Thursday, November 3, 2011

Enjoying the Fall Garden

Like many people, I started out as a spring and summer vegetable and fruit gardener. Warm weather meant planting and harvesting. Cold weather meant waiting for next year's harvest.

It took me a few years and lots of trial and error to realize that cool season gardening can sometimes be the most rewarding gardening of all. The most notable differences between fall and summer gardening in Zone 7b are comfortable temps, very few bugs and pests, care-free veggies, and generally easy tasks. 

In its simplest form, fall gardening consists of sowing seed (in late summer), watering, mulching, more watering, and harvesting. That's just about all there is to it. Some hardier crops even survive repeated frosts and in a location like Newport News, VA, a productive four season garden is a realistic goal. 

I took the following photos of my fall garden at .09 Acres on Halloween, 2011.  

Long rows of Buttercrunch and Winter Density lettuce.
Young Rouge d'Hiver lettuce sown in succession with other lettuce varieties to extend the harvest. Succession planting spreads out the harvest over a few weeks or months.
Long Standing Bloomsdale spinach. This is my first attempt at growing spinach. I found that warmer soil temps in late September definitely hindered germination, but the spinach seems much happier in early November.
I had spotty germination of my carrots. Notice that the center two rows filled out nicely while the outer rows (far left and far right) are fairly sparse. I'll have to wait and see how they do this year. Last year was an amazing year for carrots.
It's tough to beat good beets. Here are four short rows of Detroit Dark Red and Chioggia beets. These are still quite young and probably need another month to grow. I thinned them in mid-October to allow the beet roots to grow larger, and I added the thinned greens to a salad. Definitely a great addition.
I am growing kale from seeds I saved (this spring) from last years kale plants. I battled tiny caterpillars for a few weeks when the plants were young, and you can see some of the leaf damage they caused in this picture. 
I am growing broccoli in two large pots and in a raised bed. I'm curious to see whether it grows better in-ground or in the pots. I can't remember if I planted Calabrese or Waltham broccoli. I have to check my seek packet. I may have started these seeds too late for the plants to mature in time to produce harvestable broccoli, but only time will tell. The tiny caterpillars that hit my kale also like the broccoli. Damage is visible on the right-most leaf.
Apple mint growing in half a wine barrel near the gate to my yard. It has made an amazing comeback from the crippling heat of mid-summer. This plant thrives in mid-late spring, suffers through summer, then regrows with a vengeance in fall. This entire barrel grew from a small rooted cutting I dug up from a yard where I previously lived. Mint will take over the world if it's not contained, but it's also a must-have in any yard.
Russian Red pomegranate ready for harvest. There are appx. twenty of these hanging from my 4-year old pomegranate tree. I can't say enough good things about this tree.
Negronne figs that definitely will not have enough time to ripen before the first frost. This tree keeps growing larger and producing more figs. Next year should be an amazing harvest. 
Two unripe Eureka lemons hanging from a small branch on my potted tree.
New foliage on my Eureka lemon. It usually starts out with a reddish tinge, then turns bright green as the leaves grow and mature.
More blossoms keep appearing on my potted Bearss lime tree. Citrus flowers are arguably some of the best smelling flowers in nature. My lime tree is currently holding about 10 limes. After last year's harvest, I thought it could've grown 50 limes this year. But a strong gust of wind knocked it off a table in early spring and snapped off the main trunk. I'm pretty sure I cried when I finally found out what happened.
Baby Bearss limes growing from recently pollinated flowers. I won't be dining on these limes for a LONG time!
What are your favorite fruits and veggies to grow in the fall? Are you thinking about adding additional cold-weather protection like floating row covers or plastic-covered hoop houses to extend your harvest into the winter? Fall is finally here so welcome it into your garden.


Mr. H. said...

Your winter greens look really good, glad to hear you have taken up four season gardening.

I figured something out this summer, if you put those spinach seeds in the refridgerator for a couple weeks before planting germination during warm weather greatly increases.

Project Girl said...

What a great post -- although it reinforces my regret that I never did get my Fall garden planted. I was so scarred from our horrific summer here in Dallas. Looking at your photos, now I am really bummed I didn't get myself motivated. You've also doubled my wishes to plant a fig tree... or three.

.09 Acres said...

Mr. H, great suggestion for improving germination rates of spinach seeds. I will definitely try that next year. Thank you!

Project Girl, you certainly had a dry, scorching summer in Dallas. I wouldn't wish that on any gardener. You can probably still plant some lettuces and other greens and grow them under plastic. As for the fig tree(s), now is a great time of year to plant them!

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

A beautiful fall garden! I can empathize with the caterpillars, they ran amok on our broccoli seedlings this fall. Fortunately, with the help of the hens, and daily hand-picking, we managed to get them under control. I love your pomegranate tree. Here most varieties tend to split before they're ripe, but I'm going to look into the cultivar you have growing. Those fruits look absolutely perfect! Welcome to Blotanical!

Project Girl said...

I dropped a few seeds in last evening! Nothing ventured, nothing gained... we'll see.

.09 Acres said...

Thanks for the Blotanical welcome, Curbstone Valley Farm! Good luck with your pomegranate quest. Russian Red does great here in Zone 7b.

Project Girl, more power to you!

Indie said...

Wow, your winter garden looks fabulous! I'm still trying to build a good veggie garden spot - my spot this year didn't get quite enough sun. Hopefully next year. Your blog is inspiring!

Casa Mariposa said...

I love how packed your garden is! My veggie growing is limited to containers since the rest of my garden is devoted to flowers. I've never thought of growing brocoli in containers. I'm curious to see how yours turn out. Great blog!

Gardens at Waters East said...

Go for it. Vegetable gardening is great knowing how bad most store bought veggies are! You may enjoy my last post since you like vegetables. In any case I will be following your adventures. Jack

Anna said...

I do love it here in Minnesota, but even cold season crops like yours aren't usually a reality. I do a lot of my "cool season" stuff inside in a DIY light rack system. I'd rather do it outside though.

Nice blog, glad I happened along!

.09 Acres said...

Indie, keep at it! Casa, it's amazing what can be grown in pots. Stay tuned for a broccoli update. Gardens, your last blog post was sick and hilarious! Anna, thanks for stopping by and the compliment. I'll make sure to visit your site too.