Gardening Tips Organic Gardening

Garden Observations Late Summer into Fall

Gardens are constantly changing.  This year’s garden observations late summer into fall show the garden’s progress and change since my post in mid summer. Observations can often give you some helpful organic gardening tips.

August 5 -left to right: tomatoes; a few beans, Russian kale; lettuce seeding; daylilies top right

Garden Observations – Fall Tomatoes are even Better!

As mentioned in the last Observations post, Big Beef  (which has been my most dependable tomato for decades) has been a disappointment this year.

It’s not my saved seed, as was proved by the feedback of  a friend in Illinois that I shared seed with.  He wrote:

Every one of your big beef seeds I planted germinated! The seedlings grew well. The tomatoes are nice, round and delicious. I was really supprised how many tomatoes the plants are producing. We have had so much rain here…. but they held up and did not split. “

There will be no saved Big Beef seed from this year, but I have plenty of seed from prior years.


All through the summer Carbons were good tasting, but had lots of seed cavities. Those produced in October have been spectacular and with very few seed cavities. The taste has been even better than earlier in the season and fruit is just beautiful.

August 23 – two Dafels and one carbon


Dafel is producing abundantly and has been excellent all season, but even more so now.

The taste puts me in the mind of tomatoes I ate right from the garden when I was a young girl.

Dafel is a hybrid but I’ve been selective and saved seed long enough that I consider my seed open pollinated. (The seed I planted this year was from 2012.)

The plant tends to “spread out” when it grows, so rather than stake them like I do other varieties, I allow them to sprawl.

Dafel tomatoes

Usually don’t like tomatoes lying on the ground even with a heavy layer of straw under them because of slugs. My Dafels get minimal damage from slugs – if any.

Cherry Tomatoes

The little cherry tomatoes that Bill always snacked on, volunteer for me each year. They make great back ups. If something happens that your regular tomatoes are not producing (early or late in the season), I’ll bet your cherry tomatoes will be. AND in my garden they usually get through a frost or two before they stop producing.

Surprise Tomato

A surprise from the garden was a very large cherry tomato that volunteered. It definitely was not a cross of any tomato varieties I’ve grown. It’s beautiful and more importantly it’s delicious. Has more of a regular tomato flavor than do the small sweet cherry tomatoes.

October 12 – large cherry tomatoes; Dafel top right and Carbon top left

Needless to say, I’m saving seed!


Peppers have always been one of my best crops.

I usually start seed in late March or April and transplant to the the garden when the weather is warm enough. They stay small until about late July. Only then do they start growing like crazy. The plants become giants and are loaded with peppers.

This year (as I mentioned in July Observations) I wanted to see how late I could plant and get the same results. I transplanted May-started seedlings into the garden in late May and in June. A few were left in containers and not transplanted until the first of August.

All plants had healthy growth and produced fruit but not as in prior years. Plants are half the size and fruit production is half or less. In past years I’ve needed three to six stakes for each pepper plant; this year only one or two stakes per plant is adequate.

Evidently pepper plants, in order to produce their best,  like being started early —  even though they sit there and don’t get transplanted until the weather warms.  Next year I’ll go back to my regular schedule for peppers.

And just to make sure my conclusions are right, I’ll hold a few seedlings back for late tansplanting and see if I get the same results as this year.

Red Peppers

Peppers turn red when they mature. They’re much sweeter and more delicious than green ones. In past years my peppers started turning red in September, and were abundant by October and November.

Since fruit production this year took longer, I’m not getting as many red ones. That’s the heart breaker for me.

Sheepnose pepper – October 26

Had it not been for the Sheepnose variety I’d have had only about 3 red peppers thus far.

My Favorite Pepper Variety (Best Tasting)

I don’t like to grow hybrids because they don’t have as much nutrient value. I make an exception with Carmen from time to time because they’re so delicious when they turn red.

