It’s time to plan the 2020 vegetable garden! Or at least time to start thinking about it.
Times have changed – I used to be thrilled when a seed catalog showed up before Christmas, and now it’s “What? The first week of December and only two catalogs have arrived? Don’t they love me anymore?” But I’m sure more will be along soon. Flipping through pages of lavishly-illustrated vegetables and flowers is a great way to spend a winter’s hour or three, but it’s oh so easy to be tempted into buying more seeds than you need. As someone who’s done this multiple times, I’ve developed some strategies for keeping the seed frenzy under control. So, for what it’s worth, here’s my process.
Now is a good time to prune trees. Ray Bosmans demonstrates how to trim tall trees safely and effectively. Make sure to be careful when using a tall ladder.
Planning, preparation, timing, and flexibility are becoming more important for food gardeners trying to adapt to climate change. For example, some gardeners are planting more late crops and reaping larger and longer harvests of leafy greens in the fall. But severe cold snaps can punctuate long periods of mild weather and injure plants, so being prepared to cover and protect those crops with a floating row cover is still essential.
Similarly, HGIC receives questions each year from gardeners about protecting figs from cold winter weather. If climate change is giving us milder winters do we still need to protect fig plants over the winter? The answer is yes, for most Maryland gardeners, because severe cold snaps will kill aboveground wood even if the average winter temperature is rising. Bending stems as close to horizontal as possible and covering the plant with a tarp or other insulating material is a time-honored technique:
Planting cover crops in late summer/early fall is a great way to improve and protect soils. Some vegetable gardeners had tomato, pepper, cucumber and other crops going strong into October and asked us if they could plant cover crop seed past the recommended end date of October 1st. Mild conditions and sufficiently high soil and air temperatures allowed for successful late planting well into October. But if you don’t carefully monitor the 7-10 forecasts you can end up wasting time and money.
This cover crop was sown on November 3rd in Central MD and included winter rye, crimson clover, and hairy vetch. The temperature cooled considerably from the previous week, dropping to a record low of 25⁰ on Nov. 9th:
The availability of tree leaves in fall gives gardeners some flexibility and another option for soil improvement. Leaves can be spread out over the soil to prevent erosion, improve soil health, and provide a nice mulch for next year’s garden plants. Climate change is forcing us to be better planners and to act quickly when dealing with extreme and unstable weather.
More fig and cover crop information:
By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist
Refer to the Home and Garden Information Center website for more gardening tips and tasks.