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These October gardening tips focus on perennial and overwintering crops. Perennial crops are those that grow year after year with one planting. You can install many perennial crops in October. Existing ones will need compost and mulching to get the most from their winter slumber. Plant overwintering crops now for a July harvest. Think berry and asparagus patches, neat rows of garlic and shallots, rhubarb and horseradish beds. At Stony Ridge Farm, we are dedicating more of our growing area to these crops. It’s a more sustainable approach to the market garden given the fact that Bob and I aren’t getting any younger!
October Gardening Tips
As mentioned above, perennial crops are those fruits and vegetables that are planted once and return year after year. Perennial fruits and vegetables are often ornamental and always tasty. The landscaping in front of our porch is adorned with rhubarb ‘shrubbery’ and strawberry groundcover. Beautiful, tasty, and fun! Here is a short list of easy-to-grow edible perennials and their care. For a more detailed exploration of this kind of gardening, I recommend two books: Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles and Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition.
Raspberries and Blackberries
Trim raspberry and blackberry canes that are at least 2 years old each fall. We cut ours back to about 4 inches above the soil line. Then, we add organic compost to the soil and mulch to keep the weeds down. Add establishing a bed of raspberries or blackberries to your May to-do list.
Thin and weed your strawberry patch each fall. If you thin your strawberries in October you can use the runners to establish a new bed. You can also use them to fill in bald patches in your existing beds. I have found that strawberries are remarkably resilient. I fertilize my strawberries in the spring.
Weed and nourish your asparagus bed each fall. After weeding we add organic compost to the established asparagus bed. Install a new bed of asparagus in the spring. Yes, it really does take 3 years for the first harvest. This allows time for the roots to get well established. We’ll be creating a new bed in the spring.
Harvest horseradish in the fall. Grate and ferment the root to enjoy its hot-tangy flavor throughout the year to come. Weed, add compost and a thin layer of mulch to the patch after your harvest. Remeber, when harvesting, to leave enough root to keep the plant well established.
Lovage, sorrel, sage, oregano, and thyme
These and many other herbs don’t need much more than a good weeding and mulching. Well be harvesting and drying herbs this week. I seem to never grow enough no matter how much I expand the herb garden.
You can get a second harvest of rhubarb if there’s been enough rain in late-summer and early fall. Here’s a recipe for rhubarb shrub. We’ll be making rhubarb bitters this month. Please check back for the recipe. If you are short on time, simply chop up the rhubarb and throw into a ziplock bag to freeze until you have time to make a pie!
Plant garlic, shallots, and walking onions after the first frost. They will slowly grow throughout the winter months and jump into full growth in the early spring. The shallots and garlic will be ready for harvest around the 4th of July. Harvest the walking onions anytime after they begin looking like a scallion. I was surprised to see that it is not too late to order seed garlic. Here is the garlic and shallot planting guide from Seed Savers Exchange.
Not into perennial or overwintering crops? This September task list will keep you busy until the ground freezes over. Putting the garden to bed is a never-ending task list. The more time we put in now, the easier our spring.