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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA


And the heat goes onů

by Carolyn Singer
September 26th, 2009

Clematis paniculata,annual morning glory, Rudbeckia trilobaAs soon as I write about fall chill in the air, probably because I am so excited about my favorite season arriving, the summer heat returns. And with it, more tomatoes to can.

Friends arrived this past week from Seattle, making the drive to harvest the hops for their winter brewing. Last year, I shipped a box of hops for them to sample, and the resulting brew was so tasty, it was easy to tempt them to visit.

'Golden Delicious' applesThis hops vine is a remnant of the Sonntag homestead, and each year covers a huge section of fence. The deer do minimal damage to the new growth, and do not touch any of the flowers. Next to the hops is fall-blooming clematis (Clematis paniculata), another highlight of the September garden. Each year it is spectacular, with small white flowers so fragrant they overpower the scent of the neighboring hops.

I'm finally pulling out two of four broccoli planted last fall. While still producing lots of small buds, just in the past two weeks the taste is not as sweet as it had been earlier in the summer. The variety is 'Calabrese'. I'm saving two plants to see if the flavor will improve in the cool fall.

Meanwhile, new broccoli plants are going into the garden along with kale, collards, lettuce ('Oak Leaf' is my favorite for the winter harvest), mizuna and tatsoi. Broccoli raab (rapini) throughout the garden all summer, and will provide a good crop to gather this winter. Try your favorite greens from seed sown now.

Garlic needs to be purchased now while the supply is good from local vendors. I usually don't get around planting it until October, and sometimes I have been as late as November. Good soil preparation pays off with this essential crop. Use plenty of compost, a generous amount of organic phosphorus, and a light application of oystershell.

Any bare areas in your garden? Sow seeds of cover crop to improve the soil for next season, and to protect it from winter rains. Tomatoes growing this summer reached eight feet in height and have been loaded with fruit, thanks to the benefits of "soil builder" cover crop growing in the bed from October to May.

Slopes definitely need be protected before winter storms. At the very least, spread straw generously. If straw has already begun decomposing, wind is less likely to blow it around. Let that be a reminder to purchase straw now for next year's garden mulching. I bring in a dozen bales each fall season, and while they are dry and light, place them near the areas where I will be using them in 2010. Winter rains will soak into the bales, and the string holding the straw together is easily removed in spring.

Now is the perfect time to plant groundcovers. The soil is so warm that the roots will spread quickly. Creeping thyme (deer-resistant!) has several good choices for sunny and semi-sunny areas. All are rapid growers. In shade, Lamium is one of the best choices if deer are a problem.

Clematis paniculataThis is also the time to save seed. Grab a fully-ripened heritage tomato off the vine and remove some seed, rinsing the seed in a fine strainer. Dry them on coffee filters, labeling as you do, then stack the filters in a container with a tight lid and store in a cool, dry place. Lots of seed-gathering to do right now throughout my garden!

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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