Fall Planting of your Square Foot Garden(s)


October 2013

PDPhoto.org
How to Plant Garlic
October is the best month to plant garlic. If you plant garlic in mid-October, you may harvest in summer of the following year. Most people who grow their own garlic say they will never go back to store-bought again. Garlic is very easy to grow, harvest and store, and it will keep for many months once it’s dried.
Where can I get Garlic Seed Cloves?
There are several ways to get garlic cloves to plant. First and probably easiest is to just buy it at the grocery store. Secondly, you may purchase bulbs from a local farmers market, or ask a local garlic grower to save you some seed bulbs. The advantage to this is that you will get a garlic variety that is proven to grow in your region. Next, you might order from a mail order catalog – this will give you many varieties from which to choose. Finally, save your own best garlic bulbs next year and use them as seed.
Two Major Types of Garlic: Hard Neck and Soft Neck
While there are dozens of varieties, there are only two main types of garlic. These are hard neck and soft neck. The soft neck type of garlic, as the name implies, has a soft neck or flexible stem once it dies back. This type is easy to braid and is most often grown commercially and in areas with mild winters, such as the southern USA. The hard neck type of garlic does not lend itself to braiding and prefers regions with a cold winter. However, microclimates make it possible for many people to grow both types.
Three Types of Garlic: Early, Mid-season and Late
Garlic varieties may be early, mid-season or late-maturing varieties. When you harvest depends upon which type you plant. Be sure to find this out before you plant your cloves. Write down the date you planted and the expected maturity date in your garden journal. With some garlic varieties, you may plant October 10th and harvest next August.
Garlic is easy to plant – so why not grow your own? 
Separate the bulb into individual cloves. Remember, they have a long growing period so locate them where they can grow unhindered for many months. They grow very well in Square Foot Gardens because the planting medium is so loose and rich. Plant the cloves about two inches deep, root-side down. In the Square Foot Garden, you may plant four garlic cloves per square foot.Green shoots will appear. Add straw mulch around the shoots. Once a hard frost comes, these green shoots will die off – don’t worry! That’s supposed to happen. Simply pull your straw mulch up to cover the entire plants and wait through the winter. Next spring, remove the straw mulch.

© Francesco Perito Wikimedia Commons
Harvesting, Curing and Storing Garlic
Harvest the whole plant by carefully digging around and lifting them out of the growing medium without nicking or cutting them. Lay them in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight to thoroughly dry. When they are dry, you may braid the stems or cut them off. Store your garlic in a cool, dry location that has plenty of airflow, with some light, but no direct sunlight. Do not store in plastic bags or in the refrigerator as they will rot or sprout.
Health Benefits of Garlic
Do you need some incentive to grow your own garlic? Garlic has been shown in numerous studies to prevent and reduce several types of cancer. In World War II, it was called “Russian Penicillin” because of its antibiotic properties. Many swear by it for longevity and immunity. According to Eating Well.com, however, how you prepare garlic is important to derive the life-saving benefits. They advise chopping the cloves and waiting 15 minutes before cooking them to get the full health benefits of the compounds. (Read the article here)
“Garlic’s active agents—allyl sulfide compounds—are produced when the clove is chopped or crushed.” (Eating Well.com)
Plant a Square Foot Garden in October

There are many things you can plant in October. But a little planning is in order if you want to plant in the fall. You will need to know your first expected frost date, which you can get from your local county extension website or from the almanac. Also, pay attention to the length of time required for plants to reach maturity. For most plants at this stage, you should choose transplants rather than seeds. The transplants will have a “jump start” on reaching maturity already so that will cut out part of the time required for your plants to mature. Lettuce and radishes are among the fastest to mature.

Some plants, such as collards, actually taste better after a frost. Ask anyone who has grown collards a long time (especially a southerner) and they will tell you fall collards are best, and that they taste sweeter after the first hard frost hits them.

“Now here is the real reason I like fall gardening. Remember the length of time it takes for a seed to sprout depends mostly on the temperature of the soil. The carrot seeds you plant in spring take two months to sprout, but if you plant when the soil temperature will be between 60-70 degrees, the same carrot seeds will sprout in only one week.” ~ Mel Bartholomew

So after you harvest your sweet potatoes or the last of your okra and tomatoes, and you have a big empty bed to fill, think of all these vegetables that you might want to plant in their place:

  • Beets
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn Salad (see the separate article – plant in October or November)
  • Cucumbers (see the separate article – these are more tender and will require some special planting care; plant fall varieties)
  • Garlic (see the separate article for planting instructions)
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Rape
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

