Hello Ohio Valley farmers and gardeners! The growing season will officially end next week as nighttime temperatures drop to nearly 32 degrees F. However, gardeners have plenty of chores around the house to do.
If you are cleaning the garden, consider planting a cover crop. Many grains and legumes are available to accumulate organic matter and prevent soil erosion during the winter.
Winter wheat mixed with Austrian winter peas or hairy vetch is what I use. Plant winter wheat at 4 to 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet and hairy vetch at 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Fall is also a great time to apply soil amendments such as lime, compost, and manure.
Many homeowners have large trees in the yard. Gather the leaves in the yard by raking them or shredding them with the mower. You can add them to the compost pile or create a separate one just for leaf mold. Leaf mold is a nutrient-rich soil amendment produced by the fungal decay of tree leaves.
Unlike traditional compost which undergoes a heat generating process driven by bacteria, leaf mold is produced by a cooler and much slower fungal process. The resulting decomposed material is an excellent additive for the soil. It can be mixed during tillage or used as a surface mulch for no-till gardening.
Leaf mold is different from other composts. Tree leaves are high in carbon and low in nitrogen compared to other compostable materials. For this reason, tree leaves cannot be composted in a conventional manner without adding nitrogen rich material to increase the carbon to nitrogen ratio.
Plowing the leaves directly into the ground is not a good idea, due to the high carbon to nitrogen ratio. Soil microorganisms will use nitrogen from the soil for the purpose of breaking down the leaves, which will lead to nitrogen deficiency in plants. However, with sufficient time and moisture, leaf mold makes an excellent material that can be added to the soil.
It is also necessary to dig up and store the flower bulbs that will not survive winters. Bulbs of gladiolus, caladium, dahlia, tuberous begonia, calla lilies and canna lilies should be dug out and saved for planting next year to enjoy their summer beauty again.
All of these plants should be dug after the frost has browned the foliage. Let them dry for about a week in a shady, well-ventilated area like a garage or tool shed. Freezing temperatures should be avoided. Remove any excess soil and wrap them in peat, vermiculite, or perlite.
Caladium should be stored between 50 and 60 degrees F. The other bulbs mentioned should be stored as close to 40 degrees F as possible. Finding a good place to store the bulbs can be difficult. Some people place them against a wall in the basement furthest from the furnace and insulate them so the wall keeps them cool.
If you haven’t planted any spring bulbs, there is still time. In most cases, it is recommended that you plant hardy bulbs such as crocuses, tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils in October to give them enough time to take root before winter.
But it is certainly not too late to plant them in early November. As long as the soil temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the bulbs should continue with root development.
When buying bulbs, only buy top quality bulbs that are large, firm and with good color. Choose a site that is well-drained and receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. If the soil is poorly drained, consider raised beds.
For a pretty show of color, plant the bulbs in front of evergreen shrubs or among perennials and other flowering shrubs. Formal tulips appear best planted in flower beds in symmetrical arrangements, while daffodils should be planted in informal plantings.
Plant the bulbs upright, with the ends pointed, to the recommended depth. As a general rule, bulbs should be planted three times deeper than the longest dimension of the bulb. Use a shovel, trowel, or bulb planter and space the bulbs out according to their size.
Large bulbs like tulips and daffodils should be spaced four to six inches apart. Smaller bulbs such as crocuses, snowdrops, and scilles should be spaced one to two inches apart.
Research has proven that fertilizer added to the soil before the bulbs are planted increases growth. Improved growth is not evident until the second year, when bulbs that have been fertilized at planting retain vigorous growth and large flowers, while unfertilized ones tend to become smaller and smaller. lower quality. The best fertilizer is a complete commercial fertilizer such as 10-10-10.
The black walnut harvest ends in the Mid-West. They have a stronger flavor than English nuts, but are a tree native to our region and are a very sustainable food product. Black nuts are a rich source of bioactive compounds capable of promoting multiple health benefits and can be used in many recipes.
Harvest the black walnuts as soon as the outer shell softens but is still green. If you can leave a finger depression in the husk, the nut is ripe. Most people wait for the nuts to start falling before picking them, but ripe nuts can be shaken off tree branches or dislodged with a long pole.
If you pick nuts, be sure to wear gloves. Outer casings stain just about anything and are used to make natural dyes.
American black walnut is an integral part of Midwestern culture. Most black nuts are picked by hand, so each fall thousands of people work together to pick the nuts.
If you have black nuts and want to sell them, there is a shelling site at Integration Acres near Athens, Ohio. Hammons Black Walnuts has over 215 local shopping stations in 11 states.
These stations shell and weigh the nuts and transport them by truck to the processing plant in Hammons. The main processing plant is located in Stockton, Missouri. It has grown over the years to shell about 25 million pounds of nuts per year, producing black walnut nuts for food ingredients and peanut shells for industrial purposes.
Finally, fall is the best time to test your soil. This is always a free service provided by the University of West Virginia. Soil and weather conditions are often more favorable for sampling in the fall. Do not take samples of frozen or wet soil as it will be difficult to handle and mix.
No matter if you need to test soil for agricultural crops, gardens, flower beds, or lawns, knowing the pH and nutrient levels in the soil is important to know what you are lacking. Once the lab has analyzed your soil, you will receive a recommendation sheet suggesting the amount, if any, of lime and / or fertilizer to apply.
You can find more information on the WVU Soils Lab website at soiltesting.wvu.edu. Contact me at the WVU extension office if you need help filling out forms or need help interpreting lab results.
This is my last column for 2021 so I hope I had a good harvest and I will tell you about it next spring.
Contact me at the Wood County Extension Office WVU 304-424-1960 or email me at [email protected] with questions. Good luck and good gardening!