Sunday Garden Chat: Fall Garden

currants fall garden

From commentor Currants:

I grew up in a family with a huge vegetable garden, and I hated everything to do with growing vegetables, especially green beans, with a flaming passion. For a long time, I grew only flowers—because, having grown up in the country, it was an opportunity to be outside, doing something. (And who doesn’t love planting bulbs: such great return on so little effort!)

Then in my late 20s, I met someone for whom gardening was fun. When it wasn’t fun, or when he didn’t want to do it, he didn’t. No compulsion to weed–instead, it was his excuse to take a break from his office. No compulsion to pick and use every single thing he grew, no threats about how appreciative we’d be to have that food in the winter, and best of all, no overgrown, overcooked mushy vegetables to face down on the plate.

Today, my friend and his wife have an urban condo with herbs in windowboxes in the summer, and I’m the one with the garden. I’ve had gardens that included vegetables and flowers, even one year spent in a 7th floor apartment in France (it was in the south, there was a terrace, I had window boxes and fresh parsley and arugula and radishes year round). These days, I’ll try growing just about anything outside (in my zone, 6b, a few miles W-SW of Boston), and this fall I’ve started experimenting with hugelkultur ( on a minor scale–we’ll see how it looks in the spring. In recent years, the garden has expanded and now includes 6 raised beds (4×8), an asparagus bed, rhubarb, and an exterior bed that currently has leeks and (soon) garlic. There’s also an herb bed, for thyme (creeping, German, English), oregano, cilantro, savory, rosemary (tarragon, parsley and dill are elsewhere).

currants half-carrot remains

Last year, both because I was insanely busy and because the friend mentioned above had suggested it, I covered my carrots and left them in the ground until early November. When I started digging, very few carrots remained. It looked like an abundance of slugs had infested the new beds, which coincidentally were where the carrots were. Then I went to dig the celeriac in the older beds and found the same problem. A bit more digging, and the real culprits fled the scene: the fattest mice in the neighborhood. I don’t mind critters getting some of what I grow, but I do mind when they get most of it…

currants carrots w greens

In September this year I went out to dig some carrots for a recipe. They were planted in small groups in different beds, and the first dig of the spading fork showed that the mice had already begun. They start at the top–severing the greens–and work their way down. I stayed out in the rain and dug ALL the damn carrots. (Turns out I’m competitive after all.) Took me a few hours–and naturally, by the time I was finished, the sun had come out. By then, I had about 40 lbs of carrots to store, or cook, or…something. Carrot curry, carrots and hummus, roasted (and/or caramelized) carrots, spicy pickled carrots, plain old pickled carrots, and boy, am I tired of carrots.

currants carrots washed

So, the photos: carrots, carrots, carrots…. Plus: cranberry beans on the tray drying (no photos, but black beans turned out well this time too), green beans on the counter before cooking (the purple ones look pretty, but Fortex pole beans are the best: they take up little space, stay tender even if you miss them/dont have time to pick and they keep growing, and they keep producing all summer).

Then there’s the overall autumn yard/garden photo (pear and lilac in the near front, leek/garden bed outside the fenced area, low-hoop covered beds in the front and asparagus in the back, the tall feathery stuff). The coverings are intended, among other things, to help reduce the volume of pine needles that get into the beds. Inside them, peppers and eggplants are finishing their season, while kales, collards, fennel, radish, chard, and parsley begin or continue theirs. If I’m efficient this week, I’ll get the tomato detritus out of the remaining front bed (not yet hooped), and plant a bunch of lettuces, just to see how far we can get this fall with our own greens.

After that, it’s back to the attic with growlights and seed packets—and maybe I’ll try growing a winter-supply of basil this year up there. We’ll see.

currants Beanscurrants not-drying beans
currants low hoop

39 replies
  1. 1
    Mike with a Mic says:

    Curious if anyone has grown sumac? I’d be interested in trying to make homemade zaatar.

  2. 2
    raven says:

    Nice garden and post! We’re having the yard re-graded our builder is going to put up the frame of the deck I tore down and I’ll spend my xmas leave putting the rest it back together along with the fence.

