Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gardening Thursday - Fall and Winter Activities

I don’t know about you but I learn about a subject a few pieces of information at a time, so using a 55 gallon drum to try and dump masses of information thru the very small hole into my brain ends up with lots of info on the floor.  When I go to a training session, I’m always pleased it I can walk away with a few real nuggets and that’s what I hope you’ll get from these garden posts.  I try to have something in here for the old pro’s as well as those who are just learning to spell garden, so I like it when I get comments like so it’s the cicadas that did that to my trees, or I didn’t know blossom end rot was so easy to fix, etc.

Today’s post goes back and picks up from Jun9, regardingsite selection l with more detail about my 14 Steps For A Successful Garden.  Once you have your site selected, it’s time to perform the fall and winter activities, the first of which is:


GET A SOIL TEST – It’s critical to know the condition of your soil or you’ll be guessing at the best things to do for it.  I discussed in the May 5 post.

PERFORM SOIL AMENDMENTS – Usually lime, if needed and basic fertilizer at this time – can fine tune fertilizer in spring.  Also, this is the best time to work in large amounts of compost and other organic material as it has all winter to further decompose and settle into your garden.  No need to add nitrogen at this time as it will be gone by spring planting.

TURN/TILL THE SOIL IN OCTOBER – Especially for new gardens as sod takes several months to break down, October is usually dry here and any later it becomes a mud hole.  Winter freeze and thaw will break up any clods.  I till my garden each fall except I turn it deeply with a plow every three to four years, to break up the hardpan that can develop by tilling to the same depth every time.

TURN UPHILL ON ANY SLOPE – Gravity, tilling and rain will move your soil downhill, so I use the tilling and turning process to move it back up my slight slope.

Now that your site has been selected and prepared, you can spend the winter looking at seed catalogs, fine tuning your plan, and selecting the seeds and plants you will by.
Remember, the soil is the key to a highly successful garden and it should be treated accordingly. 

The seed catalogs start showing up in December and I use them as a wish book to help me decide what varieties I’ll plant, as I’ve already decided in general what I’ll grow.

CHOICE BASED ON YOUR SPECIFIC NEEDS – Taste, size, quantity, when producing (determinate vs indeterminate for canning), etc.

TRY SEVERAL – If room permits.  I started out growing many different varieties as I honed in on the ones I liked.  I still grow new peppers and tomatoes every year.

FIND SOURCES WITH GREATEST VARIETAL SELECTION – A good garden center may have many and unique varieties while Walmart usually only carries the few more common ones.

SELECT VARIETALS FOR THIS AREA – Not all varieties grow everywhere so get the ones for where you live.  For example long day onions (Walla Walla for example) need the long summer daylight hours of the North while short day onions (such as yellow granex which it a Vidalia if grow in a few low sulfur soil counties in South Georgia)  will produce nice bulbs in the shorter southern days.


              BASIC LAYOUT – Rows, beds, scatter, intensive gardening – companion planting, successive planting, fall garden.  Garden size, crops you’re growing and how you plan to maintain and water will all affect your layout.  For example using drip tape and controlling weeds with a tiller pretty well dictates a row type layout.
              MAINTAINABILITY – Roto-tiller vs. hoe, I till mine in the early spring and late fall and maintain it with a hoe in between.  Using a tiller for weed control turns up valuable soil moisture to be baked out by the sun and it brings more weed seeds to the surface which will sprout.
              CROP ROTATION – For pest and disease control, soil depletion/enhancement – legume every other year.  I rotate my garden in blocks of four beds with a nightshade, a brassica, and a legume in each group.  Notice the four beds across my garden – I move them one to the right each year and on year 5, I also move them one bed toward me.

              VACATION TIME – Don’t want your crop coming in while away for a week or two.  This publication shows about when the crop will come in from planting time.  We have a three week trip planned in the fall which will result in giving our produce away during that period.
              TIME YOUR WILLING TO COMMIT – some plants take more effort than others –onions vs. maters.  Many new gardens overdo it the first year and give up by mid-summer.  If you’re a first timer, start small and grow your garden as you know you can keep up with it.

With this you can have your garden end up as you want it and know everything will fit – it doesn’t have to be fancy, but to scale really helps.

And sometimes the best laid plans still result in this after a thunderstorm moved through yesterday – this used to make me so mad, but since it happens every year, I’m used to it.
The corn will try to stand back up and we'll still get a crop, but it will be lessened and its a lot harder to pick.  The onion tops got laid over as well, but they were beginning to anyway, signalling the end of their growth.  We still have some very nice ones - nearly softball size.  The bean trellis needs a little work as well.

In my May 22 post, I discussed new vs. small potatoes with some pics and here are some more.  I dug two plants yesterday and got this variety of sizes and the commercial growers will get the same thing – which they market in different ways, calling the golf ball sized ones new potatoes regardless of their age – sorry about the soil still on them.  The odd one is a Yukon Gold.

While things were growing rapidly, I had to provide most of the water, but now that I’m ready to harvest potatoes, garlic and onions, it rains every day – but given the choice I’ll take the rain vs. the drought.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  Pretty Good Greek Leftovers



  1. Morning Larry,
    That was some thunderstorm you got. It teased us, but that's all.

    We had your green beans for supper the other night and they were the best we've ever tasted. They were so good it makes even lazy old folks like us think about putting in a garden. Notice I said think.
    I've forwarded this to my BIL. I think this might have been your best gardening Thursday yet. Keep 'em coming.

  2. Bummer of a windstorm! My corn is just not going to have enough time this year. I'm just now getting enough sun and warmth to stop covering the okra, peppers and tomatoes at night! Still it's interesting to look back at your posts from your early garden when I have a question. I did use an eggshell heavy compost in the tomatoes.

  3. I just rented a small family garden plot from a local organic farm close to my house. It's already been a live and learn experience. I am mass murdering squash bugs who have become absolutely incredulous. The heat came to quickly and have stunted my tomatoes and beans (sigh).

    I will be looking forward to your garden posts. I am a total novice, and need all the help I can get. Thanks.


  4. LOVE the post... My garden plot terrace is almost ready... a little late for any planning ahead, but next January I will be looking over all of this

  5. Nice looking potatoes. Your garden looks great, too. Glad you get to enjoy most of your harvest!

  6. Larry, great information and resource! Many years ago someone told me, "If you have $1.00, put .90 cents in the soil and the remainder in the plant." Sage advice as you have indicated. Beautiful garden!

  7. The rain is so hit and miss. It's been all "hit" at our place and yours but the Airport in between us record 0.4 inches yesterday?????? Odd, huh?

  8. What a beautiful garden! I wish I had room to have one that impressive! Now if the weather could just start cooperating more often...


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