To Do In The Northwest Edible Garden: October 2011

Plan & Purchase:
This is a great month to order bare root fruit trees and shrubs! If you didn’t get a garlic order in or save your own seed cloves, hit up your local farmers market before they shut down and buy some hardneck garlic to plant now.

If you don’t have cloches, buy or scrounge up the stuff you need to make them. We use PVC pipe hoops and 4 or 6 mil plastic sheeting for 6-8 week season extension and year-round weather protection for hardy edibles that are prone to rot, like endive. We dabble with Reemay and various spun row covers, but plastic sheeting, for all its many flaws, does create a nice grow environment more cheaply than just about anything else.

Sow Indoors:
Nope, the lights are done for the year.

Sow Outside:

  • Garlic. The sooner you sow it, the bigger the cloves will get. At least, that’s the idea. I’m waiting on my garlic order from Territorial Seed. Yup, I’m trying again (in a different bed, naturally). All you kind people who have thrown a few bucks in the tip jar to support this blog – thank you! You helped buy me garlic. I’d kiss you all, but my breath would be all garlicy and nasty.
  • Legumes. Some people say you can grow overwintering peas. They might be right; I’ve never tried. I’ve done overwintering favas with mixed success. In a mild winter they really do start blooming very early in spring. In a cold winter, the stalks die back to the ground and have to re-grow anyway once it warms up. My gut says we’re getting a cold winter, so I’m not going to bother with overwintering legumes. You roll your dice however you prefer.
  • Cover Crops. If I knew as much about cover crops as I should know about cover crops, I’d be a much better gardener. Let’s just say that research project is on the list. Here’s the basic idea. In the Maritime Northwest, winter is basically continuous rainfall. That rainfall leaches fertility right out of the soil while pounding down and compacting its structure. Cover crops are a crop grown to…ahem…cover the soil, so the rain can’t do all that bad stuff. Think of them as an umbrella for your garden bed. Depending on what you cover crop with, you get side benifits: leguminous cover crops fix nitrogen, increasing fertility. Deep-rooted cover crops like rape (now that’s an awkward plant name, but if you buy canola oil you use rapeseed) will act like a garden fork, breaking up compacted soil. Some cover crops like arugula and mustard can be edible in their own right, and some have very soft foliage that breaks down quickly. There’s a lot to know. I recommend Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide for additional information. Or, do what I do: ignore the guesswork and just buy a cover crop blend designed for your area and the time of year you’re planting.

Transplant Out:
It’s a bit late, but if you have any lingering starts kicking around – chard, kale, lettuces, etc. – and you have a spot for them, why not stick them in the ground and see how they do? Get them under a cloche and they might just surprise you.

It’s Apple Season!

I’ll admit it – I’m so relieved that the over-eager, botanical-fruit-type vegetables of summer are finally winding up and the polite crops of fall are now able to shine.

  • Beets – I’ve been letting the beets go and now many of them are big! I’ve got whole rows pushing baseball size. Good thing too: fall is beet-eatin’ time.
  • Broccoli – Broccoli from my second sowing came on a few weeks ago and I’d guess I’ve got 3-4 more weeks of pickings. This is why I like well-put together “blends” of things like broccoli.
  • Cabbage – The first savoy cabbage is sizing up nicely.
  • Carrots – Looking good and ready to harvest.
  • Chard – Still not the best year, but there will be enough.
  • Onions & garlic – From storage.
  • Potatoes – I snagged a few red potatoes from my late planting and they looked good. I’m anticipating harvesting the russets towards mid-month.
  • Tomatoes – the last of the tomatoes will turn red in the next several weeks, or they’ll be picked green.
  • Turnips – Last week I was trying to get my daughter to guess an edible from our garden that she liked to eat that was round, redish or pinkish or greenish. Her first guess: “Radish?” “Nope, bigger than a radish.” Second guess: “Turnip?” I had to laugh…I was thinking, “Apple”.
  • Winter Squash – Eating them from storage now, but due to a lackluster harvest I supplemented my own with a bunch from a local farm.


  • Apples – The apples are shining right now. So crisp and delicious right off the tree.
  • Pears – Asian pears are still good but handle a bit less “hang time” to them than our apples. I don’t like them when they get really winey in character, so most will get picked my mid-month and stored chilled as long as possible. The Euro pear trees around my neighborhood look loaded with fruit right around now.


  1. says

    Great post of information Erica. i was particularly interested in the cover crop idea. A lot of people here talk about the nutritional value of digging in the high nitrogen crop but I had not given a thought to the rain factor. We get a lot of wet here over winter so this could also be a factor here. Very interesting. Thanks

  2. Morgan says

    I like to save milk jugs to use as cloches. Easy to get from neighbors and family. Cut the bottom off as low as you can and take the lid off during the day to keep from baking your seedlings. Cheep, easy, and can to in your recycle bin when you are done with them. Or you could put string through the handles to keep them in a bunch.

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