Natural Garden Clean Up: What to Keep, What to Pull

Posted by on Sep 3, 2015 in Grow Better Greens Podcast | Comments Off on Natural Garden Clean Up: What to Keep, What to Pull

In Episode 14, we’re talking natural garden clean up. More specifically, we’re discussing transitioning your Summer garden into a Fall Garden in a way that mimics nature. We’ll also go over Garden Clean-up, and which plants to intentionally keep around. We’ll talk about why you might want to pull certain plants to make room for a whole new crop, while intentionally leaving a few to flower, just so that they can reward you with perfectly-timed greens next spring. And we’ll also remind you of which plants should stay put so that they can fully ripen (and maybe even sweeten) at the hand of cooler temps.

You can listen in here, or download for later:

Natural Garden Clean Up

Do I Still Have Time to Plant a Fall Garden?
Which Plants Should I Pull?
How Do I Clean Up My Garden?
Why Would I Want to Keep Some Plants in, Even if they Don’t Taste Good Anymore?
Fall Gardening Supplies to Have on Hand
Why do You Grow Food?

Do I Still Have Time to Plant a Fall Garden?

Yes! For most of us, there are still plenty of days ahead to grow cool weather plants: beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, cutting celery, and greens galore are all possibilities.

Some of the crops we choose will actually thrive with these cooler temperatures, and with a bit of extra protection they may even allow you to continue your harvests as they lie dormant into the winter months. These include: hearty greens like kale, måche and arugula, as well as carrots, parsnips and some onions.

Other Fall greens and root crops will thrive during the lighter part of the cold weather, but will fade fast at the first site of a hard frost or frozen ground. Radishes,beets and potatoes will all turn mushy while some lettuces, chards, and spinaches will become sad, floppy and discolored.

So, you can choose your varieties depending upon how soon you’ll be facing a cold snap (get out your crystal ball!)and/or how long you’d like for the harvest to continue. We let you know which supplies to have on hand for season extension below.)

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Which Plants Should I Pull?

This is the heartbreaking part. At some point, all gardeners, even those of us with huge hearts and a great love for plants, have to come to terms with our role as the Grim Reaper.

If you’d like to make room for Fall crops or (maybe even a nutritional cover crop to improve your soil), you’ll have to recognize that the shining stars of your garden are fading out whether you like it or not. Cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and eggplants all need sunlight (and warmth) to produce and ripen.

If you don’t pull them now, you can definitely expect to notice that they cannot keep up their former pace. Now’s a great time to make your final harvest – tomatoes and some peppers can be frozen whole in plastic bags for later uses and pickles and relishes can be made (time allowing!)

Drying chile peppers in a dehydrator, as well as creating leaf powders from aging greens and other ‘delicacies’ is another great option for preserving your big haul.

You can also place unripe and underripe produce in a brown paper bag (some folks add a banana to speed things up); I’ve even hung whole plants upside down to get them to ripen indoors.

How Do I Clean Up My Garden?

Remember, in the garden, clean means ‘tidy’ more than ‘sanitize’. However, now’s a great time to take full stock about the overall health of your garden.

All healthy plant material can be composted; you can either add it to your composting system, or you can throw it into any pathways you may have to decompose and rebuild those soils. If you have no plans for the beds until next year, feel free to let them stay put and act as mulch.

Any plants that look like they may be suffering from an unsightly disease (as opposed to being wilted and yellowed from lack of water, being stepped on, or being strangled/crushed by a neighboring plant) should be tossed into garbage bags. This can help to prevent disease from lingering from season to season.

Garden clean up also means collecting hoses and cleaning off structures, so that you’re able to reuse them without much hassle net year. Many hoses, including soaker hoses, won’t recover from the freezing and thawing that can occur over the winter.

This is also a terrific time to take a soil sample!

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Why Would I Want to Keep Some Plants, Even if They Don’t Taste Good Anymore?

There’s a strong argument for not pulling certain plants.

For example, sometimes you want them to reproduce (go to seed) before they leave, so that the next generation will sprout right there in the same spot, just for you. Another reason to keep plants in place is that the cool weather actually helps them to express their very best qualities.

Like Winter squashes, the gourd below won’t be properly ‘cured’ (dried and ready for use) until after their stems die off and turn hard, dry and cork-like. This process occurs after the plant gets the message weather-wise that there’s no more time for making babies – it’s time to grow the ones you’ve got, big and strong!

Allowing lettuce, spinach and other greens to produce seeds, will mean that they’ll be sprinkled all around. Best of all, you can count on them to sprout when the conditions are just right – no judging on your part. My mother-in-law has been doing this for many years with a bed of garlic, as well.

Fall Gardening Supplies to Have on Hand

One of the best tools to have on hand if you’d like to extend the gardening season into Fall is called Floating Row Cover. The lightweight version helps to keep hungry flea beetles and cabbage moths at bay – which is of greater and greater importance as their other sources of food all begin to disappear!

Row cover (also known as garden fabric, remay, and agribon), is put directly on top of your seed beds, as soon as you sow your seeds. You can also drape them over bendable wire hoops to create yourself a tunnel.

Row covers can protect your plants against more than just insects – bunnies, deer, and pet chickens will also be dissuaded!

One thing that lightweight row cover can’t do is to protect your plants from freezing temps as winter approaches. As soon as the first heavy frost sets in, you’ll need to switch over to a thicker fabric, sometimes called Garden Quilt. While this version helps to protect against bitter cold, it does block the 40% of the available light – so there’s no reason to put it on prematurely!

Why Do You Grow Food?

In this section we ask our listeners to share why they are growing food. This week we ask Joel from Georgia why he loves growing food.

Joel won a collection of Liz’s heirloom leafy green seeds, available on Amazon.

Thanks for reading our blog : ) We appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food!