October Garden Planner for Growing Cool-Season Crops

Reader Contribution by Melodie Metje

Basil will turn black when it gets close to 35 degrees.  I pull all the leaves when the forecast says it will get close to freezing or any chance of frost. You can chop basil, put it in an ice cube tray and cover it with water to preserve it for any time your recipe calls for fresh basil. It stores best when it’s frozen in water. You can also make it into pesto and place in freezer bags with just enough for a meal. Gives a whole new meaning to “fast food.”  Pesto is great over pasta, fish or as a condiment on sandwiches.

Other herbs like parsley, rosemary, thyme, chives, savory and sage will do just fine through frosts. It takes good snow cover to stop these herbs. Many winters you can harvest these herbs the entire season for cooking.

I will wait until it gets down to 32 degrees before I strip off the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.  You can freeze or dry these veggies. Tomatoes are a high acid fruit so you can also easily can sauce from them without using a pressure canner, a stockpot is all that is needed. Be sure to follow any canning recipes exactly so your canned goods don’t spoil.

Make sure you pull the tomatoes from the vine before the vine dies. Wondering what to do with the green tomatoes? You have a couple of options. You can make fried green tomatoes—yum! Just use some fish fry seasoning; we like Andy’s Cajun Seasoning. You can also wrap green tomatoes in newspaper and store in a cool, dark location and many will ripen. Check about weekly to cull any that spoil. They won’t taste as good as fresh off the vine, but are better than store bought.

October is garlic planting month for the Zone 6 garden! Plant in the waning cycle of the moon. Garlic loves loose, well-fertilized soil. Loosen the soil down to about 6 inches, mix in a couple of inches of compost, and plant your garlic cloves about 2-3 inches deep. Garlic leaves are one of the first greens you will see in spring.

Now is also a great time to divide any perennials you have, whether they be herbs, edibles or ornamentals.  This will give them all fall and winter to put down strong roots. Perennial greens (like chard, sorrel, cultivated dandelions, salad burnet) are always the first up in the spring.

It is still not too late in early October to transplant fall crops like cold hardy types of lettuce, cabbage, chard, pak choi, broccoli, kale, parsley or perennial herbs. Meijer, Lowes, and Home Depot have 6 and 9 packs ready to plant if you didn’t start your own from seed.

To extend the season, you can order a mini greenhouse to cover your pots or a part of the garden you have planted your cold hardy greens you want to harvest all winter. You can also purchase row covers that cover plants and provides protection from frosts, but not hard freezes.

Winter hardy kale, spinach, Austrian peas, carrots and winter onions don’t need to be covered and can be harvested all winter (as long as the ground isn’t too frozen) and into spring.

I’ll put our portable, plastic mini greenhouse over the greens in my Earthboxes sometime this month. One thing to look out for with green houses: they get very, very hot in sunny weather, so be sure to open them to allow circulation in fall and early winter. They will need to be closed up when winter really sets in December sometime. 

For more organic small space and container gardening, see Melodie’s blog.

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