Plan now for next year’s garden
Here we are, already nearing the middle of September. Soon, gardening season will be over and we’ll be seeing the white stuff blanket our yards. During the next week, take a look at your garden and see what herbs you’d like to use over the winter.
You can pot some parsley now and it will be acclimated enough to bring indoors next month. By placing it on a sunny windowsill, you’ll be able to pick parsley most of the winter. (Leave any parsley roots to overwinter. Next spring, new parsley will grow from these roots as the plant starts to go to seed. You’ll be able to harvest early parsley before your new plants will be large enough. Pull the roots just before the plants go to seed.)
You can also pot mint, lemongrass, thyme, rosemary, tarragon and even sage, although sage bushes tend to get rather large. Rosemary, for example, has a wonderful aroma that you can enjoy most of the winter. However, you will need to keep rosemary in a humid area. Tarragon is another herb that likes a little humidity, but does not like to be overwatered.
If you don’t want to bring herb plants indoors, you can cut herbs such as parsley, thyme, rosemary and tarragon, and chop them. Put them into plastic bags and freeze them to use as you need them. Sage, tarragon, oregano, rosemary and other leafy herbs can also be dried in a sunny window and stored in small jars for use later.
The tastiest herb and the hardest to preserve is basil. You can use it to make pesto with pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil, and store in serving-sized plastic bags in the freezer. You can also chop basil and freeze it in ice cube trays for use in soups or over pasta. Lemongrass and other oriental herbs and spices, such as the Thai hot peppers that you grew this year (well, maybe you didn’t), can also be stored in the freezer and used as needed.
One vegetable that should be planted now is garlic. Set single cloves in the ground about six inches apart and about the depth of one clove. Mulch the area with untreated grass clippings or whatever else you use for mulch and wait for spring. The cloves will probably grow about six inches tall before winter. That’s OK. Next spring, as the ground warms, hit the clove bed with some highnitrogen fertilizer (lawn fertilizer is fine, as long as it does not contain pre-emergence weed control or weed killer). By approximately mid to late June next year, you should be able to harvest a pile of fresh garlic.
If you have the time, make a map now with notes of where you grew everything in the garden. Mark out the areas that had potatoes, and don’t plant potatoes or tomatoes (same family) there next season. Don’t plant cabbage and corn in the same area as you did this year; instead, plant peas or beans. By rotating crops, you can keep the health of your soil at a fairly high level and your plants will benefit.
Rather than leave bare soil in your garden, you can start buckwheat, winter rye or vetch to help replace the nutrients that will be lost over the winter. By planting these winter cover crops, you will help to prevent run-off from the garden. Next spring, when you dig them back into the soil, they will provide a nutrient boost to your new plants.