My October gardening tips focus on planting and caring for perennial and overwintering crops.
Perennial crops are those that grow year after year with one planting. Overwintering crops are planted in the fall and are harvested late-spring and early-summer. These crops are less labor intensive and more bug resistant than the annual vegetable crops that commonly populate the kitchen garden.
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 in October and November for a June-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!
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October Gardening Tips: Perennial Crops
As mentioned above, perennial crops are those fruits and vegetables that are planted once and return year after year. Perennial fruits and vegetables can be ornamental and are always tasty. The landscaping in front of our porch is adorned with rhubarb ‘shrubbery’ and strawberry groundcover. Beautiful, tasty, and fun!
Perennial Crops: Raspberries and Blackberries
For existing berry beds, be sure to 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.
To start a berry patch, you’ll need to use the winter months to do your research and plant in the spring. Plant the berries in a raised bed with rich, well-drained soil after the threat of frost has passed. You’ll want to trellis the plants as they grow. Do not cut back the canes of new berry plants until the second fall to let the roots get established.
Perennial Crops: Strawberries
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.
Perennial Crops: Asparagus
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 as our current one has withered over time.
Asparagus is one of those vegetables I love to show visitors. The stalks that we eat in the spring grow very tall and grassy once the harvest stops. This is new information to many people. They look at the asparagus bed in wonder.
Perennial Crop: Horseradish
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. Remember, when harvesting, to leave enough root to keep the plant well established.
Did you know that horseradish leaves can help your fermented pickled stay crunchy? The level of tanins in the leaves is what does the trick!
Perennial Herbs in your October Garden
Mint, oregano, sage, thyme, lovage are a few popular and tasty perennial herbs in the kitchen garden. These and many other herbs don’t need much more than a good weeding and mulching in October. Woody herbs like sage may benefit from being cut back after the first frost. Be sure to dry the clippings for your Thanksgiving recipes!
Well be harvesting and drying herbs this week. I seem to never grow enough no matter how much I expand the herb garden.
Perennial Crops: Rhubarb
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, too. The basic recipe is in the FREE 5-Day Food Preservation Bootcamp (Click to join. You’ll be glad you did!). 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, shrub, bitters, or tarts!
Overwintering Crops in the October Garden
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.
Plant these over-wintering crops in a raised bed with rich, well-drained soil. Once you see the srpout of the plants, cover with leaf mulch for the winter. This will keep moisture in and weeds out and make your spring garden that much easier to manage.
Did you know that plants in the Allium family, like the ones mentioned above, are great at keep pests out of your garden? Read more here!
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 time we’ll have come spring.
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