With hints of autumnal chill in the evening air and daylight hours noticeably shorter, we find ourselves harvesting summer’s bounty and beginning to think in terms of preparing for winter. Our plants are also noticing the changes, and many of them are likewise starting to shift into winter-preparation mode. This makes late-summer and fall an excellent time to plant and to fertilize our gardens, as the plants have received the signal to start sending starches down to their roots to strengthen them for winter. Planting now gives the plants enough time, in less stressful conditions, to establish good root systems. And fertilizing with organic fertilizers at this time of year supports root strength so that gardens can emerge better prepared for surviving our roller-coaster weather next spring. Organic fertilizers, such as Yum-Yum Mix, Alpha-One, Alfalfa Meal, and Bradfield’s Lawn & Garden, are available at the Harlequin’s Gardens now. You can apply them to beds that are already planted by broadcasting by hand.
There are a number of ornamental plants whose seed-heads will either remain ornamental or provide food for birds, or both, through fall and even through winter. Included in this group are all the Ornamental Grasses, Coneflowers (Echinacea, Rudbeckia), Mexican Hat (Ratibida), ‘Blue Fortune’ Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Standing Cypress (Gilia/Ipomopsis rubra and aggregata), Goldenrod (Solidago), tall Sedums (Autumn Joy, Matrona, Purple Emperor, etc.), Angelica, Poppy, Peony, Bee-Balm (Monarda), Sea-Lavender (Limonium and Goniolimon), Helen’s Flower (Helenium), Gayfeather (Liatris), Aster, Siberian Iris, Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda), Sunflower (Helianthus), Astilbe, Hydrangea, Bears Breech (Acanthus), Stachys sp., Globe Thistle (Echinops), Penstemon, Foxglove, Crocosmia, Heliopsis, Verbena bonariensis, Clematis, Orach (Atriplex), Milkweed, Lily, Columbine, Delphinium, Balloon flower (Platycodon), Yucca, Grapeleaf Anemone (Anemone tomentosa), Yarrow, and Garlic Chives.
Consider how these can give contrast and structure to your winter garden, and add sculptural elements that can be particularly effective when capped with snow or silhouetted against snow. A few of them can be vigorous self-seeders, so judiciously deadhead the scary ones if you need to, leaving the seed-heads on the plants that will not cause a nuisance in your garden. Most other plants can be deadheaded now, but leaving this year’s growth on your perennials can help keep your perennials a little warmer through the winter. There are a few popular perennials that really should never be cut down until April because to do so will compromise their winter hardiness – these include all of the Agastaches, Gaura, Onosma and Sunroses (Helianthemum). Eve waits and does most of her garden clean-up in early April, only then cutting down the previous year’s stalks. If you are growing roses that form ornamental and/or edible hips (fruits), it’s time to stop deadheading and allow the hips to develop.
Producing fall vegetable starts at the nursery has been a real challenge this year, between the heat, the grasshoppers and the cabbage butterflies. Nevertheless, we succeeded in producing some very fine-looking, healthy plants ready to go out for sale tomorrow (Wednesday August 25), namely:
- De Cicco Broccoli
- Purple Sprouting Broccoli
- Peiracicaba Calabrese-type Broccoli
- Brocoverde (Cauliflower-Broccoli cross)
These will soon be followed by:
- Perpetual Spinach (a type of Swiss Chard)
- Ruby Red Rhubarb Chard
- Lucullus Swiss Chard
- Four Star Swiss Chard
- Winterbor Kale
- Red Russian Kale
- Tuscan (aka Dinosaur, Lacinato) Kale
- Spigariello/Minestra Nero (Leaf-Broccoli)
- Lettuce (Farmer’s Market Blend)
- Fall Broccoli Raab
We are adding the descriptions for the new varieties to the PLANTS/EDIBLES/ VEGETABLE STARTS section of our website, so check there for detailed information.
Note that all of the Brassicas (the vegetables in the Cabbage family – Broccoli, Broccoli Raab, Cauliflower, Mustards, Collards, Kale, Arugula, Pak Choy, Tatsoi) are ‘heavy feeders’, which means that they require nitrogen-rich soil to thrive. So be sure to incorporate into your soil a good organic source of nitrogen, such as organic cottonseed meal, aged composted dairy-cow manure, Alfalfa meal, Alpha-One fertilizer, or Bradfield’s fertilizer. These are all available at Harlequin’s Gardens now.
We think you’ll find it very helpful to protect your fall vegetable starts with some light row-cover fabric, either with tunnels supported by hoops or frames, or as a ‘floating’ row cover. This can give them just a little shade, shield their tender little leaves from the sun and wind, and keep the pests, both critter and insect, at bay. And later, it will give up to 5 degrees of frost protection. You can buy row cover fabric by the linear foot at Harlequin’s from our big roll, which is 12’ wide. We charge $2 per linear foot, so if you bought a piece 3’ x 12’ (enough for a floating cover for a row 10’ long and 2’ wide), the cost would be $6. ‘Loop-Hoops’ are also available for making small tunnels. When temperatures drop later in the fall, you can add a second layer of row-cover or a layer of clear plastic to the crops that need it.
You can also sow seeds now for arugula, spinach, swiss chard, cress, parsley (TIP: pre-soak parsley seeds in water overnight before planting), beets, collards, radish, tatsoi, pak choy, lettuce, cilantro and kale. We have an excellent selection of fall vegetable seeds from Abbondanza and Botanical Interests.
Another great way of growing your own vital, fresh, nutritious food throughout the winter is by growing sprouts. So we’ve just added a NEW CLASS:
‘Sprout your Eats, Eat your Sprouts!’ Sunday Sept.19, 1:30 pm, $10
Harvest fresh greens all year from your kitchen counter – no garden required. Enzyme-rich sprouts are uniquely loaded with nutrition, and are easy for anyone, anywhere, to grow with minimal investment in time, equipment and seeds.
In this class you will learn how to sprout a wide variety of seeds in soil as well as without soil. We will discuss the nutritional and energetic qualities of various sprouted seeds, and how to make some delicious recipes using them.
You will come away with recipes, a how-to guide to sprouting, and a clear understanding of the tools required for this very simple process.
Please pre-register by coming in to Harlequin’s Gardens or calling 303-939-9403.
This class is facilitated by Lindsey Stirling, certified nutritionist, herbalist and energy healer. Lindsey has a private practice in Longmont, where she sees clients and teaches classes to the general public. For more information, please go to www.lindseystirling.com.
Speaking of Vegetables…..
We are launching a new feature called ‘Speaking of Vegetables’ on our website to invite you to report your evaluations of the vegetable varieties you’re growing. Every year we add new varieties to our offerings, and we would love to hear what you think of them. We pre-test as many varieties as possible, but can’t test them all. And there’s not much point in our continuing to offer a tomato variety that nobody likes, an eggplant that never ripens here, or a cucumber that always succumbs to disease. Likewise, we want to make sure we know which varieties are your ‘can’t-live-without-it’ favorites so we will be sure to keep those available. Look on our website at www.HarlequinsGardens.com in Edibles/Vegetable Starts for the simple form to fill out. You can make as many entries as you like.