Fall Tasks: Plant Alliums, Ditch Disease, Sheet-mulch a New Bed

Got a plan for this weekend? It could be one of our last warm and dry spells, so I plan to get some fall work done in my vegetable garden.

Discard Debris

First task is to clean up from all the remaining summer veggies.

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Tomato plants, especially those with late blight, need to be completely removed to minimize the chance of the fungus overwintering in the soil. Same with squashes that have powdery mildew, and greens like kale or spinach with downy mildew, two more fungal diseases.

downy mildew on kale

Downy mildew on kale.

The long-term organic solution to those problems is to rotate crops, and now is a great time to take note of where things were planted this year and consider what should go in those beds next year.

Fruit that has dropped should be cleaned up too, to avoid hosting any pests or attracting vermin to the yard.

Get Alliums In

This weekend

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would be ideal for planting garlic, shallots and onions. If planted now, these members of the allium family will begin to pop out of the soil in January.

Here’s a great way to find interesting varieties of garlic and shallots to grow: visit your local farmers market.

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If you buy them from small organic growers,

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you’ll get good quality and a variety that’s been successfully grown in our climate.

Spanish Roja garlic

Spanish Roja garlic. I’ve saved the biggest heads for replanting.

If you have many varieties to choose from, here are a few of my favorites:

  • