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October in My Garden – A Time for Preparation, Harvesting, and Planning.

One of the things I like about living in zone 7 is that it’s possible for me to work outside almost all year except for when the ground is frozen. In years past it seemed to me that was only a week of days at most. These last few years it’s been more like one or two months.

There are a couple of reasons I find it important to be able to work almost all year.

  • Number 1 — I’m slow as molasses because of the problem with my legs. It takes me two, three or 4 times longer to complete a task than someone whose legs function normally. So if you can move normally, you could/can do in 30 minutes to an hour what it takes me 2 hours or more to do.
  • The second reason is I have a lot that needs tending.

Like everyone else, my time outside is limited (1 to 2 hours a day normally) so I have to work along all year to get things done.

This month, every trip to the garden includes

  • harvesting,
  • preparing a little each day for what’s to come (like the first freeze and snow etc.), and
  • looking ahead to what will be planted in various beds next year so I’ll know what to do now to make next year’s garden the best it can be.

Purpose of This Post

A lot of pictures, tips and notes about the garden are included below. Hopefully you’ll glean information that will be of benefit to you in your garden.

Ground Cover

The annual summer pointsetta that I allow to reseed in my garden each year saved a lot of beds from being bare this year. Baling straw was later than usual in our area because of bad weather in late spring. Thus, I was well into summer drought before the farmer was able to deliver my straw.

Description of the Picture Below

  • The summer poinsettia is in the first row of the picture below running left side to the bottom right.
  • Next row is winter rye running to the peppers which are always so beautiful in the fall and heavy with fruit.
  • The third row is winter rye. (planted a few weeks ago)
  • The fourth row is summer poinsettia again.
  • All that’s visible in the fifth row are peppers in the upper right hand corner of the photo.

Part of garden October 23. More detailed description is above the picture.


This is a close up of the peppers you saw at a distance in the previous photo.

This is a close up of the peppers you saw at a distance in the first photo. Oct. 23.


Usually I wrap my pepper plants with row cover fabric when the first frost is expected so I can keep them going.

I’m not going to do that this year mainly due to time constraints.  I’ll just harvest and have at least 3 or 4 weeks of fresh eating after that.  (I still have a few quarts from last year in the freezer to use for cooking.)

I’d like to be able to pull up the pepper plant heaviest with fruit and hang it upside down in my garage and harvest from it as they continue to ripen.  Haven’t figured out exactly how to handle that yet.


It’s hard to take a wheelbarrow into my garden even into October because of all the vegetation and paths that are too narrow. As beds are cleared and seedlings transplanted into them for my fall/winter garden there’s room now for the wheelbarrow filled with straw — at least in some places.

Getting lots of straw into the garden was/is the first step. I just pile it wherever there’s room.

Next step was distributing it to surrounding spots with a pitch fork.


Buckwheat is a fast growing cover, but is easily killed by frost and freeze.  So I doubt that I have time for these seedlings of buckwheat to get more than an inch or so high.

I had a cup or so of old seed and decided to scatter them in this bed to see how much they’d grow this late in the season.

They’ll still be good for the soil.  As soon as the cold kills them I’ll put more straw on top and they’ll decay, adding nutrients to the bed for spring use.

Buckwheat coming up and potato.

Buckwheat coming up and a potato.  Oct. 23

Winter Rye

The rows you saw in the first pictures are the only long rows I had available for winter rye.

But I also wanted to  plant the rye in spots where I plan to put tomatoes next year.

Thus, I picked several 3′ x 3′ spots where I know tomatoes will go next year and planted them with winter rye. After I cut the biomass next May or June, I’ll dig a planting hole in the middle of the stubble and plant a tomato in each spot.


I’ve checked the distributed straw to make sure that spots where I expect mache to volunteer were not too heavily covered.

Winter lettuce last year was not as abundant as I had hoped and the abundance of mache allowed me to get through the winter without craving greens.

Everyday I keep looking for signs of mache but have only seen what I think are mache seedlings in one place. (Hopefully there will many more to come.)


Mache seedlings (I think) are coming up in only one spot thus far.  Oct 23

Beds of Lettuce and Chard

I have five beds of lettuce and/or chard just planted. Three are shown in the picture below. The seedlings are so small you can’t see them in the picture, but I can.  They’re about an inch tall and are doing very well.

I put those arrows in so you could better tell how the beds run.  The short arrow on the left is to show where the middle path of the garden is.  Rows are on each side of that path.

Also the concrete reinforcing wire I have over the beds is barely visible. (For  pictures scroll my January post.)

The next step will be to secure the row cover fabric over the beds before freezing weather.  And then finally I’ll put the second covering of plastic over that.

The bushes are my oldest blueberry bushes. (At least 15 years old.)

