by OCMGA Master Gardener Lucy Valitchka
In June 2016, we posted a blog from our veggie expert Lucy Valitchka with helpful tips for growing a successful garden. The tips were arranged by month and covered the summer period of June into early August. Now, we’re pleased to be able to present a fall edition to help you put your garden to bed.
Autumn in the garden has its own special needs and is as important a time as the busy springtime. For those who planted their garden later, like this writer, there will still be vegetables or fruits to harvest. Here are some guidelines that might be helpful to all. These ideas came from experience, garden columns, Wisconsin Garden Journal Calendar and other sources.
- If not done already, be sure to remove any flowers from melons, squash, pumpkins as they will not reach maturity before frost.
- Remove flowers from tomatoes after September 1st.
- Week 4 of September pinch out the growing points at the top of Brussels sprouts stems so bottom sprouts will reach maturity.
- When onion tops fall over and brown, they are ready to harvest. Dig them and let dry in the sun for a day. Then store on newspaper for a couple weeks in a dry place. After that, remove dried tops and store in mesh bags in a cool, dark, dry place. I hang our onion bags on hooks in our fruit cellar.
- Herbs should be ready to harvest. I spray the herbs with water to remove any dust, then let dry on layers of newspaper on our basement table. I put a marker by each pile of herbs, so I know the variety. When herbs are completely dry I remove stems and place herbs in small labeled jars.
- Gather any vegetables or fruits early or late in the day, provided plants aren’t wet.
- Refrigerate or process as soon as possible. Quality of vegetable or fruits is highest at picking time.
- Harvest pears when still light green. Separate fruit from branch with slight twisting motion.
- Gather squash, pumpkins and gourds when ripe and before damaged by frost. Leave a 2-inch stem on vegetable for better storage.
- Harvest late vegetables or fruits. This is a time for apple harvest for us and cider processing at a mill near Elkhart Lake.
- Rake up apple leaves and fallen fruit to control disease and insect problems next year.
- Remove all weeds from garden before they go to seed.
- Grapes should be ready for jelly or maybe a delicious grape pie!
- Late tomatoes make great salsa.
- Frosts can come at the end of September or early October. Watch the weather and be sure to harvest all tender crops like beans, tomatoes, peppers etc. before you lose them to frost.
- Crops such as kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts will actually taste better because of a light frost.
- Plant garlic in rich, well-drained soil 5 inches apart and 1 to 2 inches deep. Select larger cloves for large bulbs. Break bulbs apart into individual cloves. The end of the clove that was broken from the bulb should be planted down. Cover with 4 to 6 inches of straw mulch.
- Remove all used plants from garden.
- Compost plants free of disease potential. Do not compost vine crops and old raspberry canes. That would allow disease and insect pest “carryover” next spring.
- Burn or dispose of diseased plants.
- Cut asparagus plants to ground after hard frost and dispose of plants.
- Sanitize tomato cages. I spray them with hose and then Clorox Clean-Up.
- We gather fall leaves on lawn with a mulcher mower and deposit on our garden after all plants are out of the garden. Then the leaves are plowed under in the fall to help improve the soil texture. Some people prefer the no till method so mulched leaves could just be left on top of the soil to decompose during the winter.
- If you have raised beds, apply above techniques accordingly
- Mulch asparagus bed with chopped leaves or straw to protect crowns from frost.
- Mulch parsnips with a foot of straw or marsh hay for winter protection. Mark rows with stakes.
- Make sure tools are cleaned and oiled for winter storage.
- Protect the trunks of young fruit trees against animal damage with wire or plastic rodent guards.
- Plastic guards may also protect young plants from sun scald.
- Sit back and take a well deserved rest from garden chores!
“If it is true that one of the greatest pleasures of gardening lies in looking forward, then the planning of next year’s beds and borders must be one of the most agreeable occupations in the gardener’s calendar. This should make October and November particularly pleasant months, for then we may begin to clear our borders, to cut down those sodden and untidy stalks, to dig up and increase our plants, and to move them to other positions where they will show up to greater effect. People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting; gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth.”