Clyde Hanson is having fun growing a very successful fall vegetable garden. Fall vegetable gardens have the potential of being the most productive and easiest you’ll grow in this valley.
Hanson said the weather is working for him as it cools down rather than increasing as it does with spring gardening. “I seldom have any bug issues. Use less water. It’s easier to keep the weeds under control and the produce is superb.”
Soil preparation is the big reason why Hanson is so successful.
“We used to live out in Henderson and tried to improve the soil but failed every time. We moved to the northwest side of town. Instead of fighting with the soil at our new home, we built raised beds and had success ever since,” he says.
Hanson has a larger than normal backyard so he lined it with raised beds. He built a three-lay block wall bed 5 feet out from his cinderblock wall. The 2-foot high wall allows him to sit while working his beds.
Hanson filled his beds with a commercially prepared garden soil from ViraGrow, which used to be Gro-Well. It comes with all the proper nutrients and microorganisms, which guarantees him a successful garden every year.
Composting is another big reason for Hanson’s gardening success. He collects and gathers all the green waste in his and his friends’ yards and composts it in his compost barrel. To speed up the composting process, he turns it daily.
“It takes six weeks for the composter to digest the plant material into humus and I add it to the garden regularly,” he says.
Sal Ramirez, manager of ViraGrow, says: “We are finding the intense heat kills the beneficial microorganisms in these commercially prepared soils. Gardeners need to refresh these commercially prepared organic soils and add a light application of manure often to reintroduce these microorganisms back into the soil.” Hanson does this by mixing horse manure along with his compost into his beds.
Hanson drains compost tea from his composter. “I set a five-gallon bucket under my composter to catch this tea and spray it on my vegetables. I never use any commercial fertilizers.” And his vegetables look great.
Hanson planted his favorite cool-season vegetables: cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Just a month ago he planted onions, kohlrabi, carrots and radishes for his spring garden.
Hanson started his winter garden by purchasing transplanted cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower in September. He sows his other cool-season vegetables directly into the ground.
This gardener plants his fall corn crop in late July and harvests it in late October. He finds fall planted corn is much sweeter than his spring corn.
“We have the weather working to enhance the corn’s sweetness,” he says. “The corn tasseled as temperatures cooled so every ear was full of tasty kernels.”
It is getting time to harvest his vegetables. This writer peeked through the foliage and found cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower heads sizing up. He planted a self-blanching (little leaves cover the head to protect it from the sun) cauliflower.
The broccoli and cauliflower heads are still maturing. “I begin harvesting just before the immature flowers begin opening. That’s when they are the tastiest,” he says as he smiles in anticipation of his upcoming harvest. If the immature flowers open too far, the quality goes down.
Cabbage and cauliflower only produce one head while broccoli produces a head with many side shoots to follow. When these side shoots start producing, it is hard to keep them harvested before they go to seed.
Hanson uses spaghetti tubes to irrigate his vegetables. He places tubes at the base of each plant so water goes directly to the roots. Hanson likes to feel the soil to determine his next irrigation. He keeps it moist to the touch.
Hanson is in his garden every day snooping around for weeds and insects. He wants to get rid of them before they establish a beachhead. He’s always inspecting new growing tissue where aphids generally get started. If he does have an outbreak, he uses an organic product called pyrethrum produced from chrysanthemums for control.
Finally, the greatest joy of having his own garden is giving his produce to his family and friends, especially his neighbors across the street.
Linn Mills’ garden column appears on Sundays. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 526-1495.