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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

More information on soil preparation and mulching is detailed in Deer in My Garden, Vol.1: Perennials & Subshrubs and Deer in My Garden, Vol.2: Groundcovers & Edgers!

native tiger lilySeptember in the Garden
Plant sales, fall soil preparation, and the annual hops harvest

by Carolyn Singer
September 11, 2010

All year I have been making a list of natives I want to add my garden. The California Native Plant Society local Redbud chapter will be holding the fall plant sale next Saturday, September 18th in the parking lot at Sierra College in Grass Valley. If you are a member, you can begin shopping at 8:30a.m.; non-members must wait patiently until 9:30a.m.

This annual event is much more than a plant sale held at the perfect time for fall planting. It is an opportunity to share and gain knowledge as you mingle with the growers and other native plant enthusiasts. The longer you linger, the more you will expand your understanding of the richness of our native landscape. You may find it hard to leave; I know I do.

hopsWhen the hops (photo, right) are ready in my garden, I have visitors for the early September harvest. Some come from Seattle, others are local. The buds are watched with anticipation as they change shape and structure. Even the fragrance is scrutinized. And while this fall ritual is unfolding, I reflect upon the history of my vine, brought into the original homestead by the Sonntags in the late 1800s. My connection with this land always deepens when the hops are ripening.

It's late this year, but the tomato harvest is as good as it was last year, and the year before that. Not to mention the past three decades I have been gardening organically in this same spot! Plants growing where I grew Peaceful Valley's 'winter soil builder' cover crop from November to May are healthy and loaded with fruit. About two feet of excess growth was pruned off last week so the tomato vines would put energy into ripening the fruit that has set.

Friends gardening with me this year are understanding the commitment I have in soil preparation, and the rewards. Fall is a great time to consider your soil preparation for new and existing plantings. If you are seeking more information about biodynamics, stop in at Prospector's Nursery today to consult with Randy Ritchie, founder of the biodynamic Malibu Compost. He will be available from 10a.m. to 4p.m.

In the vegetable garden, I am continuing succession planting of lettuce and greens that will quickly develop as young greens for salad. Broccoli and kale starts were seeded a few weeks ago, and as soon as the weather cools I will transplant the extras to a permanent winter location where the buckwheat cover crop is now maturing. It's a good time to look in local nurseries for healthy starts of fall-winter vegetables. If you don't have space available yet in the vegetable garden, keep the seedlings growing actively by planting them in compost, with organic phosphorus and oyster shell, in one-gallon containers.

annual morning gloryEach morning I gaze up at the morning glories (photo, left) in full bloom outside my bedroom. I also planted a few to climb a bamboo pole at the end of the raspberry patch, since this harvest is part of the morning in the garden. Already a quart of raspberries a day is filling my cereal bowl and my freezer. This is a reminder to bring in more straw bales so they can decompose over the winter and be ready to mulch those berries before growth begins again in spring. It's that thick straw mulch that keeps the berries vigorous through our foothill summer.

false dragonheadSeptember is also the month to enjoy the annuals you planted in June. With so many deer around, my annuals are either in the fenced vegetable garden or in a hanging basket on my porch. The late-blooming perennial false dragonhead (Physostegia virginiana, photo, right), most asters and wild black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia triloba) must also be protected. But goldenrod, oreganos, and Maryland golden aster are blooming freely outside the fence, untouched by the deer.

September is my favorite month in the garden, a month to appreciate the abundance of the harvest. In spite of a cold late spring and a cooler summer, once again my fertile foothill garden is healthy and productive.

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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