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What to do in the Garden in October!

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.

straw mulch

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.

October garden produce

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!

gardening with kids digging sweet potatoes

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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what-to-do-in-the-garden-in-october

What to do in the Garden in September

September is finding us a little cooler temperatures and a little rain here and there. At Little Sprouts, we are not harvesting a lot because of our animal ravage we have sustained all summer, but we have thinned down the amount of animals ravaging, so now we are seeing some things starting to come back. Since the temps are cooler, our tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers are starting to produce again.

Get ready for the end of the season.

In September, it’s time to prune your tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos so whatever fruit is on them will mature. If you leave the plants still growing and flowering, they won’t have time to ripen the fruit that results, but the fruit you already have will have less chance of maturing as well. To prune, just cut the flowers off everywhere you see them and the stems they are on as well.

september tomatoes

In September, it’s time to pull all the plants that are disease or bug infested or have died in the heat and clean out the gardens that are done. It’s also time to add compost to each garden and top the beds off with mulch to protect the microorganisms and beneficial bacteria and bugs from the weather. If you leave your beds covered throughout the winter, you will have less moisture evaporating and less erosion of your soil. Another option is to plant cover crops in your beds for winter.

Harvest sweet potatoes.

It’s almost time to harvest our sweet potatoes, some have flowered and are ready, and some have not yet flowered so we will wait until it’s about to freeze to harvest them. If you have sweet potatoes planted, keep an eye on the weather for the best time to harvest. If the greens freeze, harvest them immediately. If you don’t get a freeze, the longer you wait, the more pounds of sweet potatoes you will get, so wait if you can.

Our okra plants are still producing prolifically, so we will leave them until they stop. You can make selections in your garden based on what’s still producing and what you want to keep tending.

september children's garden okra

If you haven’t planted seedlings for your fall crops, you still have a little time left to plant them. Broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, peas, radishes, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and other fall things can still be planted in Oklahoma, but hurry, the window of opportunity is almost gone.

Plant fall/winter crops.

There is a type of lettuce called Mache that you can plant now that should grow all winter long in your garden providing you with some greens. Last year, Brussels sprouts and kale also wintered over in our garden and continued to grow.

You can plant garlic at the end of September or beginning of October, whichever you prefer. I like to wait until October to have the kids plant ours. We will be planting around the 15. Check out our post on how to grow garlic for tips on doing that, click here.

What do you still have growing in your garden in September?

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 September garden chores

Learning from the Garden

Learning from the Garden

There are so many things we are learning from the garden. It’s amazing all the things the garden can teach adults and kids. It’s a great place to teach. What have we tried in our garden at Little Sprouts that has failed? A LOT! We are learning the key to gardening success is never give up and keep trying.

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