, in fact, it can be the beginning of a whole new phase of productivity for your outdoor space! Happy fall, y’all!