Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Monthly Garden To-Do List: October

October!  Happy fall!  It is still a bit hot out here in the East Bay but the weather actually cools down by the end of the month to leave us with not knowing if Halloween night will be hot or cold; it could go both ways in the Bay Area.  But the garden is still going strong (last year we still had backyard strawberries in October).  This month is about transitioning from the warm to cool veggies, and getting the house and yard ready for the rains.

This is also great month to find a pumpkin patch (or just a pumpkin somewhere- there are nice ones at the Walnut Creek Farmer's Market, Trader Joe's, and Orchard Nursery to name a few local spots), and read a pumpkin book.  My son loves "The Pumpkin Patch" by Elizabeth King.  She follows a seed into a pumpkin at the market.  We planted our pumpkin seeds in July and have spent a lot of time watching them flower and grow leaves "like big hands," as she says in the book.  We also discuss organic versus conventional farming when she mentions that the seeds are coated to prevent underground insects eating them before they germinate.

What's Ready?
  • apples
  • arugula
  • beets
  • bok choy
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • celery
  • green beans
  • kale
  • leeks
  • lettuce
  • onions
  • peppers
  • persimmons
  • radishes
  • spinach
  • tomatillos
  • turnips
  • winter squash (pumpkins!)

Kitchen Tasks

  • make apple sauce (bake apples in homemade broth with a stick of cinnamon then mash it up) 
  • make some sauerkraut; experiment with different flavors from around the world with cabbage as the base (Latin American Cordito is our family favorite next to plain)
  • find some good persimmon recipes- or try them raw (the pointy ones need to be soft or try the round ones in salads). My kids go crazy for the pointy ones when they are soft like a custard- they love them with a spoon after I cut the top off.
  • make green enchilada sauce from the tomatillos and freeze a batch of it for mid-winter
Sheet mulching 
Garden Tasks
  • clean the gutters before the leaves get wet and soggy
  • use the fallen leaves as mulch around your plants (mulching your soil keeps weeds out and gives bugs a place to live- plus, it looks more polished).
  • it's also a good month for sheet mulching - it's still warm enough to be outside and it hasn't started raining yet (probably).  Sheet mulching is where you cover an area of the yard with newspaper or cardboard, then compost or manure, then a thick layer of wood chips (local tree companies are happy to drop off free chips).  It will then be transformed with water and time from whatever it was before (weeds, lawn, etc.) into rich fluffy garden soil.  All you need to do is wait about two years.  While it is decomposing, the mulch will attract beneficial insects and spiders to help your soil and garden thrive.
  • keep taking leaves off the kale and chard and they should give all winter long
Happy fall! 

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