Like many gardeners I start my seedlings indoors to get a jump on the growing season. This means I plant in containers and flats in February or March when it is still cold outside. I use grow lights, full sun windows, and some outdoor time when it is warmer and sunny to help them grow. Once the threat of frost has passed I plant them in the garden beds that will be their home for the summer.
What though if you had to plant a bit early, before the danger of frost has passed? This can be the case for a variety of reasons. Perhaps your seedlings got too big and needed to go in the ground. Maybe a flat overturned and rather than lose the seedlings you decide to plant them. Or maybe your perennials got an early start due to warmer than usual weather and they need protection. If you have plants in the ground when a frost advisory is issued then you need to take steps to protect them. Here are some tips:
* Water well before night falls. The soil will release moisture through the night, keeping the air temperature near the soil warmer.
* Use a fan to keep air circulating around your plants and prevent frost from forming.
* Create a tent frame using wood stakes, garden tools, or whatever you have on hand. Cover with weed fabric, a plastic tarp, or a bed sheet. Remove the next morning.
* A thin layer of straw can help protect plants and seedlings as well.
* Recycle plastic juice and milk jugs and use them as cloches to cover your seedlings.
* You can also buy them on Amazon. Check out these dome cloches and this garden cloche tunnel. They can be thrown over plants at night and removed easily the next day as it warms up.
* Move potted plants indoors for the night or wrap the the pots with towels, burlap, or bubble wrap to help insulate the roots from the cold.
Hopefully these tips will help you can ward off any damage to your plants if a frost advisory is issued in your area. No gardener wants to lose their summer bounty because of inclimate weather!!
My garden did really well this past summer and I am super excited to start planning for next year’s. No doubt most of the planning will happen during the dreary, cold winter but I just can’t wait. I have already been making a wishlist.
Garden victories for 2014 include:
* Growing flowers for the first time – calendula, sunflowers, lavender, nasturtium, and various wildflowers
* Growing three types of basil
* Growing three types of heirloom tomatoes from seed
* A great blackberry harvest
* A nice snap pea harvest
* First time growing potatoes and carrots
* Keeping birds out of the garden with a fake snake. It worked!
I recently posted about my garden and homestead goals for 2015. In order to make the goals happen I have started making a wishlist of things that would help…
Support hoops for garden fabric. This will help me extend the gardening season earlier in the spring and then also later in the fall. I have the raised beds, I just need the hoops. I like that they are steel and not plastic.
A garden cage or two would be nice to keep the birds and the deer out of my raised beds!! They have them in a variety of sizes but the large one (below) would be super handy!
I also need space. I have tools, pots, soil, and other garden goodies everywhere and I have no real work surfaces outside other than the ground or the railing on my deck. A potting bench would be heaven sent! I love that this one has an old farmhouse look and it is affordable.
What’s on your wishlist??
The gardening season has ended for 2014…for the most part. I still have a variety of peppers and some flowers doing well. I also have a cold frame with greens going strong but I have done a massive fall cleanup and most of my garden beds will rest until spring. With everything I learned this year I am already making plans for next!
My organic garden goals for 2015 are to grow everything I grew in 2014 and:
- Make potato cages and grow alot more
- Start my seedlings earlier!
- Add leeks and brussels sprouts for fall/winter
- Grow more carrots
- Grow different pumpkin varieties (jarrahdale and lady godiva) and grow more
- Add another raised bed and a hoop with a fabric covering
- Add more herbs and veggies
- Plant spring bulbs
- Add another rain barrel
My homesteading goals for 2015:
What are your goals???
The weather is getting quite nippy and the nights are getting darker. Life is moving a little bit slower, and things are winding down in your summer garden. But perhaps you don’t want to give up gardening just yet. Heck the weather is perfect for outdoor enjoyment right? Well you CAN keep growing well into winter. If this interests you check out my article on extending the growing season into fall and winter. It has lots of great tips and info on what kind of plants do well in cold weather.
In fact I just set up a cold frame for my greens (lettuce, arugla, and spinach). I used a shower door that some threw out during a home renovation and I set it on top of an existing raised garden bed. Cheap and easy!
There are still some gardening tips and strategies that you can employ to get you back outside and some dirt under your fingernails. You can add some color and life to your garden, and prepare it for winter. Depending on where you live, fall can be a very busy time in the garden. Here are some ideas:
* Water fruit tress well until into fall and until the ground freezes. They will have a long, cold winter depending on were you live and they need a good moisture supply to make sure they get through it well.
* Rake leaves and compost them. Or maybe just leave them. There are some gardeners who do not believe in leaving leaves around tees due to the potential for leaf-borne disease. I think that if the tree/leaves are healthy then it is important to leave a nice layer of leaves around the tree, covering the roots. This is what trees do right?! They shed their leaves which then provide insulation and moisture for the roots during the cold. It is a perfect system, don’t mess with it so you can have a perfectly manicured yard.
* Plant bulbs. Dig a hole, drop the bulb in, cover it up with soil and a thick layer of mulch, and go have a glass of apple cider. Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Crocuses, garlic, and Allium (my fave!) are typically planted in the fall so they can complete their growth cycle in time to come up in spring.
* Cut back bulbs that will be staying in the ground and cover them with mulch to protect them from harsh freezes.
