Aside from cooler temperatures and fewer insects snacking on garden vegetables and flower beds, digging into the soil in autumn is far from easy in comparison to other seasonal gardening.
While some may think of this season as being slower-paced in the garden or for landscape work, there is still much to be done, Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Director Kevin Starr promises. Several local gardeners agree.
As the second week of fall and October begin, a real estate agent and an interior designer are getting their hands dirty as they tend to their carrots and mums, keeping their very different gardens colorful over the next few months.
Near the county border in Maiden, Andie Taylor has been harvesting 500-square feet of vegetables for the last six years, from Brussels sprouts to cabbage. Monday through Friday she tours properties with prospective homeowners in her high heels, but on the weekends, the mother of two prefers her garden.
What started as a way to eat healthy and avoid buying produce she believed was pumped with pesticides and not the best option for her or her children, has developed into a 50-acre yard filled with vegetables she knows are safe to eat. Though still a woman who loves fashion and they city life of the Charlotte-area where she lived prior to the more rural setting she now calls home, she enjoys her time spent growing the leafy greens, sometimes accompanied by her children whom she believes secretly enjoy the outdoor work.
Although Deborah Cook-Gordon can’t eat the fruits, or vegetables, of her labor, the bright red, yellow and orange-colored flowers in her Denver garden are enough to make her smile.
Gordon has been gardening for about 55 years, she estimates, starting when she was in her early teenage years.
“When we were kids, we were taught right away how to weed a flower bed and take the dead head off plants; that was part of being a kid,” Gordon told the Times-News last week.
Mums and pineapple sages, her current favorite, fill her garden this fall, where flowers needing warmer temperatures and an abundance of sunshine once bloomed.
The women agree that breezy, pleasant weather makes it easier to spend more time doing their outdoor work, while planning ahead for what’s next – the first of a few tips the duo and Starr shared with the Times-News recently.
Take advantage of the weather.
It’s a good time to re-think the “oopsies”, Gordan said; pick up and transplant things that didn’t work. Sometimes mistakes are made and things don’t work out as planned. Flowers sometimes work better in other gardens – give it away to a friend or a nursery if it isn’t a right fit for its current location. But leave alone what works, don’t get too change-happy if something is doing well.
Don’t underestimate the power of a pest.
Some of the beets, various types of lettuce, and other crops in Taylor’s 19 raised beds are better suited for cooler temperatures, making fall their prime time for growth and when they are at their healthiest. Certain types of caterpillars, Starr warns, are fans of various types of lettuce that grow in the fall months — pick the appropriate pesticide and stick with it.
Don’t just play in the leaves.
Take advantage of the falling leaves and add them to a compost — a tip Starr swears upon as being highly beneficial to a healthy, happy garden.
Gordon has a compost machine on-hand below her deck that she uses to create a soil she believes will help her flowers flourish. Though the equipment can be pricey, she feels it was a worthwhile investment.
Another tool that may be helpful to serious gardeners, an underground concrete box to store vegetables in a ventilated area after they’re picked — a root cellar. This secret saves time
Know your local resources.
Both women recommend getting to know local cooperative extension agents, some of whom teach classes regarding flower and plant knowledge, or know the appropriate contacts to get in touch with to have a successful garden.
Starr teaches a Master Gardener course each year, which Taylor and Gordon took, that helps beginners and more experienced green-thumbers. Don’t be afraid to get dirty and experiment with different things, Taylor advises, try different vegetables and see how they do. Worst case scenario, it can be uprooted and something else will go in its place – there will be some waste, try not to feel bad about it, she said.
It’s not the holiday season, yet – slow down.
Though in department stores around the country, holiday decoration may be put on the shelves months in advance, the same rules don’t apply to nature. Wonder why those daffodils aren’t cooperating? Chances are the weather isn’t right for them, yet, Gordon laughed. Be patient and wait for the proper conditions before planting; it will save time and money later.
For more information on fall gardening, call (704) 736-8452.