Fall Festival in Duluth, Georgia by Elizabeth Coetzee. [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Famous Fall Festivals & Eventsin October
Autumn means fall festivals, harvest festivals, Halloween parties, state fairs, grand foliage displays, and Oktoberfest around the United States and abroad. Here is a list of some of famous events you may want to visit this year.
Fall Foliage Festival, Bedford, Pennsylvania – First two weekends in October (Oct 5-6 and 12-13). Enjoy crafts, music, great food and covered bridges while you’re taking in the stunning fall foliage. website
Madison County, Iowa, Covered Bridge Festival – A fall festival featuring “the bridges of Madison County” as well as fall foliage, food, crafts and pumpkins. Oct 7-9, 2013
Pumpkin Festival, Keene, New Hampshire, 20,000 pumpkins and the “Colossal October Surprise” await you at this famous fall festival on October 19, 2013 (noon to 8:30pm)
Texas State Fair, Dallas, Texas (ranked #1 for 2012 on Top 50 by Carnival Warehouse), September 27 – October 20, at the fair park in Dallas website
Arizona State Fair (ranked #12 on Top 50 by Carnival Warehouse), 1826 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ, October 11-November 3 website
North Carolina State Fair, Raleigh, NC (ranked #17 on Top 50 by Carnival Warehouse), October 17-27 at state fairgrounds website
Pawley’s Island Festival of Music and Art, Pawley’s Island, South Carolina September 19- October 12 website
Epcot® International Food and Wine Festival – This renowned event takes place from September through Nov. 19th at Epcot Center, FL.  Sample 1.5 million food dishes by 260 famous chefs, as well as 300 wines, with nightly spectacular firework shows website
Los Angeles Green Festival October 19-20; San Francisco Green Festival, Nov. 9-10, California website
The C-K Autumn Fest, Kenova, West Virginia – Held on the last weekend in October, annually (Oct. 25-26 in 2013), this festival draws more than 30,000 people who descend upon the “Pumpkin House” on Beech Street in Kenova. Enjoy baked goods, food vendors, arts and crafts and a lovely old house and lawn ablaze with pumpkins. website
“On the Saco” oil painting by Albert Bierstadt (Saco River, Maine)Are you ready for a fall foliage road trip? Check out the Fall Foliage Network Report to see where the best colors are, and when they are going to appear.
Corn Salad: ©Schwäbin (Wikimedia)
Corn Salad
Corn Salad (Valerianella locusta) is one of the lesser-known greens in the United States, although it has been grown for centuries in Europe. Today, it is considered a gourmet green but it was once treated as a lowly weed. It has a soft texture and dark green color. Corn Salad is a low-maintenance annual, grown as an herb or vegetable.Corn Salad is renowned for its nutty flavor. It may also be called by its common names: lamb’s lettuce, mâche, nut lettuce, field salad or Rapunzel (some say this plant was the inspiration for the character name).Corn Salad was a favorite of ancient foragers, and was often found growing wild in wheat fields. It is nutrient-rich, packing three times more vitamin C than lettuce. It also has omega 3 fatty acids, B6, B9, and vitamin E.
Corn Salad as a garnish; ©Gerard Cohen (Wikimedia)

Vit is a mild French variety of corn salad, prized for its nutty and minty taste that adds a delicate flavor to dishes. In French restaurants, where it is widely served in salads or as a garnish, it may be called Doucette or Raiponce.

According to Floridata.com, “‘Broad Leaved’ is more heat tolerant and the most common variety in the US,” ‘Grosse Graine’ is one of the largest varieties, and ‘Verte de Cambrai’ is more cold-hardy and is widely grown in Germany and France.

How to Plant Corn Salad
Direct sow corn salad seeds ¼ inch deep in direct sun. Sow seeds close to first frost. The plants need a minimum of two inches between them. How many you plant per square depends upon which variety you select; some of them grow up to one-foot across. (Quick reference: SFG guide to spacing by the seed packet.) Corn Salad grows to a height of 4-6 inches or 1-2 feet (depending upon the variety).

Harvesting Corn Salad
You can harvest micro greens before maturity. Harvest either the full rosettes or individual leaves. Harvesting individual leaves will make the plant continue to produce. It is best to harvest before flowers form. After flowering, harvest the entire plant. You may store your harvest a couple of weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

“Corn salad is coveted by fine chefs, and brings a premium when you can find it at the supermarket.” (Floridata.com)

Cold Weather Plant
Corn Salad is a cool season plant and can be grown in early spring or fall. In northern Florida, wait to plant seeds in November. It typically takes 47 days to reach maturity. Corn Salad grows in zones 2-11 and can withstand temperatures to 5°F; however, it must be covered with straw to endure lower temperatures and snow. It overwinters well and bolts quickly in warmer temperatures.

Corn Salad Drawing, USDA DatabaseReferences:
Missouri Botanical Garden
Floridata.com (lots of recipe ideas here!)

Public domain photo: A homemade cold frame

A Cold Frame

A cold frame is an enclosure with a transparent roof (glass) that is built close to the ground. It is used to protect plants from cold weather. The glass top allows sunlight in but traps the heat inside.