This year I noticed the fruit is different (not as big and not as long) as when I grew it some years back. My conclusion is that  the seed I purchased was mixed with another pepper somewhere along the line. Not surprising. It’s getting harder and harder to get good seed.

Carmen pepper planted outside the garden at the edge of the flower border. October 24

As you already know, when you save seed from a hybrid you don’t know what the results will be. It may be just what you want and then again, it may not be.

That’s another reason for making sure you grow mostly open-pollinated varieties. You can save seed with confidence for the following year.

Extending the Season

Based on the weather forecast for our area, peppers should fare well on the plants until the end of November.

In most years I’d still have at least 100 or more fruits turning red on the plants by then.  Taking time to cover and protect them when below freezing temperatures were forecast was worth the time and effort.

This year only several dozen peppers remain on the plants.  (I’ve been eating at least 3 per day for more than two months.)

When temperatures are forecast to go below freezing I’ll harvest those remaining. The ones that are turning red, I’ll leave on top of my chest freezer in the mud room/porch. Smaller green ones I’ll store in the vegetable bin in the frig.  That should take me through at least another 2 to 4 weeks in fresh peppers.

Fall/Winter Crops


Lettuce seedlings, the first planting and the second planting, are looking great.  And I’m harvesting every other day from the first planting.

October 24 – two plantings of lettuce. The larger patch at the top left  is what I’m harvesing now; the small seedlings towards the front were transplanted about a week ago. The onions coming up are from those planted in the spring that sat there and didn’t grow. They’ll be spring onion size next month.

The third and last planting of lettuce  just germinated a few days ago. I’ll transplant those towards the end of November.


Cabbage is a different story. And it’s in the row immediately next to the thriving lettuce seedlings!

The January King variety that I was most looking forward to (because of its ability to withstand below freezing temperatures without protection) totally disappeared.  Too late to start more.

The seedlings from the seed that volunteered from the core of a store bought organic cabbage also disappeared rather quickly.

And it didn’t take but a day for something to eat most of the Early Jersey and Columbia seedlings.

Not quite a dozen remain. A few have grown in the spite of whatever bug feasted on them.

As puny looking as the seedlings are, I know from past experiences that all is not lost.  They can easily do better than expected when conditions are right.  And this is one winter I’m really hoping they’ll pull through for me.


Peanuts are not ready yet.  Still have not checked below ground.

If the lush top grow is any indication, they should be great.

Bill was the one who loved eating peanuts.  But if things get scarce this winter, these legumes will come in handy. They’re rich in healthy fats, nutrients, and protein.


I’m planting garlic starting today. Hope to plant at least 100 cloves.  More if room allows.

I eat a mixture of chopped raw vegetables everyday.  Whatever I have I add to the mixture.

From harvest in late June or early July into January I have fresh garlic to add.

It’s one of the best things you can eat for your health.  It’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial and is good for just about everything that might ail a person.

Advance Warning Tip About Ordering Garlic in 2021

While writing this post I received a personal email from Troy Greenberg owner of

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, his “kids” have grown up working this family side business.  So much so that for the most part they could run it by themselves.

BUT – as with all kids, some are graduating and leaving home.

That leaves fewer hands for all the work involved.

Thus, Troy tells me they’re planting less this year.  Only what those who remain can handle.

As some of you know many growers sold out of garlic this year in record time.  And that included

Bottom line – make sure you order early to get the garlic you want.

One of the Greenberg girls planting garlic.


I’ve harvested only a few radishes.  Not as many as I’d like.  The weather should be to their liking in November, so we’ll see what happens.

Spring radishes always do better for me than those planted in the fall.

Various Herbs

Herbs have various phytonutrients that you may not find elsewhere. Using them is advantageous to your health as well as your taste buds.

Garden Sorrell

This is a beautiful perennial that can take just about any change in temperature nature throws its way. It’ll look just about dead in drought years and then renew itself when the weather changes. At times when there’s no lettuce in your garden, sorrell is a good fill-in, but with a lemony flavor.

