Originally Posted on October 26, 2013
"Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening." ― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
Greetings Farmers and Gardeners,
Welcome to the Valley Oak Tool Company gardening tips newsletter for late October.
We planted our garlic in the trial garden at Valley Oak Tool Co. headquarters. Kyle and Carla went about pulling out the tomato plants on one half of the garden. The other half remains in rows of staked tomatoes. David did a quick assessment to see if the soil needed broadforking (it didn't — it was not compacted). If the soil were compacted, we would have used the broadfork to deeply cultivate it.
Instead we got out the wheel hoe with the three-tine cultivator attachment and did a few quick passes to loosen the soil for easier planting. Then we attached the furrower to the wheel hoe and made our furrowed rows (about 15" apart) for the garlic, the cloves of which we planted approximately five inches apart. After the cloves were covered and firmed into the soil, Carla applied a light mulch over the entire planted area. We are already looking forward to the garlic harvest next summer.
Rosemary is an easy plant to propagate. It is a member of the mint family, and many gardeners know how tenacious mint can be in a garden. Rosemary plants make a lovely gift for friends and relatives, especially during the winter months, and now is a good time to get some sprouted for later potting on and giving as presents. In our mild climate, we have had success with rooting 12" sections of rosemary, and stripping the bottom half of leaves, then just putting them in the ground.
We also like to take shorter cuttings of three to four inch sections, and putting them in decorative glasses with water, also stripping the leaves off the bottom half. After a week or two, roots will appear from the stems in the water, and once that occurs, the rooted cuttings can be planted into pots for growing. New leaf growth will eventually push out, and the little plants will be well rooted in time for gift-giving season.
Fall Clean-up and Composting
The autumn days are ever-shorter with longer, cooler nights setting in. Leaves are still falling from the trees and summer crops are winding down or are finished. Now is a good time to assess the garden and make plans for next year. It is also a good time to clean up crop residue for composting. We've just harvested the last of our winter squash and the vines are a tangle in the garden. We had some squash bugs on our vines during the summer so we'll be sure to plan rotating squash to a new spot next year.
We will want to make sure our vines will go through a hot compost pile. We'll mix them in with tomato vines, coffee grounds, fallen leaves, sunflower stalks (cut-up), and some litter from the chicken coop, to build a nice pile that will heat up. We'll make sure our pile is at a minimum 3ft x 3ft to get a critical mass that will be able to retain the heat. Hot compost piles should reach temperatures in the 145ºF – 160ºF range to destroy insect eggs and weed seeds.
As the materials in the pile combine, and the temperatures build, we'll turn the pile with a pitchfork and let it heat up again, repeating the process until all the parts have been heated. If the pile is dry, we'll add water to get a moist but not wet feeling to the materials. When it is finished we'll have a rich, crumbly compost to add to our beds in the spring.
What We're Reading
Decades of farming experience, and visits to traditional French farms, have made Eliot Coleman an authority on organic farming methods. In The Winter Harvest Handbook, Coleman gives extensive information on techniques he's developed to obtain harvests of fresh, organic vegetables during the winter on his Maine farm. Using unheated greenhouses and row covers, Coleman reveals how he extends the season for both warm and cool season vegetables.
The book also covers important topics on greenhouse design, planting and harvest schedules, sunlight, soil preparation, pests, and much more. The chapter on marketing will be especially useful to farmers growing for the farm stand and restaurant markets. Home gardeners will also find the book to be a great resource.