October Garden–fall harvests, winter crops, tucking the worms in & sharing the abundance

Red kuri winter squash

The October garden is a wild thing–overgrown and intertwined–with the last of summer’s exuberance. The squash tendrils have crept like fog and pulled themselves into uncharted lands and left behind bizarre shapes in their path. Cooler nights are leaving little patches of plant cemeteries littered here and there, joining the falling leaves of the grandfather oak tree. It’s a garden that starts to hint of the otherworldly. Time to get your Halloween on.

The Wild Abundance of the October Garden

The winter squash did well this year and I’m just waiting for the stems to dry more before harvesting. The cool nights left behind the usual powdery mildew, but I’m not losing sleep over it since we have many mature fruits and don’t need the plant to grow more. The next full moon is November 8th and that might bring a frost, so we’ll probably harvest before then.

Red kuri winter squash
Red kuri winter squash

I can’t wait to cook with the Red Kuri squash. Thanks again to Amelia of A French Garden for introducing me to this heirloom variety. I love the color and shape.

Dried corn stalks
Dried corn stalks

With winter squash, I like to bake it in the oven, with some drizzles of butter and maple syrup, or make a blended squash soup, or basically make a pumpkin pie without the crust. 😉 (You know, because I always scrape out the middle of the pie anyway. So I guess it’s a pumpkin custard, baked in a baking dish?) With baked squash, it can be yummy mashed with minced fresh ginger and a dab of butter and served alongside some strong-tasting, stir-fried greens like kale. How do you cook it?

The hand-pollinated corn also produced really well this year. Surprisingly, the raccoons must have been on tour somewhere else and we got to harvest all of the ears ourselves. This must be a first! The stalks are dry now and when the evening breeze flows through the leaves, they make that eerie-crackly sound. It’s no wonder corn patches are oft used in films when the scary stuff is happening. 🙂

Overgrown summer squash waiting for something
Overgrown summer squash waiting for something. The garden bed behind them is a wild crowd of coreopsis, cerinthe, violas, and beyond the frame: spent sweet pepper plants and yacon (not harvested yet).

The espaliered Fuji apple also produced well, despite the deer having stripped the leaves from the lower two tiers. There are some other apple trees producing further afield, but those are struggling more with the drought.

These apples are delicious fresh, but to use up any quantities, we usually just make a simple apple crisp. And that reminds me of a very enjoyable read over at Off The Edge Gardening–whose culinary process I can deeply relate to. The post is titled “Rainy Day Baking”–if you need some enjoyment in your day (and who doesn’t?) you gotta read it. And stick around for the other posts of the lovely garden there.

Shallots drying on an outdoor table after harvest. Shallots are delicious if you haven't tried them--sauté in place of onions in soups, omelets, stir-fries, anything.
Shallots (and a rogue leek) drying on an outdoor table after harvest. Shallots are delicious if you haven’t tried them–milder & sweeter than onions. Sauté in place of onions in soups, omelets, stir-fries, anything. They seem easy to grow.

The zucchini are still producing, but most everything else is flopping into decay. It’s that transition time when garden beds are still full of summer veg, like the last of the tomatoes. There are other beds waiting to get cleared of rampant chaos. We found some mature shallots we forgot were growing in one of them.

A few winter veggies we quickly planted to fill a gap in harvests: lettuce, spinach, chard, parsley, broccoli, beets--plus some gifted red onions I was delighted to receive!.
A few winter veggies we quickly planted to fill a gap in harvests: lettuce, spinach, chard, parsley, broccoli, beets–plus some gifted red onions I was delighted to receive!.

We just got a couple of transitional veggie beds planted with lettuce, broccoli, spinach, chard, parsley and tatsoi. We desperately need to get our garlic and leeks planted!

The wild garden in October
A rather wild garden in October

We have a persimmon growing outside the kitchen window & love watching the flickers enjoy the persimmons. They are beautiful birds. This is a photo from years ago.

The Asian pears are finished now but will hopefully still provide some pretty fall colors in their leaves. They are one of my favorite trees.

We have both types of persimmons growing here and they are starting to take on color. I’ve noticed the flicker birds are also taking note of this. They love them. It’s worth having enough for both of us.

We planted kiwis many many years ago but have never gotten fruit, so it was very surprising to see a few fruits this year in the midst of the drought. They are small and you can see the drought damage on the curled leaves.

Butterfly nectar flowers growing with zero irrigation during drought
Butterfly nectar flowers growing with zero irrigation during drought

Speaking of the drought, I mentioned in earlier posts about losing some trees. In the open space left from one large fallen tree out in the field, I scattered butterfly nectar flower seeds in spring, just to see if any would make it. Zero irrigation or care. Though this photo doesn’t look impressive, it is one of the spots I’m most impressed with because these flowers–cosmos, bachelor buttons, coreopsis, and a few others–are toughing it out in full sun, sandy soil, weed competition, and zero irrigation. Granted, that area is a low spot that traditionally has a high water table, but even the tree there was dying, so I’m really saluting these plants! The butterflies love them and it’s near the new butterfly garden I’m trying to establish.

Tucking Up The Worm Bin For Winter

This is the prettiest kale we've ever grown, but I don't think it's an heirloom variety. It might be Redbor. We bought it from a nursery earlier in the year.
This is the prettiest kale we’ve ever grown, but I don’t think it’s an heirloom variety. It might be Redbor. We bought it from a nursery earlier in the year.