I mulch but sometimes mulch disappears from the sorrell.  They still do ok.

The year I was out of commission I lost my sorrell plants.  Don’t know what happened to them since I couldn’t get to the garden.

Started more from seed.  Planted  6 seedlings in the spring of 2019.  Lost 3 within a month.  The other 3 are still going and looking great.


Thyme is easy to start from seed.  Just plant in a jug as I’ve instructed in various posts. Here’s one.

I keep several plants in the garden.  They get large and thick.  Approximately 2 feet by 3 feet. They last into the second year in my garden. When the branches start dying back you can cut them back and see if the plant will renew itself.  Or you can take cuttings from the branches still “green”. Or you can start from seed again. Whatever is easier for you.

This fall mine seeded in the paths. Yeh! No work for me!

October 8 – Thyme plants coming up in the path from seed.

I’ll soon transplant one to another location. The others I’ll leave in the path over the winter (with some mulch) and transplant to another bed in the spring.

If you like your potatoes sliced, tossed with a little oil, and roasted, sprinkle chopped thyme on them before cooking. I think it adds a nice flavor.


Most sources say that Rosemary is suppose to be hardy to about 20ºF.  But that’s not all there is to it.

It will depend on how long the cold lasts, what the wind is like, and lots of other variables.  In most years my rosemary thrives even though temperatures get below 20ºF.

Before Bill died, we had a long lasting period of extreme cold that this area is not use to.  All rosemary plants within 50 miles that I know about died.  Including mine.

When I started again I ordered 5 varieties of rosemary in small pots.  (I wasn’t sure which I wanted and didn’t want to take time to grow from seed.)

Sept 18 – front border; oldest rosemary plant; solidago and daylily

The one that is most robust, beautiful,  and with the most flavor is in my front border.  To help insure that I won’t lose it again, I take a few cuttings each year and stick them in pots.  When they root I keep them outside by my back door in the winter UNTIL the forecast calls for temperatures in the 20’s.  Then I bring them in for the night until the temperatures rise.

Starting More

After wintering over I planted last years cuttings in the garden within a foot of each other. Both grew quickly and looked great as you can see in the picture below.

August 29 – two rosemary plants started from cuttings last fall

Suddenly the lower leaves on one of the plants died.    My long-time neighbor on one side of me decided to grow corn and squash close to my garden this year.  Since I know he uses chemicals, my guess is that he sprayed with one that drifted onto the rosemary plant.  Also I’ve noticed another decline in the already dangerously declining number of garden bees.

The pieces of rosemary I “cut and stuck” this fall (if they root) will go in the back borders unless I have to replace one of the larger plants. (And by the way, spring is better for cuttings, but fall can work. I may have stuck these cuttings too late. We’ll see.)

If these don’t root and the big plants winter over, I’ll take cuttings in the spring sticking several in each place where I want rosemary.  The one that roots and looks the best I’ll leave.  The others I’ll take up and put elsewhere or discard.

Rosemary cuttings in October. It may be too late for them to root.  The white is powis castle artemesia that I cut and rooted.


I have 3 pieces of dill coming up that seeded from my spring plantings.  Having fresh dill in the fall is a first for me!  I plan to celebrate with my simple potato salad recipe. Fresh dill is what makes the recipe special.

And by the way, dill is the only herb I know of that tastes almost identical to the fresh herb after it’s frozen.

I take a good sized bunch of dill ferns, place it on a piece of plastic wrap,  and roll it tightly. The dill will resemble a long cigar. Put the plastic wrapped “cigar” in a plastic bag and place in the freezer.

When you’re ready to use:

  • remove from the freezer,
  • unwrap,
  • cut a piece off,
  • re-wrap and re-bag the remaining piece as quickly as possible
  • put in the freezer immediately.
  • the piece you cut off will be easier to work with if you chop it while it’s still partially frozen


When I plant onions in the spring I plant for sets as well as big onions.  (To get sets just plant a clump of seedlings together.)

