Fall weather in my garden on the Mississippi Gulf Coast starts about a month later than it did in my old garden Northwest of Atlanta. The first frost here should be closer to December 1 than to November 1, which means that my garden has not been completely changed over to all-fall crops. What is left of my summer crops — the ones that haven’t drowned in this year’s overly abundant rain — is still producing, but not spectacularly.
Mostly, right now, my harvests are red — red okra and red roselle. These are both in the mallow/hibiscus family of plants, and they both can produce decent harvests in drought and in flood. There have been several occasions this year when the two roselle plants were standing in a few inches of water, for several days in a row, and they kept on growing.
I’ve harvested enough roselle pods to put two cups of chopped up red seed-pod-coverings (aka: calyxes, the part of the pod we eat) into the freezer for use later in a mock-cranberry sauce. More of the red calyxes are drying in a shallow basket, to use in tea this winter.
Transition from summer to fall
Summertime’s pepper plants, eggplants, a couple of tomato plants, and the wild expanse of sweet potato vines are still taking up space in the garden, but most of the space has been refreshed and replanted with cool-season crops.
One of the first spaces that could be replanted was the area that had been in black-eyed peas. We ended up with a full quart of those summer peas from the 3×6 foot space where they had been growing.
Cool-season crops that I have planted so far include several kinds of chicories (radicchio, escarole, sugar-loaf chicory, and a “wild garden chicory”), lettuce, kale, arugula, collards, beets, many kinds of radishes, carrots, and cilantro.
I started many of the greens in a wooden flat that my Joe made out of old fence boards. Little rows of each kind of seed were marked with a cut-in-half wide craft stick (aka: popsicle stick). The soil is actually a layer of potting mix under a layer of seed-starting mix.
I have some other crops to plant after removing/harvesting the last of the okra, sweet potatoes, and other summer crops. There is a new lettuce to transplant into the garden, and we will want more arugula.
The one 3×3 foot patch of arugula already coming up will not be enough. I plan to plant another 3×3 patch of arugula when there is room. Seeds for the patches of arugula get strewn right into the garden, not started in a flat. Also, I will be planting more carrots and, of course, more radishes. Those also get planted straight into the garden as seeds, but not so wildly strewn as the arugula.
Some minor troubles with cool-season crops
Although the fall-and-winter garden is the easiest and most trouble-free, some problems can arise. To start, there are weeds. They are just different weeds than were growing in the summer garden. More annoying, though, are the pests.
- Slugs and Snails – We have had a tremendous amount of rain this year, more than 90 inches so far, which makes the slug and snail problem totally understandable. I sprinkled out the usual recommended (surprisingly small!) amount of Sluggo, an organic-approved slug and snail bait that is pet-safe and wildlife-safe, which ended the problem.
- Caterpillars – These have attacked my beets. Last year, caterpillars destroyed my Swiss Chard, which is just a different variety of the exact same species of plant as beets. I was more alert to potential trouble this year, and I have been using my organic-approved caterpillar spray, Thuricide, between rains. Maybe this year I will get some beets and the beet greens that taste a lot like Swiss Chard. The kale has also had a few caterpillars, but not such an enthusiastic abundance as on the beets.
- Small mammals – I am guessing that the animal munching on the lettuces is a rabbit, but it could be some other small animal. An animal ate last year’s lettuce, too. I will be covering the lettuce patch later today with some row-cover fabric similar to this one at Amazon.com (mine is so old that I do not remember the brand). The cover does make it harder for animals to reach the plants. Some good news is that the lettuce-eater is not munching on any of the other greens, so I do not need to cover the whole garden.
Something for the pollinators
I collected a couple of seed-heads from a wild Ageratum last fall, from a plant on the side of the road. I planted a few of the seeds in spring, to make sure that the yard would have some flowers this fall. Right now, the mass of purple-blue flowers is being visited by several kinds of butterflies, including Monarchs, some flower-flies like the one approaching the flower cluster above, from the left, some honey bees, small native bees, and a couple kinds of larger native bumblebees. It is pretty glorious. I am feeling lucky that this plan worked out so well.
I hope that things are working out well in your gardens, too!
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