  3. 3
    JPL says:

    The garden post is one of my favorites. Next year, maybe, I’ll try to cover a few boxes and grow greens year round.
    We are suppose to have a hard freeze, so my herbs might be in danger.
    It’s going to be in the high sixties today so will be perfect to work outside and rake up some leaves. I’ll mulch some for the garden and leave some for the yard waste people. The colors this year haven’t been as spectacular as in the the past.
    @raven: That sounds awful. I can understand why your wife mentioned moving.

  4. 4
    satby says:

    There will be hard freezes in my area for the next few nights ( we’ve had frosts but not a hard freeze yet) so I’ll be wrestling the strawberry pyramid into the garage, along with a couple of other planters I want to overwinter. The veggie garden I abandoned a month ago, but when I looked yesterday there were 2 green peppers ready to pick. I have an iris about to bloom and 5 rose bushes with buds, in Michigan in November. It’s a bit crazy.

  5. 5
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Nice garden and produce! Very well done.

    Gonna pour the last grade beam for the cold storage room today. Tomorrow I will begin pouring the floor then I have to p/u the framing and sheeting and order the window for it. Still trying to decide if I want make the door for it or just buy one. Then, after all that, it will be time to figure out how I am going to configure the veggie storage racks, shelving, cabinets, etc. If I let it this could become an all winter project but I want to get a greenhouse in by Feb.1st so I can’t dilly dally too much.

  6. 6
    satby says:

    @ Currants: after mice got most of my potato and sweet potato crop one year, I now grow them in potato sacks nearer to my house. It’s not as huge of a crop, but now I’m not sharing it with the mice either. Still plenty for me.

  7. 7
    currants says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Wow, a root cellar AND a greenhouse! I’d thought I should start scaling back, but clearly there are avenues yet to explore…
    @Satby : bags are a possibility I haven’t considered. They would also require me to be more circumspect in my garden ambitions, and that might not be a bad thing.

  8. 8
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    The colors this year haven’t been as spectacular as in the the past.

    We had really nice colors this year. Spectacular even. Our peak used to be 3rd wkend in October. This year, 1st wkend in November. Had a hard frost Thursday night/Friday morn and that pretty much knocked off most of the leaves still hanging.

    @Mike with a Mic:

    Curious if anyone has grown sumac?

    Around here, it’s like a weed. Pretty much any fencerow or pasture edge has it.

  9. 9
    currants says:

    A couple of questions here:
    1) do any of you grow black currants or blackthorn (sloe)? I can get permission in my town to plant the currants (in much of New England they used to be prohibited, as a suspected carrier of white pine blister rust, but that’s changing in function of newer science). But I can’t find a nursery that currently carries blackthorn.
    2) have any of you used comfrey around fruit trees? it’s supposed to be fabulous as living compost in orchards, but before I start planting it I’d like to know about a real person’s experience with it.

  10. 10
    WereBear says:

    With a conservation theme: I bought a bag this summer from a crafty lady and wanted to pass on the info re: the gift giving season.

    Second Time Around

    This lady makes purses, doggie coats, hats, etc from recycled fabrics. Each item comes with a card which gives its “history.”

    My delightful bag (at the bottom, seen here with Tristan in my reusable grocery bag, top) was once a pair of canvas curtains and now carries my purse stuff around.

    Just the kind of thing to delight certain kinds of folks!

  11. 11
    currants says:

    @WereBear: That’s cool! Good day for an indoor project around here, at least after I finish making this year’s eggnog.

  12. 12
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:


    Tristan link no work. You fix.

  13. 13
    WereBear says:

    @Steeplejack (tablet): FIXED Tristan link…

    Tristan in bag

    Must be something in my laptop that opens that other one successfully… it’s from a blog post that will be published later today. Thanks!

  14. 14
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    Wow, a root cellar AND a greenhouse!

    Technically not a root cellar but a hybrid. More like a large (10×10) unheated (AC’d in summer) closet. Our place has very little storage and between canning, freezing, drying, etc it is hard to find a place to put everything (long ago ran out of room in the pantry/utility room I built), plus there is no place to store winter squashes and root veggies.