I use some of the sets for fall planting to give me “spring” onions through December or longer. Some last through freezing temperatures into spring.

If I have sets remaining after planting some in the fall, I plant again in February for early “spring” onions.

A Few of my Late Summer into Fall Blooms


This rose (Easy Going) is in my front fence border.  It blooms prolifically through the summer with an occasional rest period depending on the weather.

Easy Going Rose in my front fence border – October 8

This year it bloomed not stop.  Unless I missed seeing it, there was not a day without a bloom.  I’d call that amazing.


Sept 8 – this border which is on the property line is being closed down except for the ends. The soil is so nice I decided to plant garlic in area that I’ve already cleared to the right of the helianthus.

Helianthus lemon queen starts it’s bloom in summer and was still blooming for me into October. It’s a great plant and easy to grow.  It’ll get 5 feet and can fill in an area if you let it.  If your spot requires a shorter look, just cut it back severely before it blooms.

Sept 8 – closer view of the previous picture: helianthus; daylily foliage; the dark plant is opal basil


Nice too with Sedum Autumn Joy when it starts turning red.

September 8 – Helianthus with sedum autumn joy turning color


August 28 -Entrance path to the garden shows on the left. Rudbeckia has finished blooming and the dark seed pods show. Sedum to the right of the Rudbeckia is just beginning to turn color. Top right is summer poinsettia.

Bill always got after me about leaving this Rudbeckia so close to the path. But I just never wanted to move the whole plant.  I’d never move it now because I think of Bill everytime I pass it.


Dahlias start blooming in early summer. Bloom is heavy in the fall through frost. Dahlias and roses were Bill’s favorites.

This one was started from seed about 2014 or before.  I don’t take mine up in the fall/winter as almost source recommends.  It always comes back and I’m always glad to see it.

October 13 -Dahlia -started from seed about 2014 or earlier.


October 13 – Close up of dahlia.

My Favorite Mum

October 24 – My favorite mum.

Final Thoughts

Let me know if you’ve enjoyed this post and if you found it helpful.

If you’re thinking of ordering my book for Christmas – for you or someone else — order now if you can.  The mails have been slower and with everything that’s going on  — waiting until December might not be such a good idea.

You can order here.


Suggested Reading:

For future reference here are 3 post to help you extend the season:

#1 – November Garden – Extending the Season for Warm Weather Crops

#2 – Are You Still Harvesting Peppers After the Freeze? You Could be.

#3 – Peppers Eating Fresh from the Garden Through December


All content including photos is copyright by All Rights Reserved.




  • I loved seeing all of these pictures and reading your comments.

    I love your favorite mum (yellow). The loose form is so much nicer than the store ones.
    I have a beautiful Hillside Mum which has a very loose form and is pale, pale pink.

    Thanks for all you do. Love getting your emails.

  • Always good to hear from you.

    I think this has been an odd gardening year for most including me but the good part is how much I’ve learned.

    The odd way things have grown has led me to look more to multiple seedings and how late I can start a second planting.

    I really like Martino tomatoes for snacking but they’re mostly determinate but if I replant around the end of July I can have them to frost time. This is just one example of what has been a good year in a very different way.

    Happy gardening and be careful with the virus.

    Ray Kent

  • Loved your pictures and took notes of Opal basil that will replace my Perilla ‘crispa’ that seeds around with abandon.

    Also the helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’. I do cut mine back in July to keep at 4-5′ instead of 7-8′ but mine, have forgotten the cultivar but it is done by Sept. I have moved some to a hillside to be under callicarpa which doesn’t get the purple berries before it will be gone. So will change out for the Lemon Queen and hope they work at the same time. Cutting back in July will hold the bloom start hopefully to coincide with the calli.

    My tomatoes did terrible! Roma did best, peppers never got going!

