Winterizing the Garden
It's fall, y'all! In the Inland Northwest, the temperatures are about to dip dramatically. There is still a lot of work to be done in the garden. Now is a great time to take stock of what worked or didn't for you. Did your zucchini grow like mad? Did your peas fail to germinate? Take photos and write yourself a few notes so that you can reflect back next year to make your garden even better.
Tasks that you can work on during the month of October:
Pull out spent plants. I like to clip them at the base to allow the roots to decay in the soil. This aids in water retention through adding organic material into your soil.
Lay compost and mulch on your cleared growing area. The nutrients will seep down into the soil over the winter. Don't clear snow from your growing area; snow has the amazing capability to add water and insulate.
If you would like garlic next summer, plant it at the end of the month. My rule of thumb is to have it in the ground right around Halloween. You might see some green shoots emerge in November, but don't worry. The plant will go dormant and you will have a great crop in the spring. Make sure that you purchase seed garlic from a reputable source. The garlic that is available at the grocery store is often treated with a growth inhibitor and therefore will not sprout. Plant garlic one clove at a time, 6"-8" apart. Bury the cloves with an inch of soil over the top. Cover your planting with a thick layer of mulch. Don't worry about fertilizing or watering; you will fertilize your garlic next year and the fall rains and snow will provide water.
Harvest any remaining fruits, like tomatoes or peppers. After the frosts, these won't be as tasty. My lazy tip is to freeze cherry tomatoes whole and then toss them into things over the winter. A handful in a beef stew in December will be a great reminder of how delicious your garden goodies were in the summer.
Harvest all of your winter squash. Cut the stems and bring them into somewhere warm. I like to irritate my family by sticking them all over the house. The warm air allows them to cure and their skins will harden. Wait a week or two more to allow the sugars to develop if you'd like, but I am not always that patient. You do you!
Just an FYI on winter squash aka the greatest crop of all time- winter squash and pumpkin are completely interchangeable. Have a lot of butternut squash but desperately want a pumpkin pie? Make a butternut pie! It will be equally as delicious and no one eating it will be the wiser.