2011-08-18 / News

Irrigating Your Garden

The Island Garden

I know what our family will be having for Thanksgiving, besides the turkey that is.

There will be creamed corn made with the two to three gallons of frozen shucked corn that came from the garden; potatoes from the garden, since the long-season russet types should be ready by then; carrots, parsnip and turnips, probably julienned and sautéed together in a little butter; and creamed onions and greens from the greenhouse that were planted last weekend.

There will also be squash pies made with butternut squash or pumpkin, apple, blackberry and blueberry pies, and maybe a gooseberry pie as well. All in all it will be a feast to remember and almost all of it will have come from the garden.

As you can see, the last few weeks in the garden has been about picking produce, lots of it. The corn has been picked, shucked and frozen. The red and black currants have been turned into juice. The blueberries have been picked and whatever didn’t get eaten has been frozen. Many herbs have been picked and dried. Zucchinis are running rampant and seven loaves of zucchini bread are now in the freezer. The onions are piled on the kitchen counter as I figure out what to do with them. Many will be turned into onion soup and frozen for that cold winter day when a warming soup can be accompanied with some French bread. The beans – the ones that the groundhog left me – are picked and frozen. And the list goes on.

What all this digging and picking has done has left large patches of open ground in the garden ready for a second crop. From today until mid-October, when we can expect the first frost, we have about two full months to grow more produce. That means we can start fresh greens of all kinds: spinach, lettuce, chard and broccoli. We can also start carrots, beets and radishes and mulch them heavily for winter use. You can also start fava beans, sugar or snap peas, and even green beans. In fact, any plant that will reach picking stage in about 60 days can still be started with a reasonable hope of success. If you have an unheated greenhouse or cold frame, your season can be extended by another 10 to 20 days.

If you don’t want to keep growing, mulch the garden bed heavily to help prevent water runoff and nutrient loss. If you have a weedy garden, you can put a sheet of clear construction plastic over it and turn it into a mini-greenhouse. The heat under the plastic will cause weeds to germinate, but as the sun warms the plastic during the day it will cook any germinated weeds to completely get rid of them. Leave the plastic on the garden until frost and you will have a pretty clean garden to start next season. Remember though: Once you turn the garden over in spring, you will expose more weed seeds and they will grow.

An alternative to mulching is to plant a green cover crop. The best cover crops cover the soil and when they are turned next spring give the soil a boost of nitrogen to help your newly planted vegetables to grow. Frankly, it’s a little too early to start a cover crop such as winter rye and I doubt that many stores are carrying them although you can check with Secret Garden or Jamestown Hardware.

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