    Thanks for all the info,
    Tish Iorio, Doswell, va

  • Good to hear that my garden is in tune with yours.

    I didn’t think about radishes,,,,,I’ll have to get out there and plant some.

    This is the first year for peppers doing so well, tomatoes not so much.

    I’m experimenting with feeder tanks from Tractor supply. I have bad knees and have a hard time getting up and down. Filled them with compost. It’s an exciting experiment. I’ll let you know

  • Fantastic all around update Theresa!

    Every year is different for sure and I don’t know if normal is ever normal. I had lots of wins and a few losers.

    This was the first year for me the watermelon did nothing. Very late to set fruit and only 2 or 3 and they were the size of a large softball. I grow them for the grandkids. They usually pick one out and then at harvest time we have a contest to guess the weight to see who made the lucky pick earlier in the year. The kids really enjoy this and look forward to it.

    I had lots of trouble with ground squirrels eating the blueberries and also a possum eating the tomatoes. I eliminated 6 ground squirrels and one possum but gained control. I lost a little produce along the way but had enough to serve my needs.

    Many Thanks! Jim

  • What an enjoyable and informative post, Theresa. The photos are fabulous and round out the telling of the story.

    I was able to install additional metal raised beds (18 inches high, better for my back) last winter and have the garden expanded for this year. I have so much shade that I’ll not be able to grow as much as I would like but at least I can grow some.

    This spring I was like a little kid, excitedly checking on sprouting seeds! 🙂 Discovered arugula and how easy to grow and tasty, too.

    Anyway, I really enjoy your posts and learning from your garden wisdom. Have a blessed day.

  • Always fun to see your garden! My lemon thyme was 15 years old and didn’t come back for the first time this year; I thought it was a perennial and didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be.

  • Hi Theresa,
    As always a great post. I think the pictures add a bunch. I am definitely visually instructable.

    I had cabbage issues, as well as horseradish, this year. They were both eaten up before I even knew there was a problem.

    The bug I discovered that was wiping them out is a eurydema beetle. It looks like a stink bug in shape but is very colorful….and prolific. I tried insecticidal soap, then neem, and then sevin. Each treatment killed a few but never wiped them out.

    I guess they finally left when there was nothing else to eat. I’ve never seen these things before and hope I never do again. When I researched, they said the beetle is very invasive and kind of new. Maybe this is what got your cabbages?

    I’m a discouraged, worn out gardener these days…wondering if I should keep doing it.
    I love your upbeat stories and “can-do” spirit. Keep it up.
    Thank you!!

  • Thank you all for the great comments. I want to answer in more detail. Will do that as soon as I can get through some time sensitive duties.

  • Beppy, your Hillside Mum sounds beautiful. I love the loose form and agree they’re much nicer than the store ones.

    Really glad to hear that you love getting my emails and enjoy the pictures, etc.

    Sure appreciate your response to the post.

    Ray, it seems we constantly need new strategies as conditions change.

    Your ideas sound like they’re easy and will work great.

    Tish, so glad you loved the pictures. Be aware that Opal Basil also seeds with abandon. It comes up everywhere. But it’s easy to take out when it first appears.

    Sorry to hear about your tomatoes and peppers. I know that was a disappointment.

    Dianna, I’ll have to google “feeder tanks”. I’m not familiar with them. Glad you found something to make things a bit easier.

    Jim, so good hearing from you. It’s been a long time.
    I agree that every year is different. A gardener is never 100% sure what will be great and what won’t.
    Glad you eliminated 6 ground squirrels and a possum — and gained control. Congrats on that!

    Michele, thanks for letting me know you enjoyed the post.
    Sorry to hear about the shade increasing and keeping you from growing as much as you’d like.
    Enjoyed hearing about your excitement in checking on sprouting seeds this spring!
    Thanks for taking time to comment.

    Julie, I loved your lemon thyme story!!

    Sherrie, I was surprised to learn that you use the poison Sevin and that you’re not an organic gardener. Took too much for granted I guess.

