September is when we focus on fall garden maintenance and plant our fall/winter crops in zone 7a. So fall garden maintenance and tips is the theme here.
Season transitions always have their challenges because you can still have temperature swings that leave crops vulnerable. Here in central North Carolina, “Indian Summer” temps can still exceed 90˚ degrees.
Audio Article – Fall Garden Maintenance and Tips
But what impacts our summer growing, namely the lack of bright sunlight, should aid us in optimizing conditions for growing the next seasons’ plants. We have already set out the broccoli transplants.
Check your local extension service for a planting guide for your zone. If you’re not sure which zone you’re in, this zone map will guide you.
Fall Garden Maintenance
Fall Planting of Broccoli in Organic Straw Bales
Burn Blight Plants
When the tomatoes were mostly done in by the blight, we pulled the plants and burned the refuse in our burn barrel. Our burn barrel was free for pick up from a local food production facility. We punched holes near the base of the barrel for oxygen, and found a lid to keep rain out.
A bonus of using a burn barrel near your garden, is that you can add the ash to your compost pile. Wood ash is a good nutrient, so when we burn plants we do so with twigs and limbs from the yard. Once completely burned and turned to ash, you can add it to your compost.https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource004042_Rep5718.pdf
Wood ash added to garden compost adds a beneficial alkalizing effect.
Dead, Diseased and Dying Plants
The organic approach, in particular, requires garden maintenance techniques that keep pests and diseases to a minimum. Pruning the DDD’s (Dead, Diseased, & Dying) plant parts, cleaning up fallen leaves, and disposing of these materials properly is essential. This debris should never be placed in your compost pile.
Organic gardening requires extra care and attention to garden maintenance and clean up.
Burning, Bagging, or Burying
Plant disposal usually involves burning, bagging, or burying. We prefer the burning method. It deals with the pests (fungi, insects, malformities) effectively and efficiently. Stuffing plastic or paper bags with pest-ridden plant debris and then hauling it off to the landfill doesn’t resonate with us. Neither does burying, especially if there’s limited yard space to dig a big hole.
The best way to completely rid or reduce your garden pests is to burn diseased plants if you can. Traditional gardening across the ages included burning entire fields, called “slash and burn”. Same thing with forest management, to mimic nature’s way of cleaning house.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slash-and-burn https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00022470.1966.10468447
Burning crops in place helps to rid the soil of some of the pestilence as well. The drawback is that slash and burn also kills some of the good microorganisms. Plus most folks today don’t live in areas where this can be done, so a burn barrel is a good compromise if your county ordinance will allow it.
Check with your local fire department. Ours provided a great chart which we’ve shared below.
Never placed diseased or ailing plants in your compost. Best to burn them if you can.
Obviously, precautions need to be taken when open-air burning. Many towns, cities, and districts have burning bans. Check with your local fire department. You may need a permit. Here’s an example of our county open burn regulations in a very helpful chart.
We’re fortunate to live in a rural subdivision and to use our burn barrel without a permit. As an added precaution, we keep a water hose nearby.
It’s important to maintain a constant eye on the fire and the surrounding zone. A lid is useful for keeping the contents dry and for temporary storage of debris between burns.
Always Practice Safety First
One last precaution: NEVER EVER use gasoline or highly volatile flammables to accelerate a burn. We’ve personally witnessed a near fatal tragedy when someone tried to ignite a gasoline-soaked charcoal grill. Another close-to-home incident, LeAura’s grandfather was also badly burned as a young man using gasoline to burn a stump.
This segment about open burning is by no means complete. Again, check with your fire safety officials. Do your own research on local regulations and fire safety. And, be mindful of “second-hand smoke” drifting into your neighbors’ yards, as well as the current air quality conditions.
Always place safety and neighborly courtesy first.
Continuing in the fall garden maintenance tips…
Row Covers for Pest Control
Barrier devices are among our favorite ways of preventive pest control. This fall, we are using the light row covers on our first line up of broccoli. This will keep the flying insects away. The cabbage worms were very bad this year and we saw many of the white butterflies hovering in and around all the cole (cabbage-type) crops.
Row Covers for Frost
As the season grows colder, we can replace the light covers with thicker frost cover material and adjust the height. We’ve carried our broccoli through the winter using this method of frost covers.
Cabbage Worms and Slug Treatment
Straw Bales Breakdown – Still Good for Fall
As you can see, the organic straw bales have deteriorated. Only a perimeter of chicken wire is holding them in place. When we raked back the heavy straw mulch, a bevy of earthworms was uncovered in the rich composted soil. Oh, what a happy place to grow!
Decomposing Straw Bales for Fall Planting
Find more on vegetables to plant in fall here.
Row Covers Protect Crops from Flying Pests and from Frost
Planting Fall Crops
Right around Labor Day we plant spinach, collards, and kale. It will be the same routine.
Summer Garden Maintenance and Clean up
- Clean-up the debris
- Rake the bed
- Plant transplants
- Apply organic pest controls, (dipel, sluggo, etc.)
- Cover with row cover
We plant our fall crops of broccoli, spinach, collards, and kale in early September, right around Labor Day.
It’s all about garden bed maintenance and preparation. As with so many endeavors in life, it’s the high quality of preparation that yields the better result. We’ll enjoy seeing them flourish as the temps grow cooler.
Meanwhile, we have our okra, fish peppers, and summer squash to enjoy.
In the garden, as in life, quality preparations yields quality results.
Coleman Alderson, GardensAll.com
Fish Peppers – Ornamental Edible Landscape Plant
We mentioned the Fish Pepper. It’s a beautiful 2 foot, shrub-like plant that is laden with jalapeno-hot, very tasty peppers. The variegated green and white leaves add splash and luster to any garden bed, floral or otherwise.
These heirloom peppers have traditionally spiced shellfish and fish cookery-hence the name. They also develop in a variety of colors. This is one case where the veggie crosses over into the landscape as an ornamental.
Fish peppers are a great ornamental edible landscape plant.
Green Ball Basil – Edible Ornamental Landscape Plant
Another herbaceous edible we discovered this year is the green ball basil. It’s a small leafed Greek variety that tends to form a round, basketball-sized shape. It’s a tidy little plant that offers mighty flavor for soups, salads, and pesto.
The green ball basil looks pretty in the yard. It also tastes delicious in salads, sandwiches, pizza and eating a leaf on its own! While the leaves are smaller than your typical basil, don’t be fooled! This plant packs a punch in flavor. 🙂
The small “ball basil” leaves are big in flavor.
Well, that’s a wrap for this past week folks!
Our biggest lesson is that garden maintenance makes for garden productivity.
What’s Happening in Your Garden?
How about your week? We know gardeners love to share photos of crops, crafts and harvests, so if you’d like us to publish your photos, comments and/or articles, we’d be delighted to hear from you.
“May your gardens flourish and your harvests be bountiful, and when you look upon your little Eden, may you see that it is good.”
~Coleman Alderson, GardensAll.com
Grow Great Gardens!
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson