- Danielle Meyers
- Before summer gets away, learn a few new tips for prepping your garden for fall.
Before you know it, fall will be upon us in Central Oregon once again: the season when the leaves start to change, the soil starts to freeze and the frosty mornings are forgotten by the beat of the midday sun. How do you transition your garden from the summer heat to the fluctuating fall temperatures?
It isn't any worse than combatting the heat and hazardous smoke from the summer.
"The first thing to do is recognize that everyone's garden is tired from the summer, and you've got to re-prep everything," said Sarahlee Lawrence of Rainshadow Organics.
Restart, re-prep and reap
Start by assessing your garden's soil. You've likely been working it all summer and it needs a little work to keep going into the fall. To do that, first turn the soil. This is more than a simple motion. Spread 3 to 4 inches of compost over your garden, then dig into the soil with a spade or fork and toss the soil from the bottom to the top. "It's like giving the soil a little fluff," said Lawrence.
Choose the best crops
To put it simply, Central Oregon gardening is difficult, whether you're a novice or an expert.
"Some of the main factors that contribute to these difficulties include temperature, precipitation, soil types, elevation, USDA hardiness zones and microclimates," wrote Amy Jo Detweiler, an associate professor in home and commercial horticulture at Oregon State University, in an article about gardening in Central Oregon.
Central Oregon has several "hardiness zones," a term referring to "the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location," according to a description by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When you buy a plant or seed, the catalog or plant tag will indicate a hardiness zone with a number. Bend's hardiness zone is 6.5, according to USDA data. Plants rated for higher-number hardiness zones won't do as well in Central Oregon. Portland, for example, is in USDA zone 8b, where temperatures remain higher throughout the cooler months. Also note that Sunset's "Western Garden Book" has its own zones. Bend is classed 1A in that rating system.
"Radishes or spinach are good crops to plant in the late summer (now) for a late harvest," wrote Detweiler.
Edible crops that grow well in the fall also include kale, spinach, lettuce mixes, swiss chard, turnips and radishes.
Alternatives to gardening
You don't have your own garden to get fresh produce through fall and into winter? You can go to the farmers market through October, sign up for Community Supported Agriculture program or attend a community garden event.
The farmers market runs through Oct. 10, at the downtown Bend location.
"People don't realize that the farmers market runs all the way into October. It's awesome. The thing to do after that is sign up for a Winter CSA," said Lawrence.
CSAs are a way to bring fresh veggies, produce and meats directly from the farm to your table. At Rainshadow Organics, its winter CSA signup is happening now, allowing participants to get a monthly delivery of potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squash and up to 10 pounds of mixed meat including whole chickens, and mixed cuts of pork and beef.
OSU's Deschutes County Extension also has experts available for questions about all aspects of gardening—everything from soil to pickling. They're also offering two upcoming events for gardeners in Central Oregon: