Our spring/summer garden has reached the end of its production, I picked the last few stragglers of tomatoes. As much as I hated to, it was time to pull most of the plants from the 2021 Container Garden. I did keep the last two pepper plants that are still producing. Even though it’s HOT here in Florida, I have the fall garden on my mind. I did a little work this weekend to get it started.
Out with the Old
Since we are container gardening, I removed all the plants from the containers and put them in the back to compost. Next, I emptied all the pots of their soil. After a season of gardening, I expect that the soil is depleted of most of the nutrients, so I want to refresh it with fresh compost. I put the depleted soil into a large pot, and I mixed the home compost that I have been working on into it.
My compost was getting a bit wet, I tend to have a good amount of “green” material to add to my compost barrel, but the “brown” elements I need to go looking for. I have been researching more about composting to try and become a bit more proficient at it. I’ll be sharing more about composting specifics later, but for now, a few highlights.
Green Material in Compost
The green material in compost is nitrogen-rich. They were more recently growing and are likely wetter. The green material is what causes the compost pile to heat up. My green material comes mostly from the kitchen: vegetable scraps, banana peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells are some of the green materials I save. Manure is also considered a green material as well as any green plants removed from the garden.
The green plants I pulled out of the garden I did not add to my compost bin. I put these back in the back part of the yard to compost separately. Since I am still new to gardening, I was not sure if the brown growth on my tomatoes was disease or fungus, or just old growth. It’s likely it was old growth, but I opted not to add those plants to my compost bin.
Brown Material in Compost
The brown material in compost adds carbon to the soil. They are also bulkier, which allows for better aeration of the compost bin. The browns are typically dry or woody material. Typical brown materials used are dry leaves, wood chips, sawdust, corn stalks, cardboard, and newspaper.
Personally, I am struggling with adding cardboard and paper to my compost. Ink-free cardboards are recommended and cardboard or newspaper that is not glossy. For now, I am using leaves as my predominant brown material. Right now, I’m not having trouble finding leaves.
The correct ratio is 4:1 of browns to greens in compost. I have been struggling with a wet compost bin and this is exactly why too many greens and not near enough brown. I hadn’t been adding browns at all in the beginning. Over the last few months, I’ve been trying to learn more about composting. I had just added more browns to my compost barrel, in the form of dry leaves, the day before I decided to pull the container garden so my compost is not nearly decomposed enough, however, the process will continue in the large pots I have mixed my soil in and will enrich the depleted soil in the process.
Tidying Up the Garden Area
Once I pulled out all the plants and pots. I did a little weeding around the edges of the container garden area. I also swept it out and tidied it up. After the area was clean, I added my newly refreshed containers back into the container garden area to be ready for the fall garden planting. I have a few large pots that I need to do some work in. I am considering using these to try carrots again. The pots are certainly deep enough to plant carrots. But I’ll admit, we haven’t had the best of luck with carrots in the past.
Starting Seeds for the Fall Garden
Next, I prepared a few trays of seed starts. Many gardeners use a seed starting medium for these delicate starts. This will be an experiment to determine if I should have! I went ahead and started them in the compost that we had on hand. Since we will be continuing the container garden, I used cardboard egg trays, like peat pots. These absorb moisture well and will break apart for ease of moving into the larger pots.
Our frost date in Zone 9A is December 11th, so this was the very last week that I could start tomatoes and my motivation to get this task done. I will admit that tomatoes are probably my most favorite fruits to grow, so I am excited to see how the tomatoes do this fall. I planted one whole tray of Amish Paste Tomatoes. Paste tomatoes are a meaty tomato good for canning, which is what I plan to do with most of our tomatoes.
The other seeds I started in the egg tray were two rows of California Wonder Sweet Peppers, three rows of Green Sprouting Calabrese Broccoli, and one row of Ferry’s Round Dutch Cabbage.
Finally, I started two trays of leafy vegetables, these are direct-sown right into the container that I will grow them in. We didn’t have much luck with greens in the spring garden, but I’m trying again. Living in Florida, we should be able to grow greens year-round rather than buy so many salad greens, so I am determined to make it work.
Over the next few weeks, I will be babying my seed starts, keeping them moist. I did not cover the starts with a dome, it’s really hot and I was concerned I might cook the seeds and starts if I covered them with plastic. Instead, I will have to be diligent to keep the soil moist. I can’t wait to see how this first fall garden goes, thankfully, with our moderate winters, I can try again if I have any problems.
Join Me as I Complete My Fall Garden Tasks
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.