Tag Archives: fall gardening

Plant now for cool weather delight

Reaping Cool-Weather Rewards
Mississippi,  along with the rest of the South, is blessed with a long growing
season, and now is the time to plant a fall garden so that you can enjoy  fresh,
leafy organic vegetables often until Christmas.
Good  fall plants include mustard greens, spinach, turnips, beets, broccoli,
cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, kale, various lettuces, radishes  and
onions.
You  don’t have to overdo it. Even a small “Jim’s Plot,” only 4 feet by 8
feet, can provide lots and lots of salads. (In fact, you might consider
building a few of them for elderly family members or friends so that  they can
harvest some fresh food, too.)
It’s  hot now, but as temperatures cool, these greens will take off. Some
thrive in colder weather. Many swear that collards taste better after a  frost,
for example; the purplish hue that the leaves take on is a mark  of distinction.
Some  plants—such as radicchio—survive when temperatures drop into the teens,
along with some beets. Their leaves grow back and are delicious as  greens.
If  you already have a Jim’s Plot, just turn under the existing vegetation  for
“green manure,” allowing the plants to decompose in the soil. Add  compost to
return fertility to the soil lost from harvesting crops. You  can also apply
liquid fertilizers in spots to the started plants to give  them a boost. (Use
organic fertilizers only; synthetic fertilizers can  kill earthworms and
microorganisms in the soil.)
If  you are just starting out, you can buy topsoil at some of the local  yard
and garden stores in bulk. Better yet, find a tree-covered spot  behind a garage
or next to a fence where leaves have fallen and  decomposed over the years
leaving the soil nice and loamy. Then find a  sunny spot with southern exposure.
Put down newspapers or cardboard to  keep weeds out of your garden, and cover
with the soil. Start a compost  pile with vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and
eggshells—no meat! Use  the compost to keep your soil fertile.
How  late can you plant? For a general guideline, count backward from first
frost. Here in central Mississippi, we usually have first frost around  Nov. 1,
and the first killing frost Dec. 1. So, you can expect 60 to 90  days of growing
if you plant now.
That’s  not a hard-and-fast rule. Frost can come early. I remember one October
when the weather turned bitterly cold. Or, like last year, we could have  a warm
winter where the problem was keeping the plants from bolting  (going to seed)
rather than dying from frost.
Plant  now to have wholesome, organic produce later. There’s nothing better on
a cold winter day than steaming cooked greens with cheese, onions,  garlic and
hot sauce.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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Use Agribon or old sheets to protect against frost

Oct. 21, 2011
Agribon protects against frost, but old sheets work, too
This patchy frost came about a week before normal, but it sends something of a hint of things to come as winter approaches.
Regarding frost: We use Agribon to cover our plants. It comes in different thicknesses for ever greater frost protection, down to about 28 degrees.
You can order it from any of a number of commercial suppliers, such as Grower’s Supply, or Pleasant Valley (www.groworganic. com). A 50-foot by 83-inch roll costs about $19.95.
A cheaper route is to use old bed sheets or a light blanket, just enough to keep the frost off tender shoots.
A lot of folks seem to have put off planting until almost too late.
With first frost, you’ll have to shift gears a little.
Reader response: “I enjoy your column and common-sense articles. Where can I find a Jim’s Plot kit? I am 83 years old so probably can’t actually construct one, but if I can find the kit perhaps someone can put it together. I would very much like to grow my own salad makings again.”
And: “I hear talk about a Jim’s Plot all the time and would like to try one. Where can I find info on how to build it and how to get it started? I thought now would be a good time to start one for spring.”
Actually, you can buy a kit for raised bed gardening, using recycled materials.
Here’s one online for $129.95: http://eartheasy.com/composite-raised-garden-bed-4-x-8.
I’m sure there are others available online, or by ordering through your local garden store.
What I recommend is outlining a 4-by-8 area and enclosing it in nontoxic materials; either synthetic lumber that’s purchased, including from recycled plastics and rubber, or from materials you have at hand like concrete blocks, tin or other materials.
Regarding landscape timbers: Studies by Texas A&M Agricultural Extension Service showed insignificant contamination of soil from pressure-treated lumber using chromated copper arsenate or ammoniacal copper arsenate as a preservative, and it has no proven effect on plant growth or food safety. But, it’s your call.
You could simply mound up the soil as a natural boundary, or use cedar or redwood lumber.
If you are not comfortable or able to dig, you might suggest to members of your church or a local civic organization that young folk be enlisted to build these types of growing plots for elders as a community service.
In the plot, you can put either bagged soil – Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Garden Soil is widely available at garden stores and is OMRI approved for certified organic use – or dig from areas of the yard where leaves may have accumulated over the years to provide loamy soil. Start keeping a compost bin to add to
periodically and build up the soil.
Leafy greens
It’s a bit late to be planting now, but you can still scatter some collard, mustard green and turnip seeds, and if the weather plays right, you could have some leafy greens to eat up until a hard frost, and some might bounce back if the winter is mild.
Started store-bought cabbages and bok choi can survive frosts pretty well, too; check local garden stores. Collards actually sweeten after a frost.
Generally, the first hard frost is about Dec. 1. If temps stay warm, it takes about three weeks for greens to get past the leaf division stage and another three weeks for maturity. So, there’s a general parameter for your garden.
However, since we often have warm winters, the growing season sometimes can be extended, without extraordinary efforts, such as using cold frames.
If building one now for use in the spring, just put down cardboard or layers of old newspapers (to block weeds) and put leaves that are falling from trees in it and cover it with black plastic over the winter. When you uncover it in the spring, voila! It should be decomposed enough to mix with compost you have saved
also to provide a rich, dark, loamy growing medium ready to plant.Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.