Fall is for Planning
I feel reinvigorated in September as the heat of the summer quickly fades to a memory. With this renewed energy, September becomes a planning month for me.
I take a serious look at my gardens to assess the successes, challenges and failures of plant combinations, crops, and focal plants. I then pull out my shoe box of plant tags and seed packets to cull out the tags of plants which have died or failed in other ways. I make notes on the plant tags, or seed packets, before placing them in the “deaccession” shoe box. While deaccession is an inventory term it is a kinder label than a shoe box of tags from dead plants!
As I place the lids on the shoe boxes, I berate myself for not entering this information on a spreadsheet; a task I had to do for decades as a professional horticulturist. Then again, who wants to sit at a computer when the outside world is calling? Maybe this winter will be cold enough to keep me inside long enough to get that spreadsheet started. For now the simplicity of shoe boxes for my plant tag inventory suits me just fine.
Fall is for planting, and after assessing what needs to be replaced or added, I research my options to choose the best plant for each situation and site. I am continually weaving Virginia native plants into my gardens, so I use the guides found on the Plant Virginia Natives website to aid in making a list of choices. Not only can I access native plant guides specific to each region of Virginia, but I can also find nurseries in each area that sell native plants
The website includes a wealth of information on native trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers along with landscape, pollinator and rain garden plant lists. I suggest you download the plant guide for your area of Virginia to use as a quick reference for specifics on different plants.
As the National Wildlife Federation says, native plants are “Beautiful Plants that make a Difference” and academic research has proven the impact is immediate. We can make a difference by joining our fellow gardeners in improving our environment one garden at a time.
I encourage each of you to join the Homegrown National Park movement initiated by Doug Tallamy. Tallamy has led the research changing the way we need to think about our gardens, from pretty components of our living space to interactive components of our ecosystem. He is the TA Baker Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Delaware and author of 4 books, including “Bringing Nature Home” (2007) and “Nature’s Best Hope” (2020). I encourage you to read these books or listen to one of his presentations on YouTube.
While I don’t weigh the produce I harvest, I can say the vegetable garden was very productive this past summer. The garden is now in the fall phase of this year’s plan with broccoli, corn, carrots, and salad greens filling the spaces where the squash, onions and different potatoes grew.
Did you know that until mid-September, Zone 7 gardeners can plant kale, collards, sow beet, lettuce, spinach, radish and turnip seeds? There are weeks of growing remaining in the year, so I encourage you to plant and sow during this cool shoulder season. Remember, garlic bulbs are planted in November for a spring harvest so hold off doing so until then.
These cooler temperatures have increased tomato production and with such abundance I am going to try dehydrating a few since my freezer is filling up. While I regularly dehydrate fruit I have never dehydrated tomatoes. As I trial this new adventure, I will share my trials and hopefully, successes via Facebook on Virginia Home Grown’s page , and my own page at Peggy Singlemann RVA Gardener.