A fall and winter garden in the nick of time
In the Garden
Visit our Food Gardening Articles page to find more information on garlic and other vegetables such as radish, spinach, kale and mâche that you should consider planting in your garden in October.
DO YOU HAVE A MINUTE? Then, check out our short seasonal videos on our YouTube page. This is timely gardening advice that you can view in a spare minute or two. A few of the most recent food gardening videos include:
- Collecting Tomato Seeds: Denise shares how easy it is to save seeds from your favorite heirloom tomato so that you can grow it next year. When you save local seed year after year, you are collecting seed that is becoming more adaptable to our growing conditions...not to mention guaranteeing the same luscious tomatoes next year.
- Transplanting Fall Starts: Denise demonstrates how to get the most out of the transplants that you purchase at the nursery. There is not much time left to plant cool-weather veggies; it's too late to start them by seed. But, there is still time in October to add to your fall and winter garden transplants of cold-hardy varieties with short days-to-maturity. November 18th is the last day in Sonoma County (until January 23rd) that we have 10 hours of daylight, an important requirement for plants to grow and thrive.
- Last of the Tomatoes: Tobi describes her tips and tricks to encourage the last of her tomatoes to ripen.
- When is a Butternut Squash Ready to Pick?: Karen clues us in to the characteristics of ripe squash.
Food Gardening in a Drought
See our Conserve Water article that is part of a series on sustainable food gardening.
Zoom with Us—Join the Food Gardening Specialists (FGS) for Free Zoom Events
If you can't join us live, we will post our the Veggie Happenings once it becomes available on YouTube. You can watch videos of prior Veggie Happenings events that you might have missed (you'll notice that Jul 2020 is missing; oops ?? --we were still learning Zoom).
|Transitioning from the spring/summer food garden to fall; starting fall veggies from seeds; growing Brassicas|
|Seed saving; maintaining a healthy garden and addressing pests; beneficial insects|
|Oct 2020||Planting garlic; planting to attract pollinators and beneficials to the food garden|
|Nov 2020||Putting your food garden to bed; planting cover crops|
|Jan 2021||Growing strawberries; pruning dormant fruit trees|
|Feb 2021||Starting tomato and pepper seeds at home; growing asparagus; growing citrus in Sonoma County|
|Mar 2021||Harvesting cover crops; growing potatoes; adding drip irrigation to the food garden|
|Apr 2021||Selecting and growing tomatoes|
|May 2021||Harvesting garlic; growing cucumbers and corn; addressing common spring/summer pests|
|Jun 2021||Food gardening with children; making strawberry fruit leather; summer pruning of fruit trees|
|Jul 2021||Mulching in the food garden with a firewise perspective; growing cool-weather vegetables/fall food gardening|
|Aug 2021||Preserving tomatoes and making tomato powder and salt|
Food Garden Tips
October Food Garden Tasks and Tips
For what to grow this month, click here.
- If a fall/winter garden was not planted, plant a cover crop, such as fava beans or red clover, to add nitrogen and organic matter, to improve the soil tilth and water penetration, and to help mitigate disease issues related to crop rotation. For maximum nitrogen benefit, cut down the crop next year just as flower buds begin to form, leaving the roots in the soil. The tops can be simply chopped and dropped or put in your compost pile.
- Mulch perennial crops and any bare soil. Option: rake leaves into a pile, run the mower over them and use this as organic mulch; 3-4 inches are recommended to retain soil moisture even in the cooler fall when drought conditions persist. Mulch also reduces splash and, therefore, reduces the number of disease spores that might move from the soil to your fall and winter crops. During wildfire season, follow Cal Fire guidelines regarding defensible space and keep all combustibles, including mulch, five feet away from structures.
- If tomatoes are still in the garden, cut off their water to help ripen what is left. Pruning the growing tips of indeterminate tomatoes will encourage the plants to direct all of the sugars and energy to ripening the existing fruit before the first frost (on AVERAGE, mid-Nov to early-Dec in Sonoma County).
- As veggies fade, cut the plants off just below soil level to preserve the soil micro-biology on the roots. Toss any plants showing signs of pests or disease. The rest can go into the compost. If you are immediately replanting the bed, just add a 2” layer of compost and if you encounter the existing sub-surface root, just put each new plant-start to the side of it.
- Strawberries can be planted October through spring. UC has some new varieties which you may want to check out. They should be available at local nurseries. We recommend day-neutral (“everbearing”) varieties for Sonoma vs. short-day types, but, if planting short-day varieties, they should be planted now through February. Trim off all runners as they develop because they weaken the mother plant and reduce fruit size. See University of California guidance.
- Lightly fertilize cool-season vegetables in a fall/winter garden if compost or a slow-release fertilizer was not added earlier. Do not add nitrogen to root crops. Citrus: apply 1/2 lb of 5-2-1 mixed with 1 tablespoon of Epson salts and water well.
- Fruit Trees: apply 7-5-7 per bag instructions around drip line of trees and work in, being careful not to disturb roots.
- Despite the fertilizing schedule outlined above, reduce the amounts if the rainfall outlook suggests below normal precipitation as more vigorous plants require more water.
- Turn off your automatic watering system when rainy weather arrives. But, if a dry spell follows the first rain storm, don’t forget to turn it back on. A drip system is the most efficient way to deliver water to your veggie garden. If you didn’t install one this spring/summer, now is a good time to rectify this.
- Clean, sharpen and oil garden tools and store them in a dry space. Steel wool will remove rust build up (wear gloves); some gardeners use wax paper throughout the year to wipe cleaned and dried blades after use to prevent/reduce rust. Drain garden hoses and hang them in the garage during the rainy season.
- Click here for ongoing monthly tasks.