    The green house has been years in the planning. This year I will be grading the location and building a small green house (16×16) with an eye to expand it in the future (40′ long) for a possible aquaponics operation or maybe mushrooms.

    A little ambition can go a long way.

    Comfrey seems invasive but a quick google search found these alternatives. Something I had never really thought about, but it makes too much sense for my apple, peach, and cherry trees. Thanx for the tip.

  15. 15
    Schlemizel says:


    The colors may have been the best in years around here but we had a month of rain and constant clouds so they never got the chance to blaze against the bright blue autumn sky. After the crumby damp gray cold fall we got an early snow and below freezing temps before Halloween . . . I hate all of you who are still in your gardens!

    The only up side is I have a bunch of painting to do on the house that I have not been able to do. Neighbors may not be happy about that but it will have to wait for spring now.

    I started that hugelkultur thing about 5 years ago as a way to keep the kids that live behind us from hiding behind their garage and sneaking a smoke in our yard so their parents wouldn’t see. I built a berm using dead fall and leaves then planted bushes on it. The only quibble I would have with the images on that web page is that the mound collapses over time. What started out as about 4 feet high is now less than 3. But it is very rich soil and the bushes seem to thrive with little care. Now the kids are old enough to smoke so they don’t hide there anyway.

  16. 16
    RSA says:

    I’m not a gardener, but I thought I’d drop into this thread just to say this: Currants, you are a fine writer.

  17. 17
    MikeJ says:

    Who was it that was saying that Tottenham was going to do just fine without Gareth Bale?

  18. 18
    Ferdzy says:

    Oh those damnable mice. They got into our sweet potatoes, which we had covered all season as it was so cool and wrought a fair amount of havoc.

    We had rats in the compost this year and a live trap was the only thing that would catch the cunning little bastards. Only, what we caught in it last week was a skunk! It barely fit the cage and “taking it for a ride in the country” was quite the challenge. Or rather, the getting it out of the cage part.

    Mike with a Mic, North American sumac is a relative of middle eastern sumac, and it is edible. However, it’s a large shrub/small tree and s-p-r-e-a-d-s from suckers. I don’t know where you would get middle eastern sumac, or what its growth habits are like.

    Currants, comfrey grows wild in all the ditches around here. It is more than a bit of a weed. Still, depending on your tolerance for a wildish orchard and if you were prepared to chop it down on a regular basis you could do it.

  19. 19
    currants says:

    Oh, thank YOU for the tip–and the link. I’d read about another variety (Russian, like this one) that is sterile, so had suspected spreading might be a problem. I have bulbs planted already–lots of the herbs mentioned in your link would be good, but I don’t immediately see ones that also enrich the soil for the tree, which was my initial motivation. Will have to do more digging–thankfully not to remove a self-inflicted invasive.

    @RSA: Heartfelt thank you.

  20. 20
    MomSense says:


    So cute! My cat is having a ball today climbing in all the gift bags from my son’s birthday party yesterday. Last night he made himself a little nest of tissue paper and I had to move him because he pushed it too close to the fireplace.

  21. 21
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    but I don’t immediately see ones that also enrich the soil for the tree,

    Read the entry for Lupin. It is a perennial from the legume family so it fixes nitrogen into the soil.

  22. 22
    Amir Khalid says:

    This is just wrong. Even if you only do it to cockroaches. And I don’t buy what Backyard Brains says about turning kids on to neuroscience.

    Spurs could have bought in some really significant players with those hundred million euros. Two or three guys, each way better than Bale. But they didn’t.

  23. 23
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    One more before I go. Read about Keyhole gardens in the local right wing rag yesterday and did a little research this morn. Sounds like a great way to do a raised bed planter, especially in drier climes. We usually have enough rainfall but 2 yrs ago we had quite the drought. I think I will build one or 2 and give them a whirl.

  24. 24
    WereBear says:

    @MomSense: Tristan loves bags, but this was in response to me running errands Saturday morning.