As the nights are getting cooler, it’s time to tuck up the worms in the worm bin to keep them cozy over the winter. It’s handy this coincides with when the oak tree drops its leaves–we put several wheelbarrows-full on top as insulation. We just fork aside the leaves when adding more kitchen scraps and then cover again. Through the summer, we occasionally wet it since we’re in a dry summer climate zone. They don’t like to be soggy, just moist. They also like grit like ground oyster shell to help digest, and keep the acidity in check. The stock tank drains so the water doesn’t build up and drown them during winter rains. They like cardboard and that also helps insulate them. A piece of shade cloth covers the whole thing as they don’t like sun. The location is partly under a shade tree, which I think gives a slight protection from sun in summer, and cold in winter.

Sharing The Garden Abundance

Some kale freely seeded itself in this bed. We've been giving some away.
Some kale freely seeded itself in this bed. We’ve been giving some away.

But speaking of sharing, we had a few very happy sharing experiences this month. One was exploring, for the first time, a local produce swap–this one is at the Sebastopol Grange. We met some wonderful people and enjoyed swapping some garden items. There is only one more date this fall–October 25th. It restarts in the Spring. You can get on their mailing list to receive reminders.

The two other sharing moments were with people I’d never met before, but connected via online gardening posts. It was a joy to meet them! The first was H, and she was kind enough to share some sunchokes with me. I’ve always wanted to grow them, but somehow never happened across the tubers for planting. I’m absolutely thrilled. She also gifted some red onions which I planted immediately with great enthusiasm. And it was fun to go around the garden finding some–what I hoped would be–treasures for her as well. Isn’t it fun to share garden treasures?!

Common Checkered-Skipper | Burnsius communis
Common Checkered-Skipper Butterfly | Burnsius communis on an aster. Has nothing to do with sharing abundance, I just wanted to squeeze it in somewhere! 🙂

The second was J and her spouse who were looking for comfrey root for their amazing permaculture farm they are creating. We were peas in a pod and had a great time sharing all kinds of garden matters. They brought us some Chicken Of The Woods mushrooms–a novelty for us! It was wonderful to hear of their work and plans.

Sonoma County locals: feel free to share any of the places you like to give garden abundance to in the comments! I could add some to the Resources page.

Thank you!

Thank you for your patience if you made it here! Hope your garden or nature spot is nurturing you with abundance and joy! And thank you to the garden bloggers I follow from around the world — I enjoy what you share so much!

Pincushion flower/scabiosa dry seedheads--time to save seeds!
Pincushion flower/scabiosa dry seed-heads–time to save seeds!

If you are reading this in an email or WordPress Reader, you may prefer to see it from your browser, where it may be formatted prettier. The-Compulsive-Gardener–a chat over the garden fence

13 thoughts on “October Garden–fall harvests, winter crops, tucking the worms in & sharing the abundance

  1. I harvested my Red kuri a few weeks ago and they are delicious! Soup with onion and curry powder, and mash were cooked. Unfortunately I only have 5 so I will grow more next year. You have a big and beautiful garden with lots of fruits and vegetables. I understand that the format of 6 items is a bit short… Jim will decide what to do (I proposed to him to modify the Six by creating themes and categories once a month to spice up the blog posts – vegetables, houseplants, colors…)
    He will decide. Anyway, have a good gardening day!

    1. Oh YUM! Soup with onion and curry and squash sounds so good! I’m going to make some soon! Now I’m hungry. 🙂 Yes, we can’t seem to keep ourselves from being compulsive gardeners here. 😉 Your ideas to spice up the theme sound wonderful! I would love that! Bravo

  2. What a lovely and colourful celebration of the season, your garden is so beautiful! Squash are a huge winter staple for us, we have harvested over 70 so far including the French heirloom Musquée de Provence which is our new variety this year – very excited about trying those. We use them instead of potatoes, they make great mash and oven chips, lots of spicy soup with beans and tomato, tray roasts with garden spices like coriander, fennel, garlic and chillies, in risotto (with foraged chestnuts is the recipe of the moment) . . . but I have to say, one of the greatest discoveries last year was caramelised squash tarte tatin – truly scrumptious. Enjoy your autumn harvest! 😊

    1. YUM! I’m getting so hungry at those amazing cooking ideas! Can we all come over for dinner at your place?! 🙂 Do you share recipes on your site? I looked up the Musquée de Provence–beautiful! How is the flavor?

    2. Ha, wouldn’t it be fun to have garden blog dinner parties? I sometime put recipes in posts but they are always very ‘relaxed’ because we tend to make it up as we go along and never measure anything! The Musquée de Provence squash are truly beautiful, it has been worth growing them just to watch the way they ripen from green to deep orange. We haven’t tried eating them yet as we tend to use the butternuts first (not good keepers) but I will definitely report on the flavour when we do.

  3. Such a wonderful post full of photos of such plenty – a complete harvest festival in a single post! I am glad you were pleased with your kuri squash, I only managed one tiny one! I am pleased you found fellow spirits to share your garden with. It is only fellow gardeners that have the same interests and pleasure in the garden. Amelia

    1. Thanks Amelia! It is surprising the garden did as well as it did during the second year of the awful drought, and pulled through the historic heatwave, but so it did. Yes, I’m so glad you inspired us with the red kuri squash! I can’t wait to try some of the cooking ideas that Fred and Lis suggested. Yes, gardeners and my community of meditators seem to be my tribe of like-minded people that bring me joy and peace and connection. So needed when the news is so full of troubling human conflict. I appreciate you and the others here! -lisa

  4. Loved the post. In just 3 years I am now seeing the difference I made in the wild things here 🙂 they usually end up at my back door hey maybe it is to thank me 🙂

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