In the front of the picture is another row of summer poinsettia.

The flat  in the upper left of the photo still holds a few seedlings that need transplanting.


4 garden beds described above the picture. Oct. 23

When I transplant lettuce I always end up loosing a few.  I’ll fill the bare spots with this last flat of winter density lettuce seedlings (that I sowed too thickly by the way).

Lettuce seedlings started a few weeks ago.

Lettuce seedlings started a few weeks ago.  Oct. 23

Shown below is the first fall planting of lettuce in September.  I’m trying to resist picking and let it get more growth before cold sets in.  That way, there will be more in cold weather.



These are seedlings of the lettuce I planted in September. Upper left is parsley and strawberries. Oct. 23



I’m not exaggerating when I say that I must have planted 50 parsley seedlings this spring.  Don’t ask me what happen to 45 of them, because I don’t know.  The five that made it I’ve harvested as quickly as it can grow.

The only parsley plant that has ever grown huge in my garden, is one that remained hidden from me for almost all summer. 🙂  I was shocked but delighted when I found that gigantic plant.  Of course, it didn’t stay huge very long because I started picking and eating it right away. At least it gave the other parsley plants time to recover.


Years ago I put a few everbearing Tristar Strawberries at the end of a bed on the far end of the garden. They never did much and I attributed that to the spot being very poor.  Nonetheless, I let a few stay there from year to year.

This year they were amazing.  Not only did the plants remain pristine and beautiful, but the strawberries were really delicious and I enjoyed snacking while going about garden chores.

As you can see in the pictures, some of the plants have moved out of the bed.  I’ll move those and fill in the rest of the bed with them.

Earliglow is my favorite strawberry.  Honeoye is also a great berry although not as sweet as earliglow.  But if the Tristars are as good next year as this year it’ll be nice to have a full row.


Tomatoes have not been as abundant this year as in all the decades before.

I’ve had enough for eating but not for making paste and/or sauce. Fortunately, I have enough tomato paste and sauce in the freezer from last year to get me through the winter.

Tomatoes in the back meadow bed are still going strong and are beautiful.  I feel confident about having fresh tomatoes through November and hopefully December.

I’ll harvest everything when frost is expected rather than wrapping with row cover fabric.


Plenty of nice tomatoes on the vines especially in the back meadow bed. The white is the afternoon sun filtering in through foliage. Oct. 23



Cherry tomatoes in an out of the way spot. Oct 23

Cherry tomatoes usually make it through the first frost and sometimes a light freeze without much damage.  Hope that holds true this year as well.

Hot Pepper – The Fish Pepper

I don’t need a lot of hot peppers, but I do need some.  The fish pepper (I wrote a lot about it in a previous post) is perfect for me.  One little pepper is just the right amount I need to saute with garlic and then add to my tomato sauce for a great spiced-up taste.

The peppers are air dried by putting them in a flat basket with plenty of air  circulation.  And yes, I lose a few, but not that many. After they’re totally dry, I store them in a large dark glass jar in a cool place.  Mine keep for several years that way.

I still have some  brazil peppers left from 2013 or 2014.  They’re also small, but hotter than fish peppers. Just a few seeds from the brazil pepper is all I need.  Using the entire little pepper would set me on fire!


Fish pepper plants are so beautiful I always hate  to see them killed with the first freeze. This year the two I have look like a beautifully decorated bushes.


Basil looking this good in late October is a first in my garden.

Not letting it flower and seed is a good part of it.  I just kept cutting it back and the plants remained pristine until after mid October.  As you can see — it still looks pretty nice and the picture was taken October 23.

two varieties of basil

Two varieties of basil.  Both taste good, but I like the smaller leafed plant the best just because it’s prettier. Oct 23


I’m so hungry for radishes.  Sure hope they have time to form a bulb before it really gets cold.


First of 4 plantings of radishes this fall.

To the right in the picture below is another patch of radishes planted earlier.

In the middle are radish seedlings from radishes recently planted. There maturity will depend on the weather.


Radish plantings. Oct. 23

Russian Kale

You may remember that in my last “garden chat” post I mentioned that Russian Kale was seeding and coming up throughout the garden.  I lost it all when the harlequin bug made a come back for few weeks.

You may also recall that I mentioned seeds germinate at different times.  Thus — I have more Russian Kale coming up.  I’ll transplant these little guys soon so they can have more room to grow.


Russian Kale coming up with lettuce and a few other things. Oct 23


Some of the potato plants growing in the garden this fall remind me of spring plants.  Harvested some lemon sized potatoes under a few the other day and they were delicious!


