Friday, July 27, 2012

Preparing for Fall

I get asked a lot of questions about how many hours a day I have to work to keep the garden up. I really haven't a clue, but most days I don't spend more than an hour in the garden each day and many days are much less. When it was hot out I just ignored the garden except to pick and water. In the height of spring planting I was good about doing no more than half of one of my long beds each day. So I only did one 4'x8' section. Yesterday on the other hand was different. The forecast called for on and off rain for four days and cooler temperatures. It was perfect weather for putting in some fall crops and getting others to germinate. So I spent several hours working in the garden. I was out at 6:30am and worked until 10:30am with just a short breakfast break. I was trying to beat the rain which was scheduled to start at 11am. If you look at the photo above I started with the half bed closest to the fence.

It had a nice cover crop of crab grass growing which I had to rip out. But what I wanted was a real cover crop. After loosening the soil up I thought about how I wanted to sow it. I wasn't sure which way would give the best germination, but I tried two ways. In the photo I took out some soil and then sowed the seed and covered it up by an inch. In the next four foot section I just scattered the seed and raked it into the soil. I hope that one works out best. It is a lot less work than removing the soil. At my last house I had clay soil and the raking strategy worked well. I was worried that it might not be enough for my sandy soil here. But we will see.

The cover crop that I sowed was a couple of years old. I did a small germination test on it to see if it would sprout. After two days I saw that the peas would sprout just fine and saw a few little root tips on the vetch and oats, so I figured I'd just see how it worked outside and not buy new.

The half of the bed closest to the path was weeded, fertilized, and loosened up. I sowed kale seed in this bed. I often start the fall seed indoors, but I figured I had enough wet and cool weather to get them started outside this year. I hope so. Sometimes the little brassica seedlings can just fall over and die when the weather gets too hot. I sowed three rows. One row of Dwarf Curly Kale. One row of a mixed kale which turned out to be mostly Red Russian. One row of Winterbor. I don't know if the dwarf kale will come up since it is old seed and I didn't do a germination test on them. I've got my fingers crossed. I put a row cover on it since I didn't want the "torrential" rain that was predicted last night to wash away the seed. Well we got no rain last night. But it will be good when they are small to keep the cabbage butterflies off. I want to give them a leg up before I take off the cover. Or maybe I'll be kind and put some supports on later and give them a real cover.

Next up were the carrots. I saw that some were germinating under their burlap. It took them only six days to germinate. I find they germinate much faster in the summer than in the spring. I didn't have the row cover up before because I wanted to be able to get in and water everyday. But now that they have started the row cover had to get up. Last fall the carrot flies really damaged my carrots. So this year they get covered. I might sow some more in another spot, but those won't get a cover. I only have so many covers to go around.

I've really let a lot of the weeds take over the beds that were going to get planted up soon. This bed had a mulch of composted horse manure. The weeds here were much different than in the rest of the garden. Regardless they all came down and the soil was fertilized and prepared.

I had hardened off my fall brassicas. I had some Brussels sprouts and a storage cabbage both of which I might have started too late for them to produce. Then I had some early cabbage, kohlrabi, and some Asian greens. I planted them all out. I think I might have planted them too close together. I hope not. After they got my last good row cover over them.

In the batch of seedlings I had some Summertime lettuce started. So I put that out in the lettuce bed that I seeded previously. In that bed the mustards were already coming up, but no sign of the lettuce yet. Hopefully it will be cool enough this coming week for them to germinate. But you never know. The forecasters have been terrible for my area. Yesterday it was supposed to be cool and rainy with a high of 79F. It barely rained and the high was 87F. We have had a lot of that this last week.

I did some other chores before leaving the garden. I did a little weeding. I did some harvesting. The harvest that took a while was the dried beans. I was shocked to find that there were some already done. Mostly the Tiger Eye had finished up, but I got a few Yellow Eye and Jacob's Cattle. I've never had dried beans be dry in July. That is just unheard of. And it wasn't like I planted early. They were planted mid May, which is pretty typical for me. Usually dried beans take about 90-110 days to produce which would be mid August to mid September for a harvest. I've grown Tiger Eye before and I don't remember it being that early. So I looked it up. Indeed the Tiger Eye beans were early last time I picked too so they must be a really early dried bean. They say 80-90 days, but for me it was 75 this year and 70 the other year. Though they aren't the most prolific bean, they seem like they would be great for short season areas. Or at least my version of the seed which seem earlier than the catalogs say.

