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Enrich vegetable garden soils by incorporating compost now or by planting a cover crop, such as this winter rye, which will be turned under in spring two weeks prior to planting crops.
Remove the remnants of vegetable crops as soon as they have succumbed and then incorporate compost into the soil. It’s never too early to start working on next year’s garden. Working organic matter into garden soil this fall is a great way to get a head start. As an alternative to the compost or as an additional step, plant winter rye in the vacant areas of the garden. This hardy cover crop will survive the winter and then put on some growth in spring before being turned under about two weeks prior to any planting of vegetable crops.
Don’t pull up plants of Brussels sprouts. Despite the cooler weather, the sprouts will continue to develop, and in fact they taste best after exposure to cold weather. Break off the large lower sprouts as needed but leave the others to continue their development. Also, break off the lower leaves on the stems but not the leafy top portion of the stem.
Harvest the large lower sprouts of Brussels sprouts but leave the plants intact as they will continue to develop the remaining sprouts even in cold weather.
Get a bale of straw or set aside some leaves raked from lawns. Use the leaves or straw to mulch root crops, including beets, carrots, kohlrabi, rutabagas, and turnips. Apply the mulch over these crops before the ground freezes. The idea is to keep the ground from freezing so that these vegetables can be harvested well into winter. Imagine what a treat it will be to have freshly harvested carrots and turnips as ornaments on the Christmas tree…..or preferably on the dinner table at Christmas.
Dig up a small clump of chives, pot it up, and grow the chives on a sunny windowsill or under bright fluorescent lights. Chives grow well indoors and will make a tasty addition to salad dressings, baked potatoes, and egg dishes this winter.
Snip off the browned seed heads of annual flowers such as bachelor’s buttons, calendula, cosmos, marigold, nasturtium, snapdragon, and sunflower. Dry the collected seed in an airy, dark location for about a week and then store each type of seed in a sandwich bag. As an alternative, I often just leave the mature annuals in place and let the seeds drop to the ground. Most will germinate next spring at which time they can be left to grow where they are or the seedlings can be dug and moved to the desired location. Put that last option in the category of Lazy Person Gardening.
The dried seed head next to this blossom of calendula may be snipped off and the seeds saved for planting next spring.
I’m a glutton when it comes to spring flowering bulbs. I can’t seem to get enough of them. Fortunately, there are still some left to buy at the local garden center, though the choices are now pretty limited. It doesn’t matter; I’ll take what I can get because bulb planting can continue up to the time that the ground freezes. The only problem I might have is finding more garden space for the bulbs. If that does become a problem, the remaining bulbs may be potted up for forcing indoors this winter. However, except for bulbs of tropical origin, e.g. amaryllis, the potted bulbs must be chilled at temperatures no higher than 40°F for a period of about 12 weeks. Finding a spot in the house, other than the refrigerator, at those temperatures can be difficult. Another option is to sink the pots into ground (up to the lip of each pot) in a vacant area of the vegetable garden. Once the ground begins to freeze, the pots should be covered with a deep layer of straw. Placing wire screen over the pots will keep rodents from getting at the bulbs. In late winter, the pots can be pulled up and brought indoors to flower or set around the yard or patio for display. If I choose the latter option, I’ll plant the bulbs in plastic pots since clay pots may crack with exposure to freezing temperatures. The plastic pots can be set in more decorative containers when the bulbs are displayed in spring.
My daughter, Jennifer, planting spring flowering bulbs. As long as space is available, keep planting bulbs in the landscape. Otherwise, pot up some for forcing into bloom indoors this winter.
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