The cold frame functions like a miniature greenhouse and it can help you to extend your growing season. A cold frame is usually used to grow seedlings which will later be transplanted into the Square Foot Garden.

Try your hand at creating one or buy one that is ready-made. It will soon pay for itself because you will have to buy fewer transplants and you’ll get a head-start on your growing season!

How to Save Seeds

Saving your seeds is something that gardeners have done from ancient times. Only in relatively modern times have we relied exclusively on store-bought seeds. Saving seeds saves money, but not a whole lot. The true rewards of saving your own seeds are well worth the extra effort.

Why Save Seeds?

  • It’s a key survival skill
  • Take pride that you “did it yourself”
  • Preserve heirloom varieties
  • Ensure your seeds are not contaminated
  • Be prepared in the event of a disaster

How to Save Seeds
Saving seeds is fairly easy to do, especially with fruiting plants such as peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, and cucumbers. Simply select a few of your finest specimens, scoop out the seeds, and let them dry. This will not work with hybrids or GE seeds.

Save the Best of Your Harvest for Seeds
Selecting the “best” of your crop to use for seed stock is an important step. This way, you will be practicing an age-old tradition. As time goes on, your “best” plants will develop more of the traits you desire and adapt better to their environment. This is one of the main advantages of heritage varieties.

Video on Seed Saving
If you’d like to learn more about this homesteading, green-living skill, here’s a YouTube video showing how to save seeds.

Storing Seeds
You can store seeds in paper bags or in jars with a lid in the back of the refrigerator, or in a dry location with relatively cool temperatures.

to Grow Wheat and WheatgrassIf you have enough space and raised beds, it is possible to grow your own wheat for homemade bread. However, according to Organic Gardening, you can only “grow a bushel of wheat in a 20- by 50foot plot (1,000 squarefeet).” ¹ In other words, it takes a lot of wheat to make a bushel and a lot of space to produce it. Wheatworld.org² says one bushel of wheat will produce 60 pounds of wheat flour or 42 pounds of white flour.

When you plant in the Square Foot Garden, you will get greater yields as you know because of optimum soil and spacing. Nine seeds per square foot is the recommended spacing. I am told SFGs will yield 4-17 pounds per 100 square feet. (Get “.005-0.03 lbs per plant; 500 berries hulled per oz”, said wheat grower Ribsy Huggins in our SFGF online forum.)

If you only have one or a few small SFGs, you may certainly grow wheat because it is pretty and because you can, but bear in mind it will not yield enough to make a substantial amount of flour.

“Winter wheat is planted in fall, stays green until early winter, then goes dormant until spring.” (~Organic Gardening)

Photo: Wheatgrass ©Duk, Wikimedia Commons
Grow wheatgrass in the Square Foot Garden
Wheatgrass is wheat that is harvested while young, green and tender. It is often juiced or made into wheatgrass tea. This nutrient-rich tea is said to cure everything from cancer (“How I Conquered Cancer Naturally,” by Eydie Mae Hunsberger) to low libido. The objective of growing wheatgrass is not for the wheat to grow to maturity, but rather to harvest the tender, young sprouts. For that reason, the standard spacing does not apply. Choose winter variety seeds to grow your wheatgrass in fall. Select spring varieties to plant in spring.Hard Winter Wheat: “The classic power drink’s source plant. Easy to grow and seriously rejuvenating when ingested.” (~Sproutpeople.org)
Nutrition of Wheatgrass
Amino Acids
Calcium
Chlorophyll
Iron
Lecithin
Magnesium
Pantothenic Acid
Phosphorous
Potassium
Protein
Vitamins A, B, C, K, E
How to Grow Wheatgrass
You can grow wheatgrass in flat trays indoors on a windowsill, or grow it outside in your Square Foot Garden. Soak the seeds in water for 8-12 hours. Drain and rinse. Place the bowl of seeds in a cool, dark place for another 8 hours. Repeat the drain and rinse cycle. Once seeds have sprouted, it’s time to plant. Thoroughly water your Square Foot Garden planting medium.Spread the seeds out into each square you want to plant. You sow these seeds densely; they do not need to be spaced out. Remember, you are going to harvest all of the grass; you will not be thinning the plants out later or growing them to full maturity for the grain. In less than 15 days, you may have six-inch tall sprouts. Harvest by snipping off the tops with scissors. It literally looks like grass clippings. Juice the clippings or steep in boiling water to make wheatgrass tea. You can dry wheatgrass in a food dryer and grind the dried grass to make a powdered tea.References:
¹Organic Gardening.com, Grains: A Growing Guide
²Wheatworld.org: Fast Facts
Sproutpeople.org: Wheatgrass
Livestrong.com: How to eat Wheatgrass

Copyright © 2013 Square Foot Gardening Foundation, All rights reserved.

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