The Block Island Times

Gardening Times: Looking ahead to next year's garden

By Fred Nelson | Oct 09, 2012
Photo by: Fred Nelson Pole beans, carrots and lettuce.

It’s hard to believe that the summer of 2012 is over and our fall season is quickly setting in. Since my gardening season didn’t start until the first week of July this year, I limited my endeavors to some tomato plants, summer squash, Kentucky pole beans, lettuce and carrots. These crops occupied a little less than one half of my normal vegetable garden area. The remainder became covered with purslane.

I tried to address this problem of the purslane by covering the area with a large sheet of polyethylene plastic, surmising that with this cover, the purslane would be “cooked” with the extra high temperature that would be generated underneath the plastic where there would be no ventilation. Surprise, surprise, these covered weeds prospered like no other plant — out-growing the purslane outside of the plastic. Perhaps if I had some black plastic, this tactic would have been more successful in controlling the weed.

The next procedure I used was with my weed trimmer. This was much more successful, particularly since the purslane is so succulent.

One of my questions with the late planting of the summer squash was to see if the squash vine borer would still be around to infest the vines. And indeed, by the first of July the borer didn’t present a problem — this year, anyway. What did become clear, though, was how severe powdery mildew can become as the season moves into September. As of the end of September the vines were almost totally devastated by mildew. Regardless, we enjoyed a bumper crop of squash.

The tomatoes really “jumped” after planting, especially with the hot humid weather that we experienced during July. As suspected, we didn’t harvest any tomatoes until the first of September. Now that late fall is approaching, about half of the tomatoes are ripening and the other half are rotting. At least we have been able to savor the delicacy of eating fresh tomato sandwiches for awhile.

For such a late start, the pole beans grew very well. We have been picking every other day and have had to share some of the bounty with friends. As I have mentioned in the past, the beauty of the pole beans is that they take up less space than the bush beans and picking is much more comfortable standing up than bending over. Plus, they are delicious.

I didn’t plant lettuce seed until about the middle of July, as the weather was so hot and humid I didn’t care to bother seeding until there was a comfortable day. Now we are picking lettuce by the leaf and shall be doing so until we have a hard freeze. The carrots are doing just fine and we shall leave them alone to allow them to mature to a suitable size.

Enough for this year’s gardening season; it’s time to look to next year. If you haven’t grown any asparagus, try to look ahead to next year and 20 years or so beyond that. Asparagus is one crop that every gardener should consider planting. Once planted, it will continue to provide you fresh asparagus for years to come without any great further effort.

Now would be a good time to make a decision to install asparagus next spring. Preparation of the future bed is the basis for establishing a successful planting. Ideally, the area should have full sun and have reasonably good, well drained soil.

Asparagus roots are sold in the spring. The roots are planted 18 inches apart. Since the roots spread as they mature, a 20-foot row is sufficient for 12 roots. Rows should be four to five feet apart.

Time and effort spent now to prepare the bed will pay dividends since this is a perennial crop. I suggest that the area be tilled as deep as you can — at least 12 inches. If the soil is less than desirable it can be amended with organic matter such as well rotted manure, compost or even “new” soil that is better than your parent soil. A soil test will prove valuable to determine how much, if any, limestone and fertilizer should be incorporated into the soil.

Performing these chores now will prepare the area for timely planting next spring. Roots are planted in a trench at least six to eight inches deep and wide enough to allow the roots to be spread out — about 12 inches. Following setting the roots, cover them with just three inches of soil. As new growth emerges, a bit more soil is added. This procedure is repeated until the trench is level with the garden surface.

You won’t get to enjoy any harvest for the first two years. The third year you may make a light harvest. From then on, cut spears from early spring until about mid June, for the next twenty years or so. Annual applications of fertilizer, mulch and water as necessary, will insure continued satisfying harvests.

“Kind hearts are the garden

Kind thoughts are the root

Kind words are the blossoms

Kind deeds are the fruit.”



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