The last chore before I came in was to take the garlic down from the shed. By this time it was drizzling. So I brought it in inside a garbage bag. Usually I would clean the garlic outside, but since it was supposed to be wet for a while, I did it inside and then cleaned the floors. To make the garden kitchen worthy I had to get the dirt off. So I clipped off the tops first, then the roots. Then I peeled the outermost layer off. Every layer your garlic has helps to keep it from rotting. But I don't like to have dirt brought into my kitchen when I'm cooking so I always discard the outer most one. I ended up with three piles of garlic. The biggest and best were saved to plant in October. Most ended up in a mesh bag hanging in the basement for future garlic. And the last pile were any bulbs that were damaged or didn't have the good covering layers of skin. I find that there are always a few were I can see the cloves. Those won't store at all. In addition this year I had a good amount that were bruised. I wonder how that happened. I'll have to be more careful next year. But this last group will all be used first.

You would think that I would be done for the day, but I wanted to take the beans out of their pods. I just love the look of the Tiger Eye. They are a fabulous bean as they are so tender when cooked. If only they produced more I'd grow them every year. But I'm starting to think I could do a rotation that would give me a chance to grow an early crop and a late crop since they will produce in 75 days. If I do that I'll have to save a bit of seed. I only had 25 seeds when I planted this crop so they only got a very small section of bed. If I want to do two 4'x8' beds of them, I'd have to save most of these seeds. But if the rotations worked out it would make this bean a very worthwhile bean. The only issue I see is that in both years that they cropped early were years of record heat. Both 2010 and 2012 were very very hot. In a normal year would it work? Or would they crop in 85 days in colder years? I always find pushing the seasons a dilemma. I don't want to sacrifice my main crop of things. But if I push it just a bit would my harvest be that much larger? Do you tend to play it safe or risky in gardening?


  1. The Tiger Eye beans are pretty. 70 to 75 days is really quick for a dried bean. What is your favorite way to prepare them? I'm always on the lookout for a dried bean that holds its shape and tastes good in a bean salad, we eat a lot of bean salads around here.

    I tend to take a fair number of chances in my garden, but it's less risky for me with my forgiving mild climate.

  2. Well I don't have a favorite way. I only had them once and made ham soup. I looked up what I said. "They lost their beauty with cooking. They reminded me most of kidney beans in a way, but they were much softer. The skin wasn't very noticeable and inside had a very creamy texture. Much creamier than any other bean I've had." I don't remember if they held up with cooking or not. If I want to sow these in a large way I can't eat them this year either. I need them all for planting next year. I do remember loving them though. They were my favorite of all my beans.

  3. So happy to find your site--it's always great to meet a fellow gardener! I'm envious of your 70 degrees. I planned to start some of our fall crops in trays today, but the heat is just killing me! Our summer gardens are still producing really well--but they look horrible. Ah, the end of July in SC...of course the gardens look terrible! Your orderly beds and covers look so refreshing. Look forward to visiting again soon!

  4. i take a risk almost daily in the garden because i don't know what the heck i am doing :). but i think i am a bit risky, especially because i start everything from seed. however, i am more conservative with space because my real estate is very restricted.

    thanks for the detailed commentary. i learn a lot from you, esp since you are right down the street.

  5. I love how you describe your crab-grass as a "cover crop"! I spent my morning today pulling out the weedy "cover crop" in my old pea and early cabbage beds. Hoping to sow some fall crops tomorrow between rain drops. Thanks for sharing some handy information!

  6. So many good questions! You're so far ahead of me for fall planting. I'm going to put all garden chores off mentally until after vacation. But I know I'll get out what I put in, and I have got to get on the ball! Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. That bean is divine! We didn't do beans this year and I miss them. Definitely have to put them in again next year.

  8. I have to say that I do try and push the boundaries a bit here but like Michelle our mild climate means that the results are never too catastrophic. Those beans are really pretty - I plan to plant a fair few drying beans this season but I'm just trying to work out where...

  9. I am slowing incorporating the fall crops now too. I planted out my broccoli transplants and some kale, cabbage, and kohlrabi transplants last weekend. They are growing along nicely so far. I will plant some direct seeded kale and lettuces next weekend. In mid to late august I will plant the fall spinach patch and maybe some chinese cabbage in pots on the deck.

    I tend to take calculated risks and hedge my bet by having many crops... such that if something does not work out, I have other options to fall back on.