by Sam Philips, Lisa Giroday and Maxim Winther | The weather may be getting cooler, but there is still a lot to do in a food garden. Though we’re not pre-occupied with battling pests or watering (whew), we now have to prep for the fall and winter months. This means once your tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and zucchinis stop producing, you have to take ‘em out. It’s also time to cover some of your crops (you can still seed a few things under cover, like cilantro, corn salad and radish), plant garlic, and plant broad beans…
Covering Your Crops! Hoophouses, or polytunnels/cloches, are installed in gardens to help extend the season, and get a jump on the upcoming spring season. A hoophouse is a great tool for the food grower who wants to grow 365 days a year. By increasing internal temperature and regulating frost, they extend the fall and spring seasons by up to a month. They’re easy to assemble, take down, and move around, plus they can be used year after year. Bonus: in the height of the summer, they can also be used to offer some shade to crops that don’t love full sun, and you can utilize them to bring out tomatoes earlier and control garden pests. Crops to cover in fall and spring:
– Greens – lettuces, arugula, spinach, mache, pac choi, mizuna.
– Radish and turnip.
– Herbs (cilantro, parsley, chervil).
We mostly use a heavyweight remay fabric as a cover instead of poly, as remay lets in water as well as light, plus it’s washable. You can also use poly, if preferred; it’s warmer, and great for tomato seedlings, but it doesn’t allow water in. You can also use both materials on the frames at different times, depending on the purpose.
Plant Broad Beans! Broad beans are a nice treat to have in the early spring. It’s a good time to plant now; they will take 6 months to mature if planted in fall, so why not? There’s more space in the garden for planting now, and if you still want to squeak something in for winter, you’ll be glad you did. Broad beans also fix nitrogen into the soil (the macronutrient responsible for leafy growth), so it will benefit later planted leafy greens, broccoli, kale, et cetera. And, check this out: you can eat the tender young leaves, raw or cooked! Make sure you plant them in a spot with at least 6 hours of sun. They will need to be staked, too, as they grow to be about 3-4’ tall.
Plant Garlic! Planting your own garlic is hugely rewarding. Garlic in the grocery store is either puny with a huge carbon footprint, or local and astronomically expensive. Fact: your own garlic will taste better. You can also save the seed easily and continue your own garlic family lineage. You also get scapes if you plant a hardneck variety. It’s one of our favorite crops to grow! Garlic follows the nightshade family – e.g. tomatoes and eggplant – nicely, as these crops will be finished by the time the garlic goes in. Plant now, and right up until the end of October. Remember to replenish your soil with a good amount of compost for these hungry alliums before planting. Also, garlic requires full sun. As an example in self-sufficiency, if you want enough for a 2-person household to enjoy until next crop is ready, plant about 100 bulbs. You can do this in as little space as a 4×8’ bed. Happy gardening!