THE END OF THE SUMMER GARDEN 

We finally tackled our post deer’pocalypse fall garden cleanup. It was a little disheartening, but a dedicated gardening addict never quits. We must forge on!

The neighborhood doe and her annual twins were more aggressive than usual this year. They busted through our expanded perimeter fences like they were nothing. They ate pretty much everything we put in for the cool season garden …so far …again. This time, it was deer. Last time, rogue chickens.

We will try again next year. It will be our fourth attempt at a year-round garden.

Each time, if it isn’t tasty, homegrown, organic produce we harvest, at least we gain wisdom. Learning from our mistakes and trying again. We will reassess, restrategize, and tackle it again next growing season. In the meantime, we will be working on more a secure deer fence.

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THE FINAL SUMMER HARVEST

This is what we scooped up from what the deer left behind…

  • Brussels sprouts – finally, we get our own homegrown roasted sprouts for this year’s Thanksgiving! So happy they didn’t get all of these!
  • Winter squash – delicata and table king acorns produced well for us this year. We got some buttercup, but not many.
  • Tomatoes – more tomatoes from the greenhouse, they aren’t finished yet.
  • Cucumbers – tasty jade has performed well for us for the last 3 years. It does well in or out of the greenhouse. Pepinex was a new variety that we will be growing again.
  • Peppers – King of the North and the cayenne peppers did well for us again this year and both still have peppers on the bush. The rest of the peppers produced this year, but not as well as in the past. I would have expected them to go bonkers with all the heat we had.
  • Tomatillos – We got some tomatillos, but not nearly as many as last year. We didn’t cloche the plants as long this year because of the atypical heat and I think they missed the humidity.
  • Carrots – this is a crop I am not sure if I am going to bother with in the future. Organic carrots are cheap at the market.
  • Beets – red ace. Still trying to figure out why my beets just don’t seem to thrive in this garden.
  • One stray Walla Walla sweet that we missed earlier this year. That sure held in the ground for quite a while!
  • and one giant (overlooked) zucchini 

FALL GARDEN CLEANUP … HOW WE DO IT

We pulled or cut back everything that was finished for the year, or that the deer had munched to ugliness. We toss all this over the fence into the ‘compost factory’, a.k.a. the chicken yard. The girls love picking this stuff over for anything they find tasty. The rest gets scratched in with their bedding and manure and this becomes our compost pile twice a year. I love this system. I love chickens!

Some things we chop and drop in place, such as any bracken fern we come across. Did you know bracken fern is a dynamic accumulator? Its roots mine deep for nutrients, potash in this case. Then when the plant matter decays on the soil surface, it releases the nutrient where other plants can get at it more easily.

LEFT TO DO IN THE SEPTEMBER GARDEN

Cover Up the Soil

It is important that we protect our valuable garden soil from the pounding PNW rains that are coming. Plus, we all know that if we leave soil bare, we are just asking for weeds. Make sure all bare soil is either mulched or seeded with a new crop.

Watch for Volunteers

Keep an eye out around the homestead for volunteer seedlings that you recognize. Protect them! These are the freebies that a gardener gets when she lets crazy stuff like chicory (and anything else that is allowed space long enough) go to seed. These can tend to be some of the most robust plants in your garden if you protect them and let them grow. And around here, many of these will overwinter and give a jumpstart on next year’s garden. I get lettuce, kale, arugula, cilantro, and more this way.

Chicken Compost

The pile we put together from the chicken yard a few weeks ago didn’t have any trouble heating up. We turned it at least once and it has long since cooled. It should be ready to use now or keep it covered until next year. I am still learning to garden with chickens. Should I apply the manure to the beds this fall or wait until spring?

Divide or Move Perennials

It is getting to be the time of year when we can start dividing clumps of perennials, or simply moving them to other areas of the garden. I try to get this done between the time the fall rains start and when it starts getting really cold around Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to give these new transplants some of that nice chicken compost!

As for this year’s fall/winter garden…

There will be no brassicas, beets, carrots or parsnips. But I can’t quit yet! Call me a sucker for punishment, but I just can’t help planting the seeds if there is a possibility they might grow! We have endured a winter with store-bought greens. It was rough… in more ways than one. When you have become accustomed to the homegrown stuff it is so hard to go back. I am just going to have brave the deer, mend some fence, and keep going…

To SOW this month

  • Greens. We still have time to sow greens which I will be getting to asap. Some will go in open beds and some under cover.
    • lettuce
    • spinach
    • arugula
    • fall/winter salad mixes
    • kale maybe?
    • beets maybe? (only for the greens)
  • Garlic.  I still need to decide where to plant this year’s garlic and set aside the biggest heads of this year’s harvest to plant by October.
  • Cover Crops. The rest of the garden will be going to cover crops (or mulch) to rest until spring when it all starts again.

What’s going on in your garden this month? Do you garden with chickens? How do you use your compost? What are some of your gardening challenges and successes?

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