A Fall Fling
Autmn is coming to your gardens!
Take a break from that beach walk today and stroll through your beloved garden, take a moment to assess the results of your labours … This Summer with our glorious old fashioned hot hot season, even the most intrepid novice should be blown away with their results! This is THE Summer where embellishing successes need not be fishermen style tales! And, if you didn’t have time in April/May for that dream garden: September is the next window of opportunity for a “Fall Fling”!
Early August, the morning of leaving on a camping trip I had a pre-“Fall Fling”; indiscriminately ripping out bolting Lettuce, Spinach, and Chard. I had one hour before my family left without me as the van was nearly packed … Next I yanked out seeding Radish, leathery Shelling Peas and flowering Kale; quickly feeding them all to the compost pile. On a more leisurely day I could have thought of seed saving, but I was on a mission! … Grabbing some half used Spring seed packages and mentally counting days until it was officially Fall; I literally flung seeds in all those newly opened spaces for Snap Peas and 55 day Bush Beans ~ why not. Next I roughly seeded fresh avenues of Lettuce, Chard and Spinach; not forgetting some sections of 10day plus Radish, no math problem there! … Then I walked away, leaving them all to the luck of the weather … On my return I found out it poured 2 days later ~ lucky for those seeds!
The end of July, I had a couple of fresh Beehives set up on the farm and had subsequently forked out my very tall, wiry seed headed Buckwheat that was way past the tender green digging under point as a green manure. My excuse, I was distracted by my Lavender harvest for that endeavour but the bees loved the flowers! I think I can get one more set before a frost … Meanwhile for try #2; the space was tenderly dug over, raked, seeded, re-raked and watered ~ twice.
On my return mid August, both plantings had faithfully and generously germinated! Just to show: don’t over fuss!
So I encourage you to have a fling at a late Summer sowing of those “quickie” vegetables and especially salad greens. Even try for tender baby carrots and beets, but skip your long day squashes or Zucchini as the afternoons cool down too much to properly set flowers or fruit for even mini-vegetables … On the other hand, this coolness is desired by your eating Peas, Arugula, Spinach, Coriander and Dill: reducing their premature bolting habit. Now is the correct timing to plant your proper Fall crops of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, all manners of Kale, Chinese greens like Bok Choy, Corn salad and Endive. Wait until October for the soil to be cooler for your Garlic and Broad Beans.
You want them to set good strong roots and not too much tops …
Take advantage of the cycle of warm days, cool nights and the soil warmth to start your series of Fall propagation by cuttings: beloved Lavenders, Sages, Thymes, plus your favourite Geraniums and more. Use a “light” soil mix with good drainage; add sand or perlite in 1:3 proportions with garden soil or 1:4 with a commercial potting mix. Tuck your trays out of full sun, but not in full shade either, in a cold frame with the lid open for now, or on a bench in your greenhouse with the doors open...the sun is still hot enough in the day time to “cook” these fragile babies as they set roots!
Seed saving next! I have found some of my annuals like Calendula, Nigella and even Sunflowers, are in full seed already with our heat. It feels premature yet in a cooler Summer, they simply take longer to get the job done. This was the year for consistent deadheading to prolong blooms, for myself I could not keep up to everything … So this year it will be a great year for very clean and fat seed heads! The one important tip here is to gather seed early before any September rains and mildew & moulds set in …
Check your Herb beds: harvest your annuals; like dear Mr. Basil, to the ground and leave a minimum of 1/3rd of the green growing area of perennials like Sages and Thymes. Harvest your Rosemary lightly, leave at least ½ of the growing area, and try not to cut into any mature wood as it will not regenerate. Do add missing perennial Herbs like French Tarragon for “Herbs of Provence” or Lovage for winter soups or Bergamot for Earl Grey tea. September/ early October is a great time for that second planting window like early Spring … Beloved Lavenders and all manner of perennials, shrubs and trees can settle in, make some new root growth with the soil warmth and natural Autumn rains. With growing your own vegetables now the trend, add growing culinary herbs for gourmet flavours, especially for those excess zucchini! Resist the urge to fertilize now as too much new growth will be susceptible to winterkill … instead spend your energy on building a good soil base with maybe a touch of rock phosphate or bone meal to support new root growth.
One last project before Halloween … Plant a fruit tree ~ grow your own fruits for desserts! With my birthday in early September I have begun a new tradition on the farm and last September I planted a Siberian Crab Apple called “Dolgo” from Le Coteau Nursery … the label reads open, upright, small tree with white blossoms, self-pollinating and beautiful for crystal clear ruby coloured jelly! Most modern Apple and Pear trees are now grafted on dwarf root stock to suit smaller properties. Keep in mind they all need dry feet in the winter to eliminate the possibility of diseases … Unbelievably my baby Dolgo Crab apple will have a crop this September to celebrate my Birthday! Le Coteau also carries a great selection in their “Fruit” section which includes all your soft fruits like Tae berries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Currants, Gooseberries etc …
The previous Birthday year, I planted a specially grafted “Victoria Plum” tree from Bob Duncan in Sidney. He also carries hardy citrus trees and all sorts of semi tropical fruity specialties. You may have seen my bumper crop of Myers Lemons and Bearrs Limes next to the Lavender nursery this summer. Neither citrus blinked an eyelash at our cold cold winter tucked in my greenhouse, though it was minus 18 outside and not much warmer inside there! It was my best harvest yet for home grown Limes and Lemons.
Hope you will all be coming to “my” Birthday party Metchosin Day Sunday September 13th, a true celebration of growing gardens, harvest and community … follow your noses to that purple scent!
Originally published in the September 2009 edition of the Metchosin Muse