In the Organic Garden: Week of October 9, 2017


October 9 to 15, 2017: This week, we’re pulling out spent plants, planting winter cover crops, and teaching our first class: Dancing with Rakes! Join us this Saturday morning to get pro tips for getting the garden ready for winter.

Kitchen Gardens

In fruit and vegetable gardens, we’re

  • preparing for the first frost. In central Indiana, the average first frost date is around October 14, although it can vary (last year it wasn’t until mid-November!). But once the frost rolls in, tender plants are toast. If you want to eke out your tender plants for a little longer, plan to cover them with a sheet or other light weight fabric the night before a projected frost.
  • harvesting the last of the tender vegetables. Pick your green tomatoes, too; you can ripen them inside by putting them in a paper bag with a ripe apple at room temperature.
  • harvesting winter squash and pumpkin when the color is uniform and the rind is hard when you push your fingernail into it. Leave a couple of inches of stem on the pumpkin to help it last longer. Allow squash and pumpkins to sit in a warm, sheltered spot for a week or two to cure before storing them. Frost destroys pumpkins and squash, so harvest these soon!
  • planting winter cover crops in any vacant areas. Winter rye or oats will help protect and return nutrients to the soil.
  • picking raspberries and apples.
  • doing thorough weeding and cleanup of dead plants and fallen fruit. We’re pulling out tomato vines and pepper plants. But instead of pulling bean plants, we cut them off at the ground to let the roots return nitrogen to the soil. We’re also doing thorough cleanup around our fruit trees to stave off diseases that might overwinter.
Ornamental cabbage is a stalwart in fall container gardens.

Ornamental cabbage is a stalwart in our fall container gardens.

Ornamental Gardens

In other parts of the garden, we’re

  • starting new beds with the sheet mulching technique.
  • planting new gardens. Fall is an ideal time for planting trees, shrubs, and perennials.
  • digging and dividing overgrown perennials. When replanting perennials, discard the center section and replant the newer sections from the outer edge.
  • reusing fallen leaves. A light layer of leaves can be mowed into the lawn. For thicker layers, we chop with a lawn mower, and then rake the leaves into beds to use as mulch.
  • weeding as necessary. 
  • cleaning up in the garden. Cut down and throw away (don’t compost!) any diseased plants, including peony foliage. Other plants can be left standing to create cover for wildlife through the winter. Be sure to join us for our fall garden cleanup class on Saturday, October 14!

Amy graduated from DePauw University with a degree in physics, a lifelong love of theatre, and a problem-solving style that combines the approaches from both those fields. A Master Gardener and long-time communications professional, Amy conducts gardening seminars and blogs about gardening in addition to her work with Spotts.

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