It’s hard to believe that it was just a matter of months ago (five, in fact) that I was so excited to start my first vegetable garden! Despite the recent lamentation over the end of summer, I’ll admit that the transition to fall has been more than welcome these last few days as the air chills and I begin to wear my slippers nearly every evening. This year I am not only eager to welcome fall because it is my favorite season (what other time can you wear scarfs and sunglasses at the same time out of necessity?!) but I am excited to seek redemption in starting a fall container garden. That’s right, despite the summer’s less-than-stellar performance (check out harvesting articles here and here), I’ve set my face towards trying to growing things in even “rougher” conditions.
Admittedly, my fall garden has been going for approximately two and a half weeks now as I started to clean out and sow new
experiments plants over Labor Day weekend. Before any planting started, however, I was completely blessed by my work supervisor and given permission to take a longer-than-usual lunch hour to attend Seattle Tilth‘s Fall Container Veggie & Herb Gardening class on a sunny Wednesday. Her only requests upon granting me permission to go? That I make a copy of my notes for her and that I make up the time later… done and done!
The Class: Fall Container Veggie & Herb Gardening
There were more than a couple of reasons why I felt especially compelled to interrupt my typically blissful workweek to take the container class offered by Seattle Tilth:
- As you know, I garden in containers. As such, I’m always down for any class which addresses this method specifically.
- The class was free because it was underwritten by Seattle Parks and Recreation.
- Classes give me confidence which is always a plus!
- Based on my prior experience, I know that Seattle Tilth classes are really good.
My friend, Carrie, also gardens in containers (check out her garden below!) and works downtown. As such, it wasn’t hard to convince her to join me on her lunch hour. I’m so glad she came too since her savvy, downtown, Seattle navigating skills led us not only to parking but also to the class on time!
Upon arriving at the park, Carrie and I followed the signs until we found ourselves at our one-of-a-kind classroom and settled ourselves among the other people dressed in their business clothes. From there, our instructor took us through a helpful handout which covered the basics of fall container gardening. Below, I’ve included a brief outline of the things that we learned and pictures of me putting them into action as I prepared my little (as in teensy-weensy) farm for a fall harvest!
Basics: Sun, Containers and Soil
In addition to introductions and a little pep talk regarding the benefits of gardening in the fall, our one hour class started with the basics:
- Sun – how to maximize it’s warm, um, sunniness during a season where it starts to fade away.
- Containers – a discussion regarding the appropriate size and materials.
- Soil – organic is best!
Since I’ve had a hand at gardening, I’ll admit that I spent a lot of time thinking of what I needed to do to my basics in order to transition my summer garden into an autumn variety! As such, my responses to the discussion of the basics were something like this:
- Sun! We’re running out of it! I should have started yesterday! Thankfully, the class took place during the last week of August, and, if you recall, the Pacific Northwest had a blissful first week of September. See?
As such, I knew that doing some garden prep during Labor Day weekend was a sure-fire way to maximize my success!
- Containers! I’m so arrogant… I still have a major crush on the planter boxesthat my papa and I built!
- Soil! When I originally put my summer garden together, I had purchased Cedar Grove potting soilbecause it comes highly recommended. After such a “robust” growing season, however, I wondered if I could go ahead and use it again. This wonder led to a “good question” per our instructor. The answer? Yes, but I would probably need to add some more organic matter. Specifically, she recommended adding one part organic matter to three parts soil. This led me to chicken manure…
Getting the Timing Right
As I mentioned above, I was all about getting the timing right with starting my garden on the right foot (aka exposing it to as much sunshine as possible)! In addition to receiving a specific handout titled ‘Winter Gardening in September’, our instructor also shared a really neat resource: Territorial Seed Company‘s Planting Chart. This was a definitely a place where I felt all of the class’s attendants perked up and stretched to see what should be going into the
ground containers sooner rather than later.
When it came to my planting, I relied on the class’s handout. So what will I be growing this fall (and also featuring on the Garden Cam)?
Since the handout not only gave recommendations based on seeds and starts, I decided to take one step further into the world of gardening and actually try some items from (drumroll, please!) SEEDS! This decision may have also been influenced by the fact that there were free seeds too…
Due to timing, I needed to hold off on preparing my second planter box for a fall harvest because it was still housing some very happy (and fruit producing ) eggplants and cucumbers. Consequently, I knew that the second box would be reserved for vegetables coming from starts. Hence, a trip to the Harvest Fair was in order, of course!
A Little Bit of This and That
Here are some other interesting things I learned at my class:
- Slugs are the only fall gardening pests!
- You should try to avoid fertilizing plants in the fall or winter. The idea is to keep overwintering plants small so when they’re hit with the early sunshine of spring, they’ll grow and grow and grow!
- Some vegetables are actually better after the first frost because the plants produce sugar which acts like antifreeze!
- You can grow garlic straight from cloves! Now, how cool is that?
With the starts and seeds in their containers, a new game of watching, waiting, and calling the Seattle Tilth Garden Hotline in a panic begins! While I’m excited to have the garden only a few steps away at the new homestead, I know that there is a new set of challenges (I literally ran a squirrel out of box #2 earlier today – I guess my maternal instinct makes me forget my fear of woodland creatures)! Still, I’m excited to see what happens and the prospect of enjoying the bounty of this fall garden over the next few months!
If you’d like to stay synched with the progression of my fall container garden, come back and check out the Fall Garden Cam which will be posted within the next few days!