October in the Garden

Fall in the Pacific Northwest

I’ve been feeling a bit like a squirrel or a mouse lately, the way I’ve been hoarding things for fall and winter. Namely, newspapers, cardboard, leaves, grass clippings, etc., etc. for mulching and expanding the veggie plot — not to mention for creating compost as well!

I’m determined to have a mostly weed-free garden next year by using the wood chip method popularized by the sustainable gardening film “Back to Eden.” I’m not a religious person by any means, but I was able to overlook most of the religious aspects of the documentary in favor of gaining a lot of useful information about more sustainable, organic gardening practices. I borrowed a copy of the film from our library, but I believe it’s also available to watch on YouTube, if you’re interested in checking it out.

I’ve also found inspiration from the One Yard Revolution YouTube channel (Patrick offers loads of great frugal gardening advice, and his cat Oscar is adorable!) and the book Edible Landscaping, which shows you how to transform your available growing space with a permaculture approach.

So, over the last few weeks, I’ve been slowly putting into practice what I’ve learned as I prep the veggie plot for winter — first applying a layer of cardboard, then grass clippings, then autumn leaves, then a layer of newspaper, and finally the wood chips. Building soil is hard work! I’ve only managed one large section so far, but I’m aiming to have the whole veggie plot mulched by early November.

It’s a bit of a mess at the moment, but I’m getting there. All that paper sticking out will soon be covered up.

As you can see, there’s not much left in the garden other than the tomatoes, a few pumpkins, the cosmos, gladiolus, and the dahlias. I have a small bank off to the right where some beets are growing as a bit of an experiment, so we’ll see what happens there! On our porch, I have a container with radishes and spinach growing, and in another planter I have kale that is doing really well.

The dahlias, naturally, are still going strong. They much prefer the 70-degree weather we’ve been having lately to the summer’s 90-degree days. My first-year cafe au lait dahlia finally has buds on it, and I’m crossing my fingers I’ll get a few blooms before the frost. Next year the tubers should be bigger and put out much more growth.

One out of 20-something dahlia plants currently growing in the garden

In other garden-related news, Jordan and I built a compost corral (inspired by a Geobin expandable compost bin) last weekend with some leftover hog-wire fencing I found tucked behind our shed. Hardware cloth probably would have been a better choice, but this is what we had on hand, and it cost us nothing to make. Leaves, grass clippings, pinecones, garden waste, etc. will all go into it this fall and will hopefully heat up nicely and decompose over the winter, providing us with some great compost for our raised beds come early summer.

I also recently ordered some persimmon and quince trees that I’ll be planting out in a few days. There are three quince (Angers, Provence, and Le Page) and three persimmon trees (one Japanese Fuyu and two American). They’re all little fellas right now, but I’m hoping in a few years we’ll get a handful of fruit!

Two little American persimmon trees

And last but not least, I picked up some conkers from a horse chestnut tree outside of Cle Elum last weekend. My mom said she grew some trees for my grandpa from conkers years ago, and I love a challenge (also free plants), so I’m going to give it a go. Though they sure do look pretty just sitting in a bowl or a vase as decor, don’t you think?

My fall to-do-in-the-garden list seems to have dwindled now to just a few tasks, and I’ve been finding myself restless in the evenings, not sure what to do with all my newfound time. What sorts of activities do you enjoy when the growing season comes to a close? I expect I’ll be doing quite a lot of baking and knitting…