Things to do in October for Year-Round Gardening
You’d better hurry! You’re late! It is time (and past time) to plant your fall crops. The trick to a fall harvest is to get the seeds into the ground when it is cool enough for them to germinate, but also to allow enough time for them to grow and mature before the first frost.
How do you pick the right time frame? First, find the date of the first fall frost in your area. In Zone 9, the earliest frost is November 15, and the latest frost date is December 15th. So we will say it is December 1st. The growing window is 46-76 days assuming we start on October 1st.
How do you pick the right vegetables to plant? First, pick the ones you like; then look for plants that grow well in cooler temperatures, such as lettuce, spinach, kale and plants like that.
Now, look at the back of your seed packages. They will have a table telling the average number of days to harvest. This number assumes we are planting in the spring. As an example, look at the Beets seed package. It says 55-60 days to harvest. Since we are planting in the fall, when cooler temperatures mean slower growth, we need to add 7-14 days to that number, making it 69-74 days to harvest.
To find the right time to plant, count backwards 69-74 days from December 1. November has 30 days, October has 31, making 61 days so far. Then count another 8-13 days back into September. You should have planted Beets between September 18 and 23, assuming a killer frost on December 1.
Of course, you can’t assume a killer frost on December 1st. So, there is some leeway on when you have to plant.
The other factor to consider in fall planting is the soil temperature. Seeds won’t germinate above a certain temperature, so the temperature has to be lower than that maximum to germinate. Check out this chart I found on Pinterest, showing the best germination temperatures. Go to RootsNursery.com/When-to-plant-vegetable-seeds/ for the original post and graphic:
With all that in mind, I have a planting chart of the vegetables I am planning for my fall garden. I will plant as soon as possible, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Swiss Chard, Kale, Parsley, Peas. I will plant Beets and Cauliflower by October 15. I will begin planting Lettuce, Radish, and Spinach, but it may be too hot for them. Lastly, I will plant the bulk of the Lettuce, Radish and Spinach by October 31st. I will also plant addition plantings of Lettuce and Spinach each week to stagger the harvest until frost comes. We may be able to have these crops survive until next spring!
Other vegetables that can overwinter for a spring crop are Strawberries, Celery, and Onion. Plant those now so they can get a head start on growing before it turns cold.
If you are not planting in some of your garden beds, prepare them for winter. In my garden, I am only planting three beds. Others still have summer crops. All the rest, I will mulch heavily to cut down weed growth. I use straw. You can also grow a green cover crop, such as red clover or winter rye to fix nitrogen back into the soil. Just remember to cut it down before it flowers and seeds. These cover crops will add nitrogen to the soil, and their cuttings can be left on the top of the ground for mulch, or turned in for compost.
Clean out any dead vegetation, such as Zucchini or Melon stems. Compost it, use it for a mulch, or toss it if it may be harboring pests. You don’t want to start next year with a new crop of insect pests that you allowed to overwinter.
Clean up the rows between your beds. If you do the housework now, it will be easier to start again in the spring.
Finally, look on the internet for 2017 year seed catalogs. Order some print catalogs if you want. Begin deciding what you want to grow now, to be able to order early and plan your spring garden.
So tell me in the comments section, what do you grow in the fall and winter here in Zone 9?