Fall is coming! What do we do with our gardens?
Fall is nearly here! There has to be something we can do to keep gardening, right?
Cold weather crops can be planted during the tail end of summer to be ready for one final harvest. Things like kale, lettuce, and radishes are all great fall crops that are ready to harvest quickly. A lot of the Brassicaceae family is cold tolerant. Cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts and more have the potential to be ready for picking again in fall, depending on your zone. Fall is also a great time to get certain bulbs in the ground! Garlic should be planted in fall for a bountiful early summer harvest. Many flower bulbs also do best went planted in fall, especially spring blooming bulbs!
Tulips and daffodils may be the most common bulbs planted in fall for bountiful spring blooms. Allium, irises, lilies, hyacinths, and, of course, snow drops all do best when planted in fall. One of my favorite crocuses, Colchicum autumnale also should be planted in fall.
Photo source: www.gardeningexpress.co.uk
This flower isn't a true crocus, but certainly looks the part. Often called Fall Crocus, these flowers have a different life cycle than most. When planted in fall, they will not bloom until the following fall. Then, in spring, the bulbs will shoot up leaves, lose all leaves and enter dormancy in summer, then re-bloom without leaves again in fall.
Fall also means it's time to start thinking of summer bulb storage. Many of us plant bulbs, rhizomes and corms that aren't quite hardy enough for our zone. Mulching is always a good option to keep some warmth in, but isn't always reliable with tender perennials. I prefer to lift my bulbs and store them in the garage or basement. This works really well for anything from canna lilies to gladiolus. So how do you do it?
I like to wait for the first frost to make its way through to kill off the foliage. This will ensure the bulbs have all the energy possible transferred from the leaves to the bulb. This will help the plant overwinter and produce bigger blooms next year! After the first frost, take a hay fork or potato fork and use it like a shovel to lift the bulbs out of the ground, being careful to avoid stabbing any bulbs. You could also use a shovel for this, however that can be more difficult and you risk splitting a bulb in half. Depending on the type of bulb, this could kill it. If you leave the foliage on while you are lifting the bulbs you can use them as a guide. Be sure to give a couple inches of clearance from the base of the foliage, just to be safe.
After all of your bulbs are lifted, and sorted if you'd prefer, it is time to store them. I typically use cardboard boxes, buckets, or plastic boxes. If you use cardboard, you will have to water the bulbs a few times through the winter. I suggest using newspaper to separate the layers and hopefully prevent any potential mold from spreading. Individually wrapping bulbs has the potential to impede airflow too much and produce mold. When I store in buckets, I mist the top layer and recover to prevent the bulbs from drying out once or twice in the winter. If stored in a cardboard box, I suggest watering the whole box with the same frequency. If stored in a plastic box, keep an eye on the lid. You do not want the box to be air tight. Leave the lid on an angle or use a lid that folds together. Plastic boxes will hold enough moisture to keep the bulbs watered. They also run the risk of mold buildup, so keep this in mind.
Keeping the bulbs in a cool, dark place is best. A root cellar is perfect! A garage or basement also works wonderfully. It is better to keep the plants in an unheated location unless the garage, shed, etc. will still get cold enough to freeze or kill the bulbs. This will depend on your zone and the plant being stored. Keeping bulbs in the basement runs the risk of the plants abandoning dormancy. The plants will begin growing shoots in an effort to find sunlight. This will drain the bulb of its stored energy. A fridge should keep the plants cool enough to prevent this from happening.
What are you growing? What will you be storing? Leave it down in the comments along with any questions you have!