It is almost Thanksgiving and this time of year I start thinking about spring.
We have been fortunate not to have any frost yet, some of us may even have fresh basil to put on the table this year, amazing.
Fall is the perfect time to plant spring crops like arugula, garlic, leeks and potatoes. It is also an excellent time to plant spring bulbs. What a good way to take advantage of a warm, sunny afternoon.
I am sure that you have noticed that your tomatoes are not really doing much. Don’t worry. Nows the time to rip them out of the ground, cut them up, and put them in the compost pile. Its also a good time to take the annual flowering plants and old chrysanthemums out of the containers that they are in.
Dump the old potting soil from the containers into your compost pile and clean out the pots with a stiff pot brush and a mild soap like Dr.Bronners, rinse well. Garden trug tubs really come in handy for this. (Yes we sell these at the shop) When you refill the pots, use a high-quality soil blend. You can make your own by using 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, 1/3 course vermiculite and a handful of sand; or buy a pre-mixed organic potting soil, don’t use garden soil, its way too heavy and your bulbs will rot. Mix in with some bone meal and a couple of handfuls of compost. If you want to be thrifty, take your old potting soil, remove any plant material and mix it with 1/4 compost, and 1/4 peatmoss, this will help to refresh it.
You can put a lot of bulbs in a container, the rule of thumb is to plant them 3x deeper than the height. The easiest way is to put the soil in first, put in your largest bulbs, add some soil, and put the smaller bulbs in at the right height. Make sure that you put some broken pieces of pottery in the bottom of your container for drainage. Use a selection that will flower at different times so you have an abundance of spring flowers.
Bulb spacing and Depth, see how yummy they look?
A note about bulbs. Not all bulbs are the same and it is worth it to buy a good quality bulb from a reputable location. Carefully examine each one and if you notice mold or that they are wrinkled, toss them, don’t plant them. A good rule of thumb is to only plant a bulb that looks yummy enough to eat. Often box stores will get bulbs in way too early and they get hot and develop mold. The ginormous bag of bulbs may not be such a bargain when you see that most are unusable.
I like to tuck some pansies in on top of the bulbs because they will last well past the last frost date. This year there was a shortage of pansies so they are a little hard to find.
Pansies and wild hyacinth
Something else that is fun to do is to sprinkle some mescaline seed or mustard seed on top and cover it with a layer of compost. I always forget about it and then suddenly, I have tasty leaves to nibble on while I am admiring my flowers.
You can use a variety of containers and found items to plant bulbs, just make sure that they are big enough to insulate the bulb with enough soil to keep them from freezing, a few inches should be fine. You can also try covering your containers with some hay or a tarp when it is super cold outside and remove them in March.
Wooden Box with Hula girl and muscari
Chafing Dish with Wind Flowers
There are many, many things that you can plant now and will be ready in the spring for harvest, its actually much, much easier to plant in the fall because once you pull out the old plants like tomatoes and peppers, all you need to do is rake the soil, add a layer of compost and mix in. Place your seed (not sprinkle), in depressions made with your thumb and put 1-2 seeds in each space (ignore most of the directions on the packet). Spacing should be about half as wide as a mature plant. Then and sprinkle (ok now you can sprinkle) some compost on top of the seed. You may think, holy cow, I have a lot of seed left, save it in a zip lock baggy in a cool place, trade it with your friends, or plant it somewhere else. Mark where you planted your seeds carefully, you will forget what and where you planted everything. It also helps to plant in neat rows or patterns, so that you don’t have to combat overcrowding and thinning your plants and you can easily tell what is a weed vs a seed.
You can also tuck in some early spring bulbs like crocus underneath your seed so you have something pretty to look at while you are waiting for your lettuce and the flowers also serve as a marker telling you where your other seeds are planted.
Here is a list of things to plant now from seed:
Parsnips (MUST BE PLANTED NOW)
Chives (from seed)
Onions (from seed)
Vegetables like onions, garlic, and leeks take a little longer. I like to plant them with roses and other perennials. They help to deter aphids and the foliage looks pretty around the garden. You can also plant them in between your lettuce and carrot rows or even create a checkerboard pattern. Remember that lettuce when growing takes up an area the size of your fists put together and onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks take up an area the size of your fist or smaller. You can really get creative with planting and make a lot of interesting patterns and combinations.
Garlic especially tastes better when planted in the fall. These you can plant the same as bulbs, 3x deep with bone meal and compost added to the soil. Make sure that your soil has been loosened and is light and fluffy so that you have good drainage. Leaf mold (partially composted leaves) is a great thing to add to the bed you are planting in and is particularly abundant this time of year, isn’t mother nature grand?
You can buy “seed” on line, or pickup some organic garlic at the farmers market, break apart the cloves and plant them about a hand’s width apart. Onions can be planted from “sets” which are little bulbs or seed and leeks should be planted from seed. You can also experiment with shallots or elephant garlic from the supermarket. I have picked up some that have started to sprout or taken old ones out of my kitchen that have started to sprout and have had pretty good results planting them. Try to stick with organic bulbs as they probably wouldn’t have been treated with anything that would retard growth.
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Good luck planting!