Seed Planting in the Fall

By Irma Wolf

Mine is a fenced-in garden at 7764' altitude, so I don't have the concerns about critters, although gophers have entered in the past 3 years and made dirt mounds and holes in 2 of my 3 beds.  I blame this on the next-door neighbor, who fogged his gopher holes, and shortly thereafter traces of gophers appeared in my garden.  Could that be the same family as his?  I've put juicy fruit gum in the holes and then filled them in.  No, I didn't chew it for them.  Don't know if that really works, but made me feel better.  Next I'll try used kitty litter.

A while ago, I bought a book entitled, “The Vegetable Gardener's Bible” by Edward C. Smith which I consider a good guide.

I have three raised rectangular beds of a dimension around 5' x 8' so I can reach crops in the middle of each bed.  As we had an over-abundance of firewood stumps, the bed borders are made of standing logs about 15” high that abut each other.  I filled the beds with good top soil, homemade compost, seasoned horse manure, and some Brownie cattle manure which I get from King Soopers.   I add the horse manure in the Fall too, and the Brownie and compost in the Spring, and hand-till the soil afterwards.  I rotate the crop rows each year.

In October after amending and tilling the soil, and from the seeds I've gathered from the past summer, I plant a “winter crop” of spinach, parsley and arugula seeds—the smaller seeds just under the surface, larger seeds 1/4” deep; then tamp down the soil over the seed rows and sprinkle the rows.  I cover the rows with a 6” layer of pine needles.  If warm weather follows this planting, seedlings are seen in about 3 weeks around late October or early November.  They don't grow much more before the snow covers the bed.   They may stay covered or are exposed depending upon the amount of snowfall.  And if they survive until about April and the weather is warm, they begin to grow.  By late May after removing the pine needle cover, I'm able to harvest a small amount of short salad leaves.  I pinch off the leaves close to the ground rather than pull-by- root, so that the plantings regrow and continue to yield until they go to seed.

I've found that some parsley may not die off in the cold weather and the same old plants will regrow in spring.  Therefore I have some new shoots and some old shoots of parsley—the old ones having larger plants but going to seed earlier.  Parsley can be harvested under the snow in winter-- if I wish to brave the cold--but normally don't do so, unless I'm totally out of purchased parsley.

Now that 11 mistletoed trees have been cut down around the beds, I'm not sure whether additional sunlight will improve growth or dry up my crop sooner.  Time will tell.