October is a busy garden time as we prepare for the first frost of the year in Oklahoma. It’s time to put a lot of the garden to bed for winter. Adding compost to each bed is a great way to prepare for spring. It adds nutrients and moisture holding ability to your soil. I just layer mine on top in October and let the worms and other beneficials churn it into the soil over the winter.
Adding a cover crop or mulch to the beds will also help prepare your beds for spring. I have never planted cover crops, but if you want to learn about them, click here.
We heavily mulch our beds over the winter with leaves, straw, or some other material we can get for free or cheap. I have an awesome friend who “buries” me in leaves every fall, so I take advantage of that and use it in most of my beds. It works GREAT! Sometimes all you need to do is put the word out and you can get all the materials you need. They have so much, they are glad to get rid of it. Before I found that great source, I would drive around the neighborhood and grab bagged leaves off the curb of my neighbor’s houses.
The mulch prevents erosion of your garden soil and prevents the soil from compacting into a hard layer over the winter as precipitation falls. Have you ever been in the woods and lifted up the layer of leaves that have fallen from the trees? It’s rich, black, and sweet smelling soil under there that is teeming with microorganisms and nutrients. Nature knows what she’s doing. I try to duplicate that with my mulching. In spring, we just scoot the leaves that are left over and plant right into the bed with no other prep needed. Click here to see how we put our garden to bed for winter.
There are a few things we grow over the winter, so those beds are planted and we are eagerly awaiting crops from them. Last year, we grew and ate kale, Brussel sprouts, and herbs all winter and into spring. We are going to try that again this year. We also planted cabbage, lettuce, carrots, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, swiss chard, and a third round of green beans for the fall, so those beds are still working away.
Soon it will get too cold for the tomatoes, peppers, okra, and the like to continue producing any more and we will clean those beds out and prep them for winter as well. I let them grow as long as they will to get as much food stored up for winter as we can. We pull the tops off the plants and compost them if they are bug and disease free, and we leave the roots in the ground to add more nutrients to the soil. By spring, they are composted and the bed is ready to go.
October is sweet potato harvesting time. One bed of sweet potatoes has flowered and been harvested, and the other is just flowering, so we will harvest those right before the first frost. We are watching the weather closely. We got 60 pounds out of the first bed, so we are hoping for that much from the second one. We love sweet potatoes and they store great!
Another October project is garlic planting. Garlic is planted in October in Oklahoma and harvested in June, so chose a bed you aren’t planning to use for anything else. I rotate my crops from bed to bed each season, but the garlic stays in the same bed year after year. Click here to learn about growing your own garlic.
October is the last busy month in the garden until spring. The garden is giving its last hoorah. We are enjoying every bite of what we know is limited tasty goodness and we have prepared as much as we can to eat this winter. We’ve been dehydrating, blanching, freezing, and curing everything we can manage to and we hope that will supplement what we are eating until the garden wakes up and bears more beautiful gifts for us next season.
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