* Weed!! Why wait until spring when you will be super busy? Get rid of weeds now!
* Pull all your spent vegetable plants, cut them up with pruning shears to speed decomposition and toss them in the compost pile.
* Clear out any annuals that are spent as well. Leaving them in the ground is easier yes but diseases and pests are discouraged when you clear the beds and allow them to overwinter plant free. So if they are no longer useful, get them out of there. If any of the plants did show signs of disease, toss them in the garbage, do not compost them.
* After clearing your garden beds cover them with an inch or two of compost or aged manure to help improve the fertility of your soil.
* Cover beds with mulch or garden fabric. This helps maintain a good porous surface and helps prevent soil erosion.
* Veggies – Cover strawberries with straw, cut back asparagus fronds after they brown from the first frost, and re-pot annual herbs to bring indoors.
* Drain and detach water hoses. Empty and clean your rain barrel. Store them in the garage or a shed.
* Enjoy the fall!
Is composting hard? No, not all. You just need to learn a few basic dos and don’t then you just get out of the way and let nature do it’s thing.
What Goes In Compost:
* Urine: dilute it with water first.
* Chicken manure: ideally from organically reared chickens.
* Comfrey: rich in many nutrients, especially potash, but contains almost no fiber.
* Lawn clippings: but mix them with dry material first, such as damp straw, weeds or leaves, as grass clippings can be too soggy on their own. Or let hem hang out on the lawn for a day or two to dry first.
* Kitchen waste: including tea bags, coffee grounds, eggshells, cooked pasta, fruit and vegetable trimmings.
* Farmyard manure: again ideally from horses or cows bred on organic farms.
* Seaweed: a great source of trace elements.
* Garden waste: chop it first to help the decomposing process.
* Weeds: especially stinging nettles which are high in nitrogen (treat in the same way as lawn clippings), but they should be young weeds that have not formed seeds or you will be spreading seeds around your garden or year when the compost is finished.
* Bracken: but avoid handling when it is producing spores as it is carcinogenic.
* Straw: should be damp and ideally already partly rotted.
*Woody prunings: shred them first.
* Newspaper, cardboard: use sparingly, shredded or torn up and dampened, and avoid materials with colored inks.
Things to avoid:
* Cat litter or dog excrement: both of these can carry disease.
* Meat and fish scraps: they smell as they rot and may attract rats and other pests.
* Diseased plant material: diseases can spread through the compost.
* Perennial weeds and weeds in seed: they may continue growing in the compost, especially if it is not hot enough to destroy the seeds.
* Plastic, tin, glass and other synthetic materials: they do not decompose.
The ideal method for making compost is to make a heap in one go, but to do this you need to collect bags of waste for several weeks or months. If you add material gradually, it may take at least eight to 12 months before it is ready to use, whereas in summer a newly constructed, complete heap would take around two months to turn to compost. A gradual heap may also not reach high enough temperatures to kill off weeds or diseases.
With either method, it is a good idea to layer the different materials, spreading them evenly and adding water if the material is dry, before covering the heap. Make sure your compost heap does not become too dry or wet. Soggy compost smells bad and takes a long time to break down; dry compost is also slow to decompose as microbes prefer damp conditions. To speed up decomposition, turn the compost with a fork every six to eight weeks.
Maintaining a high temperature is important to kill off weeds and diseases – your pile should be at least 50°C (122°F) (often not possible if composting gradually). If you are using a compost bin it should be at least 1 m3 (1 yd3) in size in order to achieve high temperatures and you can also help by lining the bin with dry autumn leaves or hay.
The compost is ready to use when it is a dark color, smells earthy and the original ingredients have almost gone. Remaining straw, twigs and sticks can be picked or sieved out. The final result can be used on gardens, lawns and house plants. Dig it into the soil or leave it on top for the worms to do the work for you. It is best applied in spring when the weather should be more conducive to its staying in the soil – heavy rain can wash the compost away before the worms can do their bit.
* Always protect the compost heap from rain with a waterproof cover.
* Make sure you can remove the bottom layer easily.
* Turn the heap every few months to introduce air into the mix.
* Dampen any dry material such as straw or autumn leaves first to aid its decomposition.
* Shred items tike leaves, newspapers, cardboard and weeds to speed up their decomposition.
* Mix fresh grass mowings and fruit and vegetable leftovers with dry material to stop the pile becoming too sodden.
* Make sure you have broad mixture of materials in the pile and layer them evenly.
* To avoid attracting flies and insects to kitchen waste, make a hole in the centre of your compost pile and bury the waste.
* If you want a quick start to your composting you can purchase compost activators or accelerators containing organic material designed to kick-start your compost.
* If you have large quantities of leaves, it may be worth composting them separately in a wire mesh container or in plastic sacks.
But if you are new to gardening and all this talk of creating your own compost has put you off making a start on your own garden, take heart – there are various green options that do not require you to devote a part of your garden to a decomposing pile of waste. Your local authority may well be running a community composting scheme or composting green waste from its parks and gardens, which it will deliver to you for a small fee, for example.
Creating your own nutrient rich soil is very rewarding. It is turning trash into treasure…food scraps into black gold. The bonus just happens to be that is is extremely easy to do. Happy composting!