October in the Vegetable Garden

October in the Vegetable Garden

There are several things to do in the Cape Cod vegetable garden in the fall. Here is a quick rundown of what you should be doing in October when growing vegetables on Cape Cod.

~ Continue to pick and enjoy your crops

If you’re still harvesting you’ll continue to pick as long as your crops are producing. In this region, vegetable growers can harvest lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, leeks, chard, beets and carrots into December. So continue to cut the oldest leaves off of the greens, the sprouts and heads off of your cole crops, and pull carrots and beets. Until we get a frost, you’ll also be picking what tomatoes are still ripening despite having early blight.

Even if the majority of leaves have succumbed to early blight, the fruit will continue to ripen, so pick them as they are ready to eat.

~ Top-off soil in raised beds.

In raised beds the soil settles and sinks over time. The bed at the bottom of this photo is ready to replenish, and often it’s best to use organic matter such as compost, especially if the soil in the bed is sandy.
These are perfect for top-dressing your vegetable garden in the fall. You don’t have to dig the compost in at this time – just spread a one to three inch layer over the top of the garden and let that settle in during the winter.

~ Remove all diseased foliage from the garden

If your squash had mildew, or your peppers had leaf-spot, remove that foliage now and put it in a brush or burn pile, not in your compost. Clean up rotten fruit such as fallen tomatoes or peppers.

~ Continue to pull weeds

In addition to getting diseased foliage out of a vegetable garden in the fall, continue to keep on top of the weeds. Plants such as bittercress, wintercress and chickweed germinate in the fall, and the summer weeds are still with us.

~ Be ready to plant garlic in late-October

Garlic is planted in trenches that are about 3 inches deep. Break up the head into individual cloves and place them about 6 inches apart in the row. Cover these with soil and water well.

~ Empty compost bins before winter

If you have compost bins, this is the time to empty them before the contents freezes solid. Even if you can still identify those eggshells, avocado pits and other material that is slow to break down, you can spread that over the top of your vegetable garden.

~ Plant a winter cover crop…aka a “green manure”

The winter rye is in the store! Some people prefer to scatter this seed over the soil in their empty vegetable gardens in October. The seeds germinate in the fall and hold in the soil all winter. Note, however, that if you choose to plant a winter cover crop, you’ll need to turn it over in the early spring before the grain starts to get tall. This is easy for those who use a tiller, but can be a bit more arduous in a raised bed where you’ll need to use a shovel. For this reason, cover crops are more appropriate for ground-level gardens. In raised beds, spread a two or three in layer of compost instead. If desired, you can top that off with a layer of chopped leaves once they fall from the trees.

~ Have a soil test done

Fall is the ideal time to take soil samples from your vegetable garden and send them into the UMASS Soil Lab. There are complete directions on their website. Be sure to write on the form that you’re growing veggies, and send in at least a cup of soil. If you have trouble understanding the report once the results come back, print them out and bring them into the store for our Garden Department staff’s assistance.

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