Fall gardening is a great way to extend the growing season and eat fresh vegetables into the fall and sometimes even the winter. Fall gardening also has several other advantages over the traditional spring/summer garden. One big advantage is that there are significantly fewer insect pests around to destroy your crops. Another advantage is you don't need to worry about summer coming on too quickly and your plants bolting too soon. For the northern garden, some of the best crops to plant for a fall garden include lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, mustard greens, kale, chard, peas, cauliflower, turnips, collards, carrots, and more. Basically, anything you would plant in the spring can be planted again in the fall. The following are a few tips for a successful fall garden.
Tip #1: Time your Planting!
Timing when to plant your fall garden is probably the most important factor. To determine the proper timing, you need two pieces of information. First, you need to know the average first frost date for your area. This is the date in the fall where on average (generally 50% of the time) the first hard or killing frost occurs. Remember, this is just an average so it is possible that the first frost may actually occur a week or two or even more in either direction.
To determine your average first frost date, you can use a website such as the one by the National Climatic Data Center which gives the average frost dates for both spring and fall at various probabilities (I generally use the 50% one). There are plenty of other websites that give similar information but each one may vary slightly so you may want to check a few sites to get reliable date from multiple sources.
The second piece of information you need is the average number of days to harvest for each vegetable you plant. This generally can be found on your packet of seeds. Different varieties of the same vegetable can vary greatly so you want to make sure you are using the dates from your specific variety not generic information for a general type of vegetable. In general, however, spinach, lettuce, and other greens grow quickly and will require fewer days to harvest and so can be planted in late summer or even early fall depending on your zone. Other vegetables that take longer to mature such as broccoli or cauliflower you will need to plant sooner, such as mid to late summer, again, depending on your zone. For example, if your vegetable takes 50 days to harvest and your average first frost date is October 1st then you would want to plant your seeds around August 12th which is 50 days before the average last frost date.
Spinach and mustard greens grow quickly and can be planted later or multiple plantings staggered throughout late summer and early fall.
Tip #2: Water your Seeds!
Most years you will need to water more when planting a fall garden than for a summer garden. In general, we receive more rain in the spring and early summer so nature does a great job watering for us during those months. However, in our zone most of our planting for a fall garden needs to be done in mid-July to late-August. This is generally a drier time for much of the Northeast and Midwest so in order to receive optimal germination I usually water every 1-2 days until the seeds germinate and a good root system is established.
Chinese cabbage and traditional cabbage grow much better in the fall when insects and slugs are less active.
Tip #3: Cover your Plants!
If your first frost comes earlier than expected there are ways to protect your plants so you don’t lose your crops. The best way is to cover your plants to provide a few degrees of protection. The easiest way is to cover larger areas with a tarp or plastic of some kind. For individual plants, you can cover them with a milk jug with the top or bottom cut off or a pot or bucket. This can be time consuming depending on the size of your garden. Alternatively, you can plant your veggies in a greenhouse or cold frame. This requires more money upfront to build a greenhouse or cold frame. Most people are familiar with a greenhouse however a cheaper and easier version is to build a cold frame. This involves simply adding a clear “lid” to the top of a raised bed. This is generally glass or plastic. Many people recycle old windows and fit them to the top of a raised bed. The key with a cold frame is that they need to be lifted up to vent during the warm days and then closed at night to protect the plants from frost. Cold frames and greenhouses can significantly lengthen your growing season particularly in northern climates.
Collards, peas, and broccoli are all great options for a fall garden.
So, it has been a really long time since the last blog post. The reason for this is that spring and summer is the busiest time of year on a farm especially since this was our first spring on the property. We had a ton of stuff that we wanted to get done and we’re still slowly working down that list.
To start we had ordered 6 bare root fruit trees, 25 red wine grapes, and 75 baby trees (spruce, fir, and white birch) all of which were delivered in April. Bare root plants need to go in as soon as possible so my husband dug a lot of holes in a short period of time! We planted 4 apple trees, a cold-hard peach tree, and a sour cherry tree and hope to add 4-6 more fruit and nut trees each year until our orchard is complete. Our biggest concern is our zone; we are in zone 4 which limits our selection of fruit trees that will grow well here. If anyone knows of a sweet cherry tree that grows in zone 4 please let me know!
The 25 red wine grapes that we bought are suited to our harsh Wisconsin winters. We chose the Marquette variety as these are cold hardy and although they are a new variety developed by the University of Minnesota, appear to make a nice dry red wine which we prefer. In subsequent years, we hope to add more grapes including a white variety (likely Itasca) well suited for our climate.
Before we could plant the grapes however we needed to get the sod in our field tilled under. We also wanted to put in a large vegetable garden this spring and summer so we also needed the sod tilled under for that as well. We do not have a roto-tiller attachment for our little 955 John Deere tractor however a neighbor with a much larger tractor agreed to roto-till our plot in exchange for haying our field this summer for his horses. He has also provided lots of horse manure for compost!
Today I am going to walk you through the steps of how to make a pine cone wreath. The wreath depicted (see pictures below) is sports-themed for a Green Bay Packer fan (not my favorite color scheme but I am a Wisconsinite now)! This post is for all the "crafty" people out there, those on a budget, or those who just prefer the DIY approach. I have put together a short tutorial with pictures on how to make your own pine cone wreath. If you are going to treat the pine cones in any way (i.e. with spray paint or bleach) this requires a much bigger time commitment, as much as one week to make a single wreath, however doing it yourself will save you a significant amount of money.
