This month, if you do nothing else – nothing – get your garlic in. A combination of book launch fever and a very “big push” harvest season that’s left me totally burned out on the garden means I’m not trying to eek every efficiency out of my garden this year.
All I want is to continue to harvest my fall crops, and get my garlic in. In terms of a “to do list” my top three priorities are simple: garlic, garlic and garlic.
Printable At-A-Glance Grow-Guide!
If you like your Gardening To Lists simple and direct, you’re in luck! Just click the image below to download this October At-A-Glance Grow Guide as a printable PDF.
Or, continue reading for the full details on everything you should be doing in your garden this October.
Plan and Purchase
This is a great month to order bare root fruit trees and shrubs! I like Raintree for stuff like this.
If you didn’t get a garlic order in or save your own seed cloves, hit up your local farmer’s market and try to buy some hardneck garlic to plant now. My favorite variety is Music because the cloves are huge, but most of the hardnecks have great flavor.
Using low tunnels or cloches can extend your harvest of cool season tolerant crops for weeks or months. If you don’t have cloches, buy or scrounge up the stuff you need to make them. We use PVC pipe hoops and greenhouse-quality plastic for 6-8 week season extension and year-round weather protection.
Read more: The Keep It Simple Guide To Cloches
Don’t want to invest in greenhouse plastic? The 4 or 6 mil painter’s plastic at your local big box is pretty effective but you’ll get, at best, 2 to 3 years from it before the UV degrades it into uselessness.
Another great way to keep your garden in better shape over winter is with mulch. In the Maritime Northwest, most of our soil compaction happens in the winter, when pounding rain drives the soil into a dense, waterlogged mess.
Cover any open soil in your garden with almost anything – straw or leaves or cardboard or a nice cool weather cover crop – and you’ll help protect your precious, precious soil structure. Trust me, when you go in to plant your spring crops, you’ll be glad you did.
At this time of year, nearly everything you sow directly outside is an overwintering gamble. I’m not saying this to discourage you – there is much to be said for direct sowing in the cool of Fall and harvesting earlier than anyone else in your neighborhood next year.
But overwintering is a technique for the patient. Do not assume that you can sow carrots now and harvest them in 60 days, no matter what the seed package might suggest. That’s just not how cool weather gardening works. But if you want a shot at garden fresh carrots in, say, May, overwintering is the technique for you.
- Garlic – The sooner you sow it, the bigger the cloves will get.
- Legumes – Overwintering peas and favas. In a mild winter they’ll start blooming very early in spring. In a cold winter, they can be killed back.
- Late and overwintering greens – if you are using cloches, greenhouses or other season extension techniques, you can put in a direct-sown crop of fast-growing greens like winter lettuce, mache, arugula, mustard greens, spinach etc. and expect to harvest late this year. Without season extension, much of what you sow out may not really grow a whole lot this year, but may size up beautifully very early next spring, before anything spring-sown could possibly mature.
- Overwintering root crops – you can also experiment with overwintering carrots, beets and other root crops. I’ve found October sown root crops are generally harvestable around May of the next year. Bonus! You’ll avoid peak times for root maggots and other pests.
It’s a bit late, but if you have any lingering starts kicking around – chard, kale, broccoli, 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’ll probably be ok.
Here’s one area that I’m grateful has slowed down. I don’t know about you guys, but my summer garden was kicking my ass this year. It’s nice to be in the slower days of fall harvest.
But that doesn’t mean we lack for stuff to pick! Here’s what I’m still harvesting:
- Asian Greens – Bok choy, Napa cabbage, etc. are all looking great.
- Broccoli & Cauliflower – I’ve had a nearly 6-month long harvest of broccoli from one early sowing. Side shoots for the win!
- Cabbage – I like savoy types for cool weather. Best guess? My January Kings will indeed rule January.
- Carrots – Snack size carrots are being harvested every few days. We never seem to be patient enough to grow them really huge.
- Chard – Always chard. Always.
- Kale – I think this is the first year in ten I haven’t grown Cavolo Nero. My Red Russian is taking up slack.
- Kohlrabi – I’m partial to the giant winter kohlrabi like Kossak and Superschmeltz. Maybe my favorite cool season crop.
- Lettuce and Greens – Fall salad essential. I love romaine in the cool seasons.
- Onions & garlic – From storage. A few Walla Wallas linger, and I’ve dried and frozen a bunch of this year’s garlic harvest.
- Peppers – still harvesting sweet and hot peppers.
- Potatoes – I’ve lifted so many potatoes already, but there’s more out there. Ozettes and some purples are waiting on me.
- Radishes – I think I might had to admit that I far prefer winter radishes to the spring/summer globe types.
- Tomatoes – I yanked most of the canning/drying plants a week or so ago, but a few indeterminate cherry plants are still going strong.
- Winter Squash – I focused on Delicata this year. All squash are harvested, washed, wrapped in bubble wrap and tucked away.
- Apples – The weather was so warm this year, we’re nearly done with apples. A few are still hanging for fresh eating, but most have been picked and made into fruit leather or apple sauce.
- Pears – Asian pears are weeks done. The Euro pear trees around my neighborhood are still loaded with fruit, but I picked most of my pears firm weeks ago. We have a box stored in the fridge that we’re slowly pulling, letting ripen, and eating.
- Plums – Typically at this time of year the late plums are shining. This year it was so hot they are done.
- Fall Raspberries – The goldens are still doing well, sweet and juicy.