    I think every gardener can get discouraged and feel “worn out” from time to time. Whether you keep gardening or not will depend on how much value you place on the food you grow.

    With some of the things I’ve had to deal with over the past few years, I lost a lot of desire to do anything — including gardening. But since I know I can’t get this quality of food anywhere else —
    I have to grow it to get it. And my health depends on it a lot.

    Thanks everyone for the great comments! Your comments are my favorite part of putting up a post!

  • Hello gardening friend, Enjoyed your lovely garden tour and comments. Want to try and grow lettuce next year. (had our first heavy snow this week), I can get it to grow, but our dry climate makes it bolt before I can get to it. Any suggestions? thanks….Alice

  • Hi Alice!
    By “dry” — do you literally mean “dry” (as in the soil is totally dry) or do you mean “hot weather”?

    Either way my suggestions would be to do several plantings:

    1. Start your seed at various times. For example you might start some a month before the last frost in the spring and then start more every 3 weeks or so.

    2. Keep planting into late spring – or even early summer if weather allows.

    3. If you have shady spots in the garden, plant in those.

    4. Use a shade cloth when things get really hot.

    5. If your soil is really so dry that you think you need to water then do so. Just don’t overdo it. Water deeply and then don’t water again until it’s dry at knuckle deep.
    Rain water will work the best of course.

    Keep testing until you find what works.
    Also, remember sometimes you can eat lettuce after it bolts.
    For more details you might want to review the following posts.

    Also try planting in late season next year and give it protection over the winter.
    That planting should give you fantastic lettuce in early spring.

    And last but not least try varieties that are known to do well in the heat. Jericho, Anuenue, and Black Seeded Simpson are three.

    Good Luck with lettuce this spring and summer Alice.
    Let me know how you do!

  • I love the pictures of your beautiful garden and hearing about your vegetable as well as your flower garden. My flower garden could use some help as it is full of weeds as well as flowers.

    I had some volunteer large cherry tomatoes also though I don’t remember planting them. My sun gold tomatoes tasted better after we had some cool weather this fall. I planted a lot of okra but some squash vines with large leaves obscured the sun from them and I didn’t get as many as I would have like.

    I planted something new, the Candy Roaster Squash, and they were quite large and fun to grow! The butternut squash did pretty well as did a banana-type pepper (it was supposed to be a red boxy pepper. Oh, well.)

    I bought some bales of straw that I was told would have very few, if any, seed heads. Sigh. I’ve found LOTS of them. They look like wheat seeds. I’m afraid to put them in my garden as I’ve already had a tough time trying to get rid of various weeds in my garden this past summer and fall.

    My mache is growing and I’m looking forward harvesting some during the winter. I covered them loosely with some pine straw. Is that okay?


  • Hi Susan,
    Sounds like you had a good growing season. It was fun reading your report.

    A tip regarding your bales of straw — make sure they’re seeds rather than hulls before you panic. I made that mistake one year and was down right embarrassed by it. But I was horrified when I saw all those hulls — immediately thinking that it was seed that was gonna sprout all over my garden. (Since I previously had “been there – done that” and it was awful.)

    If you can’t tell by looking at them here’s a test you can use: take several handfuls and scatter them on a flat of moist grow mix. Cover with a thin layer of the soil/grow mix. 54º F to 77ºF is considered optimal soil temperature for wheat germination — so place where temperatures fall close to within that range.

    If conditions are ideal (and if it is in fact seed) it should germinate in about 7 to 10 days.

    Glad your mache is growing. I’ve been picking some of mine every time I harvest lettuce. It’s so delicious! Glad you have it.

    Covering loosely with pine straw (a/k/a pine tags or pine needles) is fine.

    I’ve found that in mulching mache — after the mulch settles — lightly brushing back the mulch from the very tops of the plants allows them to take in the sun more. You’ll get a bit faster growth that way.

    Good hearing from you Susan.

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