First, you will need a wire wreath frame and floral wire (generally the green wire available in most craft, big box stores, and online retailers). Some people hot glue the cones to a foam frame but I highly recommend individually wiring the pine cones to a metal frame. These wreaths are very delicate but at least by wiring them you do not need to worry about them falling off! You will also need wire cutters and I have found needle nose pliers come in handy when adding the last group of pine cones in order to grab the wires and pull them toward the back of the frame.
Last, you will need pine cones and lots of them! I have only used the Eastern White Pine cones because I have the most of them available, but I also prefer the look of these wreaths. Here is where the creative part of the process comes into play. You can use natural pine cones which you can spray with a matte or glossy acrylic spray if you wish to help protect them. A spray is not necessary but may help protect the wreath for long-term storage or if you plan on displaying the wreath outdoors. Regardless of whether or not you spray the cones I do recommend displaying the wreath in a sheltered area as wet pine cones will close. A second option is to use bleached pine cones. Bleaching turns the cones a beautiful driftwood color which I plan to post about in the future so stay tuned! Or the pine cones can be spray painted any color you desire.
I use spray paint that specifically states it can be used with wood. I have found that you often get less coverage with lighter colors (not really surprising) but if you like the look of the wood grain of the pine cone coming through the paint these can be beautiful. In general the glossy colors provide better coverage than the matte/flat or satin/semi-gloss. You will also likely find that your color choices/finish are severely limited by what is available in the store and some brands of spray paint provide better coverage than others. Feel free to experiment with different brands, colors, and finishes to figure out what you like or message me if you have specific questions.
Step 2: Wiring
I cut approximately 6-8" pieces of floral wire and wrap it around the top of the cones (go a few scales down from the top) at least twice. Then insert the top of the cone between the outer two wires on the frame with the floral wire sticking out the back. Twist several times to attach the cone to the frame. Repeat this process for the entire outside of the frame. I usually use my largest (~5") pine cones on the outside of the frame and save the smaller ones for the inner rings and to fill holes at the end. For the cones at the end you will need longer wire (~10") to reach all the way through the wreath with enough remaining to grip and twist to secure the pine cone.
Step 4: Complete the Wreath
After you trim the excess wires from the first row, move on to the second row, trim the wires from this row, and then wire in the third row. Each row gets subsequently harder to wire because there is less room to fit the cones and your fingers however, with a little patience you will soon have all three rows wired. Next, fill in any gaps with the smallest cones you have on hand. I have found it helpful to hang the wreath on the wall to determine where the gaps are. Sometimes taking a picture of the wreath on the wall is also helpful as it is easier to notice problems with the wreath from a picture than on the table or wall. You may also find it necessary to adjust or even remove certain cones that do not fit quite right. If a cone is sticking out too much you can often wire it to pull it closer to the remaining cones. If this does not work simply remove it and replace it with one that fits better. Once the wreath is complete and you are happy with the end product you can hot glue the wires to keep them from scratching the wall or you can back the wire frame with felt. Regardless, hang the wreath and enjoy!
Large Bleached Pine Cone Wreath
This is a beautiful pine cone wreath that measures approximately 22-24" in diameter. The wreath is on a 18" wire frame although a smaller wreath on a 12" frame can also be produced. The pine cones are from Eastern White Pine trees and are collected by hand, dried and cleaned, and then bleached to lighten their color. If the natural darker look is preferred this can also be made on either frame size. Each pine cone is individually wired onto the wreath frame. If more color is desired a bow, berries, or other adornment can be added. Display in a sheltered area is recommended as moisture will cause the pine cones to close.
If you prefer a colored wreath, the cones can be spray painted in any color combination to match any room, holiday, or sports team. Please visit my shop at twopondsfarm.etsy.com to see more options.
Two Ponds Farm has a new vintage item available; apothecary glasses. These are graduated glasses/beakers that would have originally been used by hospitals or biology or chemistry laboratories. They work well as drinking glasses, beer glasses or a vase! I am not sure how old they are but they were manufactured by the Mercer Glass Works Company in New York City which at the time was based at 17 W 17th street (see current picture from Google maps below). They are still in their original boxes, likely never used! They are solid at almost 1 pound each and measure approximately 7.25 inches high by 3.5 inches in diameter at the top and 3 inches in diameter at the base. Please visit my shop at www.twopondsfarm.etsy.com or contact me for more information. Thanks!
Thank you for visiting my new website. The purpose of this site is to share more information about my online Etsy store (www.twopondsfarm.etsy.com) and the products I sell. I started a new Etsy store just before Thanksgiving 2016. I am focusing on all natural items that are sourced from our land in central Wisconsin. Currently I have a wide variety of pine cones for decorative or crafting needs. I am beginning to make pine cone wreaths and will hopefully add more pine cone crafts in the future. I am also focusing on white birch products. We have made a variety of beautiful wooden tea light and votive holders. We also sell white birch logs that are great for fireplace decor. I am also hoping to expand into more vintage items as well as dried flowers and herbs that I will grow at our farm this summer.
My family and I recently moved from the New York City area to small town Wisconsin. Our move, this website and blog, and our Etsy store is the result of our desire over the past several years to simplify our lives, increase our quality of life, reconnect with nature, and enjoy a more self-sufficient life. I grew up as a country kid in central PA working on my grandfather's fruit farm and as a corn "de-tassler". My background is in biology where my love of nature originated. I used to work as a research scientist and professor and have now transitioned to a part-time stay-at-home mom, self-employed tutor, and small business owner. Thank you for taking the time to check out my site.