Yaaaarrrrrr! Time to walk the plank, maties! It’s National Talk like a Pirate Day this week at Small Scale Life, and it’s time to tell ye landlubbers a tale about the garden that will feed me crew. Yes, me maties, this is what ye call…a thing! Tis true that dead men tell no tales, but tis is a good one, eh? So, take a seat on yonder stool and grab a pint of grog as I give ye a fall garden update for the week.
Yes, dear friends, National Talk like a Pirate Day was this week, and in case you missed it (for some reason), you are getting a little dose of fun here on Small Scale Life. I am posting a Fall Garden Update Podcast in addition to a couple of videos showing how the garden is doing this late in the season.
Keep in mind that the first day of Fall is Friday, September 22, and at this point, we are watching the forecast for the first frost. I will have more Fall Garden Updates before the end of the season since there is plenty of gardening left before the snow flies!
A few weeks ago, I pulled out and dusted off the seedling trays that had been shoved into a lonely corner of the North Minneapolis garage. Considering I am in Zone 4B and that our first frost could be as early as October 10th, I was planting a couple weeks late. There is a good chance that I would not get much from these plants, especially if we get an early frost.
Regardless, I wanted to get some fall plants growing. I purposely selected quick-growing crops that could handle colder temperatures. I focused on lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas and green beans.
Using my existing seed trays and cells, I added dirt and then planted the seeds. In all, I loaded 144 cells with ProMix Potting Soil (a winner from the Potting Soil Challenge) and seeds. As an experiment, I also planted some sugar snap peas directly into Garden Bed West. I wanted to see how the seed trays germinated vs. direct sowing.
After two weeks of growing, here is how the seeds germinated:
- Lettuce – One of the three cells germinated well. The other two trays had little germination and will be reseeded if needed (late crop of lettuce). I am planning to put these plants in the wicking bed.
- Spinach – Excellent germination in the one cell planted. I am planning to put these plants in the wicking bed.
- Green Bush Beans – Excellent germination in the four cells planted. These will be planted in Garden Bed East.
- Sugar Snap Peas (Tray) – Excellent germination in the 72 cell-tray. These will be planted in Garden Bed West and the wicking bed. Trellis systems need to be installed for these plants in both garden bed systems.
- Sugar Snap Peas (Direct) – Mediocre germination; about have the seeds did not germinate. These plants are in Garden Bed West, and I need to trellis them.
These plants need to be planted this week! The next Fall Garden Update will show how these plants are doing and what I used for a trellis system
Square Foot Garden Bed West
In Garden Bed West, I planted the following plants:
I have already harvested tomatoes from both plants, and I thought I might not get much from either plant for the rest of the season. Lo and behold, I was wrong! We have had some tremendous bee activity in this bed due to the flowering chive plants, and the bees also hit both tomato plants. I have a bunch of new tomatoes growing! That makes me really happy!
At one point this season, Julie told me that she felt sad that I wouldn’t get any peppers this year. I actually chuckled at her and showed her the small peppers that were growing. In addition to those initial peppers, the Red Bell Pepper plants also benefitted from the bees working on the chive plants. I have a bunch of peppers coming, and I am waiting for them to get to the right size and turn red. One has to be patient with these pepper plants, but fortunately, I am a patient man.
The chive plant is done flowering, but it is loaded with seeds. I will harvest those seeds and store them for future use. No need spreading chive plants all over these small gardens! If you are looking for chive seeds, send me a message through our Contact Us page, and we’ll figure something out.
Square Foot Garden Bed East
Garden Bed East has more of a variety of plants (by design and by accident). I have the following plants growing in this bed:
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Green Bell Peppers
- Compost “Cucumbers”
- Compost Tomato Plants
- Basil Plants
The tomato plants are growing well. The cherry tomato plants are loaded with tomatoes, and the one Hybrid Slicer has a good sized tomato on it. The compost tomatoes are growing, but they will run out of season before they get too tall. I am not worried: they have buds on the plants. Given the bee activity in the garden, my fingers are crossed that we’ll see some new tomatoes soon!
The green peppers are bearing fruit, even though they are smaller than the red pepper plants in Garden Bed West. That could be due to the soil conditions in this bed. I simply did not treat this bed like Garden Bed West before I planted in June. Regardless, I am pleased to see some peppers coming, and these plants benefitted from the bee activity as well.
The compost “cucumbers” turned out to be the surprise of the garden this year. I salvaged these plants from the compost pile, and I found out recently that these “cucumbers” were actually melons! I guess Julie’s dad threw some melons into the pile and they sprouted. I have two melons growing now, and I can’t wait to see if more fruit develops and how big they get. Compost plants are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get!
The basil plants are doing VERY well. I harvested basil a couple weeks ago, and the new branches have sprouted where I made the cuts. Again, it is a little counter-intuitive, but if you want more basil, harvest some from your plants! The basil plants will sprout more branches and leaves.
I will be harvesting the ripe cherry tomatoes and planting the fall crops this week. It is time to get everything in the ground! There simply is not much time left before the first frost (less than a month), and if this cool weather is any indication, we’ll have frost before you know it.
With this many seedlings, I am going to need more space for plants. This means I need to build a planter! I have teased you long enough; I am going to build a wicking bed planter for the fall crops this weekend. More on that in the near future, but I want to use this wicking bed planter as a template for my future gardens. I am pretty excited about it, so stay tuned for the next Fall Garden Update!
In addition, I need to develop a better trellis system for sugar snap peas. I have tried the single wire line system (like I used for tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and peppers), but it doesn’t work quite as well for sugar snap peas. I have some ideas, and you will see how that plays out in the next Fall Garden Update.
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Small Scale Gardening can produce a variety of crops for your family's needs. This set of Square Foot Gardens are located in North Branch, Minnesota. I see herbs, tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers, kale, greens, beans and other goodies. Add a rain barrel uphill of this garden, and you can grow a lot of nutritious, real food for very little cost. Gardening opens the door to developing skills in so many areas: soil management, rainwater collection, carpentry, canning, food preservation, seed saving and pest management. You can learn a lot from your local gardeners. Just ask!
How is your fall garden doing? I would love to hear a Fall Garden Update from you! Feel free to post a comment here or on the videos!
Better yet, you can join the Small Scale Life Facebook Group and share your Fall Garden Update with us there. I would love to see how your garden and fall crops are doing!
Now, me hearties, bring me that horizon! Yo Ho!