Phacelia makes a great cover crop and attracts bees all summer. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Getting the post-summer garden ready for what’s next

We’re in transition time between seasons.

By Mary Lowther

We’re in transition time between seasons. It’s time to harvest and clean up the summer garden and prepare for the fall and winter one. All the work we do now will pay off in spades come winter when we can eat the fruits of our labour without too much work. I miss the bridge club.

As I harvest my summer crop, I toss what we’re not eating into a pile ready to make the compost heap once I’ve processed the harvest. I’m also choosing which plants to save for seed and re-planting them into a bed set aside for seed saving. I’m choosing my best plants for this so its progeny will likely maintain these characteristics.

Then I remove the soaker hoses, drain the water out of them, roll them up carefully so they won’t bend, and store them together in a sheltered spot. If I was smarter and more obsessive compulsive, I’d label them with the specific bed they came from because every spring I must reassess where each hose fits best. One of these years I’ll do that.

As I empty each bed, I rake up all the detritus and mulch and toss this all into the pile designated for compost because I’ve found that slugs and wood bugs proliferate under the lovely protective canopy in winter if I don’t remove it. I sprinkle and rake in fall and winter cover crop seeds: this year I’m using white clover, fava beans and fall rye — the clover and beans add nitrogen and the rye adds tons of root mass. These crops hold nutrients in the soil and prevent erosion during our rainy winter, while adding their own nutrients to the mix when I dig them in next year.

I haven’t dead-headed any flowers this year, letting them go to seed; some for myself but most for the birds, and some will fall to the ground to sprout again next year. I’ve got some cosmos reseeded from two years ago still going strong. This year I bought a small packet of phaecelia, a flowering plant recommended as a cover crop, but quite expensive when bought in bulk. This is great stuff! I sowed the seeds mid-spring along the edge of one side of the garden and they all came up and weren’t bothered at all by insects or disease. Bees have been inhabiting them all summer, buzzing happily away, so I’m leaving them until the last flower has been fertilized, whenever that will be because they’ve been flowering all summer. They start flowering at the bottom of the flower head and gradually continue up, giving bees a continued feast until now only the tops are flowering, like gladiolas. These seeds I plan on saving and using as a cover crop in future beds.

I knew that fall vegetables were harvested in the fall, but it took me awhile to figure out the difference between winter and overwinter vegetables, and I think I’ve got it now: winter vegetables are harvested during winter, like carrots left in the ground, Brussels sprouts, winter cabbage, kale and vegetables grown in the cold frame during winter. Overwintering ones develop enough roots to survive the winter but are harvested the following year, usually in the spring once they’ve put out new growth. Purple sprouting broccoli and overwintering onions fit this category.

I’m feeling rather smug this week because my nectarine and apple trees are producing pretty good fruit. These espaliered trees take up very little room, produce sooner than full grown trees and fit snugly into my back yard.

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Halloween will be different this year but the CVRD and volunteers are working hard to make it special. (CVRD photo)
Youbou Halloween festivities a go, but digitally

Swing by the Hall to add to your haul

The Cowichan Bulldogs’ Ben Wilson runs the 40-yard dash during the Vancouver Island football combine at McAdam Park on Oct. 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Island football players meet in Cowichan for combine

48 players test their skills in bid for provincial programs

‘Gran’pa grew it, says young Stephen Nahirnick as he maintains a tight grip on one of Steve Nahirnick’s Hallowe’en pumpkins. Stephen is son of Jack and Joan Nahirnick and he took the opportunity last week to enjoy splendid autumn weather while perched on grandfather’s knee while the elder Nahirnick was harvesting luxuriant and large garden.’ (Lake News/Oct. 22, 1980)
Flashback: Halloween night full of activities, crime

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson has been combing through old… Continue reading

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read