October 3, 2010 in Features

Time has come to reassess garden goals

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Susan Mulvihill photo

Fall is a perfect time to get those last gardening chores taken care of before winter sets in.
(Full-size photo)

Mark your calendar

 On Thursday, author Amy Stewart will be the guest speaker at the October meeting of The Inland Empire Gardeners of Spokane.

 Stewart will discuss her latest book, “Wicked Plants” (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 236 pages, $18.95), a New York Times best-seller about the plants around us that are deadly, dangerous, illegal, painful or destructive – a perfect topic for the spooky month of October.

 The meeting, which is free and open to the public, begins at 6:30 p.m. at The Luxury Box, 10512 E. Sprague Ave., Spokane Valley.

This was not one of our better years for growing a vegetable garden, was it? Between the slow, chilly start to our spring and the up-and-down temperatures during the summer, it was a challenge to say the least.

Now that you’re putting your garden to bed for the winter, there are several important tasks to be completed:

• Take photos of your garden, especially any areas where you want to make changes or add plants. This way, you’ll remember where everything is while you’re making plans this winter.

• If you don’t have a garden journal, now is an ideal time to start keeping one. A journal is an invaluable tool because it allows us to record what went right and what didn’t. I also list new varieties I want to try or new techniques to experiment with.

• This is the time to do any final harvesting and get those veggie plants pulled up and chopped up for the compost pile.

• If you’re growing garlic to harvest next summer, now is the time to plant. Local garden centers stock several varieties at this time of year.

Choose a bed where you haven’t grown chives, onions or garlic for a few years. Turn over the soil and add organic materials like compost, manure, shredded leaves or peat moss.

Divide the garlic bulbs into individual cloves and plant each one about 3 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. After planting the cloves, cover the bed with several inches of mulch to insulate the plants during the winter. Remove the mulch in early spring and watch them grow.

• Put a layer of compost or composted manure over the tops of your vegetable beds so it can break down over the winter.

In our vegetable garden, the cool-season crops – Swiss chard, carrots, beets, lettuce, peas and onions – did the best due to our cool spring and summer. Starting our onions from seed earlier this year (mid-February) really made a difference as the plants were more vigorous and we ended up with larger bulbs to store.

Our potato crop was a disappointment due to developing a late blight. We are attributing this to either the weather or contaminated seed potatoes.

The warm-season crops like peppers, eggplants, squash and tomatoes got off to a very late start. I believe most gardeners in the Inland Northwest had the same problem so at least we aren’t alone. Seasons like this are a good reminder for all of us to choose short-season varieties whenever we can.

All of our green tomatoes are currently in our basement where they are ripening between sheets of newspaper.

The corn did very well, providing us with plenty of fresh ears both for meals and for freezing.

We grew pole beans on an arbor again this year. This made harvesting a snap but we didn’t end up with quite as large of a yield as last year.

Overall, the garden was a success but I’m already thinking of ways to improve upon it for next year.

Even though this is my final column of the 2010 gardening season, you can always visit my blog at susansinthegarden.blogspot.com for more garden tips and information.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at inthegarden@live.com.


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