Potato plant – Oct 23

Roselle Thai Hibiscus

I didn’t grow Roselle Thai the year Bill was so sick. This year I was late getting it in, but glad I planted because it’s so beautiful. Plants in the meadow were almost 6 feet tall and very lush.

The calyx (the little pointed star like holder of the pod) is collected and boiled to make a Zinger-like tea.  I never can get mine to air dry so I freeze them right after harvesting.

The leaves and stems are delicious in salads.  They taste a lot like sorrel — a lemony taste. (Picture of sorrel is below picture of the Roselle Thai pods.)

So far I’ve not been able to give priority to harvesting the calyx.  Maybe I’ll get to it, maybe I won’t.  But I’d like to have at least a quart in the freezer for tea during the winter.


Roselle Thai pods

Roselle Thai pods Oct. 23



Sorrel that I cut back to the ground in August.  It would be more lush if I didn’t harvest every day. Oct.23

Garlic and Onions

Based on how much garlic and onion I eat, I could plant my entire garden and all the other meadow beds with garlic and onions and not have too much!

Every time I go out, I try to figure out where in the world I’m going to plant more garlic and onions.

Below is a picture of part of a small meadow bed that held my Honeoye Strawberres, raspberries, one voluteer asparagus, 2 tomato plants (this year) and a fig bush on left that you can’t see.

I’m planting garlic (and maybe onions) here this year! I’ll pull the straw back and plant. And then cover with about an inch of the straw and add more straw as the garlic comes up.

I’m planting the first part of November this year. (Usually it’s Oct 15).  It’s necessary for the garlic to establish a good root before the ground freezes but not necessary for it to put up top growth.


Small meadow bed.


I enjoy this shrub/tree in my borders.  You need a male and female to get berries.

Mine is always heavy with berries through the fall and winter.

Several years back some kids lived at the property that adjoins ours.  I was in the garden one day and Bill was doing something by the Ilex trees.  All a sudden 5 kids appeared at the edge of the border and wanted to know “Are the cherries ready yet?”

It was funny, but at the same time upsetting. If they came over when we weren’t around and ate the berries they could get a good stomach ache from them.

Some sources say that over 20 berries can be poisonous to children.  But I dare say they wouldn’t get to 20 berries because I don’t think they’d taste that good.

Ilex heavy with berries for winter.

Ilex heavy with berries for winter on Oct. 23.

Is a Post Like This Helpful to YOU?

I’ve had a couple of readers tell me that this type of post helps them. So please let me know if YOU find it helpful and if you want me to continue doing them.

Final Thoughts

I’m off to move some straw into the garden and harvest some peppers.

Then I’ll fix a cup of tea and enjoy the “fruits of my labor”.

I’ll be thinking of you and looking forward to your comments.

My favorite yellow mums starting to bloom October 23.

My favorite yellow mums are starting to bloom.  Oct. 23


A Few Related Posts:

Hot Peppers – Fish Peppers – Rare but Not Lost

Winter Rye as A Cover Crop – 2 Strategies

Cover Crops – Ideas to Help you Make the Choice

See this one for pictures of coverings for the beds:

Winter Gardening – Making it Easier – Air Circulation – Note About Slugs


All content including photos are copyright by  All Rights Reserved.


  • Dang Theresa – so much in this post!! I loved it, even though it does kind of make me feel like a slacker.

    Roselle Thai Hibiscus – I grow more and more each year, but did not know the leaves and stems were edible. I am just crazy about the tea, and just finished my harvest and processing yesterday – in my bizarre “holler”, we had a freeze over the weekend which killed most of the growth.

    Garlic – I am prepping my garlic bed today, planting tomorrow.

    Sorrel – this is why I love your pictures. I think I have sorrel growing all over and I keep mowing it down. Now I am going to try eating some (let’s hope it does not have a poisonous cousin….)

    Basil – such a dilemna for me. I plant a lot, because the bees love it, which means I let it bloom out, and then I don’t get as much basil. Maybe I will just pick a few of the plants and nip the flowers next year so I can keep getting basil.

    Hopefully this week I will be putting the annual manure / compost into the garden for its short winter nap.

  • This post was very helpful. The information for putting the gardens to bed for the winter is very helpful.

  • This post is not only helpful, but fun. It’s like taking a garden tour with you. I love touring other people’s gardens. Always learn something and get new ideas!

    Update on Stuttgarter onions. I am still eating them and haven’t had to buy onions, but about 1/3 to 1/2 have already started turning brown. I will plant this variety again next year but also try other varieties looking for a long keeper. I am going to try the Copra you plant.

  • Hello Theresa,

    I have only recently discovered your site and find it wonderful. So please forgive me if I don’t understand why you are putting straw on your beds? It would be great to know. Perhaps it is in one of your previous posts which I haven’t read yet?

