Notes on the Fall Garden

Lately the air's been cool enough to turn my thoughts to my unfinished knitting and the promise of fresh turnips, beets, and sugar snap peas. I put my fall garden in several weeks ago, and now my seedlings are up and, admittedly, fighting one another for room to grow, since I didn't bother to space anything properly. But it's no big deal. After all, fall is a particularly forgiving season for beginning gardeners -- and especially for beginning organic gardeners.

Why? For starters, the cooler temperatures make hand-digging new or existing garden areas much more bearable. Although I do own a rototiller, I aspire to retire it one of these days. Noisy and unreliable, the contraption does make quick work of preparing my garden beds, but at a cost. Besides the gas, oil, and general upkeep -- not to mention having to store the behemoths -- rototillers can badly compact the soil, and they're hell on earthworms. Hand-digging or the more thorough double-digging are much better options for the long-term health of an organic garden -- and, if you dig now, you won't have to keep an eye on the heat index.

You won't have to battle too many weeds or bugs either. That's good news, considering how well my last organic pest management experiment turned out. Something had been chewing on my early-summer crop of sugar snap peas, so I'd made up a batch of insecticidal soap. (Unfortunately, I didn't pay very close attention to the ratio of soap to water.) I coated the plants thoroughly one particularly sunny afternoon, and, when I checked on them the next day, my gorgeous peas had gone from classic Kermit-the-Frog green to the color of straw. The scorched plants rattled creepily in the breeze. Nothing would nibble on them now, I supposed. . . 

Anyway, once the weather cools, most of the bugs really do bug off all by themselves.

Finally, many of the veggies that tolerate cool-weather also happen to grow really well in containers. That means even if you don't have land of your own, you can always sow some kale, spinach, or lettuce directly in pots, and simply snip a few leaves from each plant as needed.