Final Harvest

Last of the 2010 tomatoes and peppers

It’s getting chilly but thankfully the killer frost is arriving late this year. That gave me this weekend to get the last of the tomatoes, peppers and salad greens and to harvest the lemongrass. To think that I won’t be able to pick another tomato for 8 1/2 months…

Essentially all we are leaving in the beds are leeks and Brussel sprouts. May frost make them tastier.

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Fall = Compost

Now that the leaves are falling, our thoughts turn to compost. Leaving all those leaves on the curb is such a waste of goodness for your garden and yard! Oddly, both the Brit and I have had conversations at work in the past week or so with colleagues who are curious about composting.

As I’ve written before, I’ve become a big believer in a mix of leaves from the yard and coffee grounds from the local coffee shop, collected in five-gallon buckets. We’re still perfecting our technique: I think we need to do a better job of keeping compost moist, particularly as we build the pile; there were some very dry leaves at the end of some piles. But we’re getting faster at collecting leaves. This afternoon, we mowed up all the leaves in the front yard and just about all of the back yard — record pace! Emptying the lawn-mower bag on a tarp and then hauling a pile down to the our new open-ended cage made of chicken wire helped cut our time 🙂 I bet it takes no more time than blowing leaves to the curb for collection (and then blowing them back to the curb a week later because they don’t stay put).

Our ever-growing pen of leaves

We’ll move leaves into our proper compost bins next, but we also could just mix in the coffee grounds now and leave it. This will turn into black gold, and our vegetable and flower beds will love it. And I am amazed at  how soft and fluffy the soil becomes.

It’s really that easy. There’s no shortage of websites with composting information. Here’s one I just found as I sought confirmation of my idea not compost tomato plants. (Don’t compost them .. risk of disease.)

Garlic Gluttony

One of our fall projects is to plant garlic, and lots of it. But after this year’s mixed results, we decided raised beds are the only way. So we built a special bed (!) for the garlic, snuggled between a couple of raspberry canes and just six inches deep. Then we filled it with homemade compost (mostly leaves and coffee grounds from last year) mixed with a bit of soil and let the compost break down a bit more. Oooh … wonderfully soft and crumbly. This better lead to big, healthy bulbs.

Most of the cloves we are planting are the biggest ones we grew this year. But we also scored a bunch from a colleague who had his own connections and some from a local farmers’ market.

The Brit spaced it out, giving each plant about five inches (never mind that the books say six inches). Given that the bed is five feet by three inches, we had room for 70 (!) cloves. Yes, we like our garlic.

I am guessing that come May, we will have more garlic scapes than we can use and will be happy to share . But hopefully we will get through next winter without needing any grown-in-China garlic from the store.

One Into Eight

Part of our fall clean-up means bringing in the plants that spent the summer thriving on the deck. That means, among other things the ficus tree that is on loan from a neighbor with no room and that we moved a few years ago from a cramped pot into a the heavy, giant ceramic pot — and that we can now barely lift.
We also had four pots of clivias on the deck. These are native to South Africa, like shade and occasionally bloom beautiful salmon flowers. (They also like very little water in the winter, when they are indoors.) Several years ago, a sister gave me a jam-packed pot of them that she’d inherited from a friend, and we needed a knife to get them out and break them apart into separate pots. But we left a lot in one pot, and now it was that container’s turn to be nearly as full.

Fall may not be the best time to divide plants, but we felt we had little choice. I’d thought about doing it this past spring, but several plants looked ready to bloom (just like one might be now). Plus, I think we’d divided them in the fall years before, and they seemed to do just fine.

So out came the knife, and we filled seven nothing-fancy black plastic containers we had lying around in the garage with a plant or two, plus a lot of compost mixed into the soil. We kept three for in the original container.
And yes, a few still need homes!
Eight Clivia containers