    Best wishes, Jane

  • Thanks for the garden tour!! I find these posts very helpful. I always get several ideas I want to implement in my garden in the next year. The ideas that are most helpful are those I can implement right now. Many times they are ideas I should have implemented a month or two ago which is due to our difference in zone.

    My everbearing Seascape Strawberries were planted in 2013, moved in 2014, and have produced just OK until this fall. This fall they are producing beautiful strawberries. I would describe the flavor as not quite as good as the spring berries but much better than anything you can purchase in a store!!

    Got my Garlic planted yesterday. My main crop is German Extra Hardy which produces huge bulbs. I’m trying German White Porcelain and Romanian Red Porcelain this year! Thanks Theresa

  • Hi Theresa, yes please continue all your posts, I learn something every time I read them. Pictures are also very helpful. As a matter of fact when I check my email I am most excited to see something from Organic Gardening/Tending My Garden. Sometimes I like to get back to it when I have a good bit of time so I can relax and just soak it in. And then once you finish one article there are several more related pieces….a person can go on and on all day. I love it, thank you.

  • This is very helpful. The pictures and descriptions are to the point and all that’s missing is that I want to live like you do being in touch with the earth and the seasons. I think that’s how we’re meant to be.

  • Kate, Phyllis, Beppy, Betty, Jane, Derek, Pam, Bonnie, and Connie,
    I appreciate your input very much. As long as I know you’re benefiting from posts like this, I will continue with them.

    Kate, I planted garden sorrel several years ago and it returns for me each year. Sometimes, a plant will send up stalks and reseed, but I usually cut it back before it does in order to keep the leaves young and tender.

    I do more than just “nip” the flowers of basil. I cut the leaves that go with the flower stalk. Amounts to maybe 3 inches of cutting with the hedge shears or snips.

    Was really surprised to hear that you had a freeze in NC when we’ve not been close to freezing here in Virginia!

    A question please: How long to you let the calyx and pod stay on the plant before you harvest? Also, do you use a dehydrator? Do you dehydrate the removed calyx only? Thanks in advance for your help.

    Betty, I planted Copra for years because of their keeping ability. HOWEVER, I was totally ignorant of the fact that hybrids do not have the nutrient value of open pollinated varieties and Copra is a hybrid.
    As soon as I find an OP onion that keeps as well I will no longer grow Copra. This year I tried sweet spanish and thus far they seem to keep just as well. But I’ll have to grow them a couple more years to really know. I’ll keep you updated.

    Welcome to TMG, Jane!
    I’m putting straw on my beds to cover the soil. Never having bare soil is one of the keys to success in gardening.
    It would not have to be straw. Sometimes I use the annual summer poinsettia to cover the soil; sometimes I do it with various cover crops like the winter rye in the first picture; leaves and pine needles are also very good.

    Here are seven posts to get you started on a better understanding of covering the soil (also called mulching)

    Pam, that is so interesting that you had a similar situation with your ever bearing variety of strawberries.
    Congrats on having your garlic planted!

    Bonnie, I’m so pleased that you get excited when you see an email announcing a new post on TMG. That’s how I feel when I check in the morning after posting to read comments. Hearing from all of you is THE BEST PART!!

    Connie, I totally relate to what you’re saying. It took me a long time to really be in touch with the earth and the seasons. And I’m still working on it. So much wonderful stuff to be aware of and learn.

    Again, thank you all for your comments. They mean a lot to me and keep me writing.

  • This was a great post – the pics and description are fantastic. Makes me think I’m wasting too much space on paths in my garden. I’m mostly putting my garden to bed. I live in Alexandria and missed out on planting any cover crops in September/October which I think I’m going to really regret as I see what you’ve done. I did treat my soil with Iron sulfate to get the pH down from 7.6 after receiving my soil test results. May explain some of the poor performance from my tomatoes.

  • This was such a fun tour! I just love these posts. They spark excitement, inspiration, questions, dreaming… It’s like a break for my Mama brain. Thank you!

  • Dona, you’re in zone 7 like me I think. If that’s the case you can still plant winter rye IF you have a plan. I’m going to be planting oats in November as well if the forecast looks ok.

    Keep in mind that adding organic material will balance your pH over time.

    Patricia, glad you enjoyed the “tour”.

  • Theresa, it is always such a delight to see pictures of your garden. I find them to be such an encouragement as I too have been slowed by aches and pains. “Never underestimate the power of a little”—right? In zone 5 we have had a couple heavy frosts since October 13th. While continuing to clean up the garden last weekend, I saw both a junco (snowbird) AND a monarch butterfly. The monarch was telling me it’s not winter yet, but the junco was warning me to get ready! Enjoy your day and thanks for sharing your garden.

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