Fall Gardens

In about two weeks I plan to start putting in our fall gardens. I love gardening in the fall. Unlike the wild and unruly summer, nature slows down in the fall. There are few weeds and pests. There’s rarely a need to irrigate. And of course the foods of fall are delicious.

We devote four gardens to fall crops (not including the sweet potato garden, which we planted a couple of months ago). In one we’ll plant radishes, turnips, beets, spinach and Swiss chard. In the second one we’ll┬áplant Romaine lettuce, radicchio, arugula and Asian greens (bok choy, Tokyo bekana, mizuna, maruba santoh, komatsuna, tatsoi and Chinese cabbage). We’ll plant broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and mustard greens in the third garden. The fourth fall garden will be all kale and collards.

I did a poor job with the starts this summer, so we’re going to have to buy more than I’d like. Our cabbage seedlings look fine but the rest are iffy. Oh well. Do better next year.

We have 22 gardens in total, of which about 1/3 are resting with a cover crop at any given time. They amount to about 2 acres.

I use a tractor to till and prep the soil, and to form the beds for planting. Because the rows have to be far enough apart to allow a tractor to drive over them, a lot of otherwise usable space is wasted. And of course tilling pulverizes and compacts the soil.

If I was starting over again I would seriously consider raising our vegetables entirely in permanent no-till raised beds. We have a bunch of small raised beds now (about 240 square feet total) and they are extremely productive and easy to tend. In the spring, for example, when I’m fretting over wet soil and wondering when I’ll be able to work and plant the gardens with the tractor, I just take a garden rake and smooth out the rich soil in the raised beds, sprinkle lettuce seeds in them, rake it again, and I’m done. A few weeks later we have abundant and delicious lettuce mix.

This winter I’m going to carefully re-evaluate everything we do. We’re planning to add a 30 x 72 hoop house (essentially an unheated green house) over the winter. It’s possible that with that in place and perhaps some more raised beds, I can transition us to no-till. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting the fall crops in the ground.