    He was going to miss our “morning on the couch” which he adores, so he was going to go with me!

    We’re watching Bill Maher On Demand, and I’m interested in that Double Down book, but loathe Halperin.

    There must be a reason they are sending around the other dude to sell it.

  25. 25
    shelly says:

    “have any of you used comfrey around fruit trees? it’s supposed to be fabulous as living compost in orchards, but before I start planting it I’d like to know about a real person’s experience with it.”
    I’ve had one plant for years, and I mean years. It needs almost no care and is one of the first to emerge in the Spring. You’ll have plenty to compost cause it’s a big plant and grows back fast. Put it in a place where you’re happy to let it stay, cause the roots go down deep and it’s very hard to dig up. But it doesn’t spread and it’s not invasive. Use gloves when you’re handling it, little hairs all over the stems can be irritiating.
    ” I don’t mind critters getting some of what I grow, but I do mind when they get most of it…”
    I know what you mean. ONe summer I had a group of chipmunks decimate my cherry tomatoes. Little bastards.

  26. 26
    shelly says:

    Annie, I always forget to ask, what zone are you in?

  27. 27
  28. 28
    shelly says:


    Growing zone. i’m zone 6

  29. 29
    Constance says:

    One year in late September I put straw bales over the carrot bed. For the next couple of months I noticed one of the cats spending most of her day on and around the bales. Thanksgiving weekend we dug carrots and discovered the bales make a terrific cover for mice who did the same thing to our carrots. The cat thought we were idiots.

  30. 30
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    Great post (and pics of a terrific garden) and my congratulations on this year’s victory over the mice. It’s a battle with the critters, who outnumber us, however small they may be. Some of my mice have antlers, and they’re a bit rowdy at this time of year.

    @raven: Happy Birthday.

  31. 31
    Violet says:

    @currants: What a lovely garden and great photos and post. Thanks for sharing with us.

  32. 32
    Older says:

    @Amir Khalid: As a former bio major, I’m okay with demonstrations for students and research for adults. A family member made a career out of doing a similar operation of thousands of rats. But that was research; this is just high tech pulling-wings-off-flies. It teaches kids, if anything, to disrespect their fellow thinking creatures. And if you don’t think cockroaches think, you haven’t spent any time watching them (research).

  33. 33
    currants says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Will do–thank you!

  34. 34
    Tommy says:

    Totally stupid question. New to gardening. Third year. Learned a lot lurking here. This year, and I went the raised bed garden thing, was a total success. Heck I taught myself to canned stuff cause I had more then I could eat, even when I went like door to door to give away stuff.

    My stupid question is what do I do with the garden now? Do I pull the plants out? Let them die and go into the soil?

  35. 35
    rdldot says:

    @Tommy: You can either pull out the plants or till them under the soil. Since you will have several months before you start planting again, they will decompose well and feed the soil. If you want to speed up the decomposing (really composting in place) you can add black plastic to trap in the heat.

  36. 36
    Anne Laurie says:

    @shelly: Zone six, give or take. We’re in an urban heat/light sink — freeway offramp a hundred yards behind the house, truck-intensive street right in front — so we get, for instance, daffodils against the front of the house in early March, daffodils in the side yard in late March, and daffodils in the north-facing back yard in April. Brings real meaning to the term ‘microclimate’!

  37. 37
    currants says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Trying to figure out the intersection btw keyhole gardens and hugelkultur…. will have to wait til morning.

    Xeriscaping, however, seems like a good idea generally (though not good if you want to grow vegetables, for instance). But here, I think rain gardens are likely to be…survival tools of the future.

  38. 38
    currants says:

    @shelly: That made me laugh–I totally get it. For me, it was the squirrels last year that just about made me weep. I’ve since read/learned that if you put a dish of water out, that’ll solve the problem–they’re thirsty!

  39. 39
    currants says:

    @Tommy: …or, if you use a lot of garlic, you can plant that now (in many zones, but not all). I got mine in late this year, but it’s a soft autumn so it should be fine. Here’s information from a place up in VT.

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