12 months of gardening | Vanburen


The evidence is overwhelming that the use of tobacco products is harmful. That said, tobacco production in Arkansas is part of our history and has contributed to our development. When Arkansas became a territory in 1819, tobacco farming was prevalent due to the high profits involved. But in 1898, according to an article by the Benton County Democrat, Arkansas had been removed from the list of tobacco-growing states because of its small land area. Times had changed as they continue to today.

I had the pleasure of visiting Tommy Sharp’s garden in Clinton. He was particularly proud of a very healthy and tall tobacco plant. He called it a “just for fun” project. This is her second year of lowland gardening associated with the city branch. Often the bottomlands are more fertile due to recurring deposition from flooding, but in Tommy’s garden most of the good soil has been washed away further downstream. A lack of organic matter and lots of clay create rock-hard soil that inhibits root development and lowers productivity. He adds large amounts of organic matter and changes the location of his chicken coop. He says it helps.

Since much of the county has poor soil, let’s talk a bit about improving it. Organic growing techniques have been around for thousands of years. But after World War II, the rise of the petrochemical industry and its promotion of toxic, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for rapid yield increases changed the face of farming and gardening in the United States. The downside of this has become increasingly apparent as the long-term cost of production has increased, air and water pollution has increased, soil quality and structure have deteriorated, and our ecosystem is being pushed to collapse on several fronts.

On the other hand, the use of organic fertilizers contributes greatly to a healthier environment, increases in soil quality and long-term sustainable productivity. Some of your fertilizer choices include alfalfa meal, bat guano, blood meal, bone meal, coffee grounds, cornmeal, worm casings, flour of fish, greensand, gypsum, kelp meal, lime, manure, molasses, seaweed, sul-po-mag and sulphur. Cost and availability will influence your choices and consider the impact of each on your plants.

With temperatures in the 80s as I write this, it’s hard to believe the summer garden will soon be gone. I will miss the fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. But my fall garden started producing carrots, scallions, Swiss chard, collard greens, radishes, spinach, peas, and lots of lettuce leaves.

Other cool weather crops that could still be planted include kale, mustard, cabbage and turnips. If the really cold weather continues, you could harvest these items in December. And the cold frames and other season extenders would allow harvests until next year.

Cover crops can also be planted. They are often called green manures because of the benefits to the soil when turned over in the spring. Legumes are popular because they take nitrogen out of the air and return it to the soil to be used by subsequent crops. They have been used since ancient Greek and Roman times. Choices include clovers, cowpeas, field peas and hairy vetch.

Other benefits of cover crops are that they slow down and/or prevent erosion. They produce biomass and add organic matter to the soil. And, they can attract beneficial insects.

Autumn cleaning of old vegetation in the garden is very important to prevent the overwintering of insects, eggs and diseases. Some burn it to eliminate all risks. If you can’t do that, at the very least, remove it to a remote location. If you have a yard waste collection, include it with this.

Some compost it, which if you’re an advanced composter will also work. Most pathogens and viruses will be destroyed with stack temperatures of 131 degrees or higher for at least three consecutive days. Some bacteria need more than 150 degrees, but don’t let your stack go above 160 as this will start to interfere with beneficial biological processes. Be sure to wear a mask when turning your pile to limit exposure to pathogens.

There is another perspective that encourages us not to clean our gardens until spring. If you have had few diseases and few insect problems, or have introduced beneficial insects, it is suggested to wait. There are more than 3500 species of native bees, important for pollination, which need shelters for the winter. Many butterflies are pollinators and also need winter shelter. Ladybugs, famous pest eaters, shelter under leaves or rocks and at the base of plant stems. Not cleaning the garden benefits insectivorous birds, such as chickadees, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, phoebes and bluebirds.

Many predatory insects, such as assassin bugs, lacewings, big-eyed bugs, ground beetles, damselfish bugs and many other insect pests, overwinter in the garden as adults, eggs or pupae. They begin to eat these “bad guys” as soon as they appear in the spring.

This choice is best for organic gardeners who have kept botanical pesticide use to a minimum and encouraged pollinators and other good insects. Most of these beneficial plants will have emerged after seven days of temperatures of at least 50 degrees.

The indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides destroys the balance of nature in the garden, increasing the need for more pesticides. Populations of bad insects grow faster than good insects. Difficult to find the balance. When I use a pesticide, it’s a plant that breaks down quickly in the environment, and I only target problem insects. When a little is enough, don’t add more. My favorite method of organic bug control is overwriting. I find something very satisfying in it.

October will likely see our first frost of the season, so start making room indoors for houseplants that are now outdoors. This first cold spell may surprise us, and some tropical plants will die in the 40s. Better to move indoors too soon than too late.

For the garden, have blankets, like old sheets and blankets, ready to go when the first frosts are announced. Many fall crops can handle temperatures in the 20s, but that’s if it happens gradually. Going from 50s or 40s one day to 20s that night does not allow plants to “toughen up” or get used to the change. In such a situation, be prepared to protect crops that could normally withstand low temperatures if given time to adapt. A few years ago, a gentle fall and diligence covering when needed, saw me harvest my last tomatoes in December.

When some say it all seems like a lot of work, I remember my friend and mentor Lalla Ostergren saying with delight, “Every plant needs a mix of nutrients for its health, so it sends out its little roots to seek and find . Then we eat the plants to get the nutrients we need for our health. What a wonderful process. We are responsible for the health of our plants and our plants are responsible for our health. She always made it fun.

October is a glorious month as the last vestiges of summer fade away and the first signs of winter begin to show. Walk around and savor the change.

Looking forward to seeing you in the garden next month.


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