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Autumn Abundance: Harvesting Tips, Winter Protection, and Planting for the Future

Autumn is in full swing, and our gardens are still thriving with an abundance of produce and possibilities. In this month's newsletter, we're excited to share valuable tips on harvesting your fall crops and maximizing your garden's potential even as winter approaches.

🍅 Harvesting Tips for Late-Season Bounty: October doesn't mean the end of fresh produce. Tomatoes, winter squash, apples, pears, and root crops are still thriving. Here are some handy tips for ensuring your harvest stays fresh:

  • Tomatoes: gather all of your late-season tomatoes before the first frost. Tomatoes ripen in temperatures over 60 degrees. Do NOT put them in the refrigerator. Instead, place them next to a ripe fruit, such as a banana. The ethylene emitted from other ripening fruits will signal the tomatoes to begin ripening themselves. Green tomatoes can also be placed in a closed paper bag or cardboard box with a ripening banana - this traps the ethylene, allowing for a faster ripening time.

  • Winter Squash: delectable squashes like acorn squash, butternuts, and pie pumpkins should be properly cured before being stored for the winter. Simply lay the freshly picked squash or pumpkins in a warm, shaded, and well-ventilated space for 1-2 weeks. Properly cured, winter squash will last in your pantry for 2-6 months.

  • Apples and Pears: late-season fruits should be ripening any day. Individually wrap the unblemished, ripe fruits in newspaper and pack them into well-ventilated boxes. Store them in a cool, frost-free place.

  • Root Crops: It is entirely possible to leave root crops in the ground during winter. Apply a thick layer of mulch to keep the soil as insulated as possible. It is also possible to store carrots, beets, and parsnips in a cool, frost-free place. Simply lift them from the ground and remove the tops. Layer them in a box or container, making sure that they do not touch each other, and fill the spaces with sand or potting mix.

🌱 Protect Your Winter Salads: If you planted winter salads, it's time to protect them for continuous harvesting. Consider using protective row covers like tunnels, glass over haybales, or invest in durable cold frames. However you choose to protect your crops, it is important to remember to mulch the area and to also allow some ventilation into the area to prevent mold and disease and to keep the area from becoming too hot during the warm afternoons that we often enjoy even as fall transitions to winter.


🌷 Keep Planting for the Future: Even as the season winds down, there's still plenty of planting to do:

  • Bulbs: There are two types of bulbs: fall bulbs and spring bulbs. Fall bulbs are planted in the fall and require a chilling period in order to grow and bloom. These bulbs include Tulips, Narcissus (Daffodil), Crocus, Allium, and Hyacinth. They can be planted in insulated pots or in the ground. Each bulb has different planting requirements, so take care to read the instructions on the packet thoroughly and plant each type according to the specific instructions. We suggest applying Muriate of Potash and Bonemeal to the soil when planting bulbs to help them develop strong root systems.

  • Garlic: We have two varieties of garlic available for purchase and planting this year. German Red Hardneck and California Softneck. Read our blog with in-depth instructions on how to plant and grow garlic.

  • Trees & Shrubs: Fall is an amazing time to plant trees and shrubs. Many trees and shrubs have their price reduced in the fall, saving you money, and planting now helps the new plants avoid transplant shock by allowing the tree or shrub to focus on root growth instead of top growth. Be sure to water and mulch your new landscape additions properly for the first three years.

🍂 The Importance of Mulch: Mulching in winter is a gardening practice of immense importance, often underestimated but critical for the health and vitality of plants and soil. A thick layer of mulch acts as a natural insulator, protecting plant roots from extreme temperature fluctuations that can occur in winter. This insulation prevents frost heaving and root damage. Mulch also acts as a barrier against the harsh winter winds, helps to retain soil moisture, and prevents erosion. Furthermore, organic mulches break down over time, enriching the soil with valuable nutrients, and ensuring that your garden starts the spring season with a healthy, nutrient-rich foundation. Mulching in winter is not just a matter of aesthetics; it's a fundamental practice that ensures the resilience and well-being of your garden. It’s important to choose the right mulch for the area: we recommend using bark chips or nuggets in the landscape and around ornamental plants. Use straw, compost, or fallen leaves in your vegetable garden.


 

For more information, give us a call at (580) 338-5020 or email us at helmsnursery@gmail.com

We are open at 124 North Quinn Street from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.


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Happy Gardening!



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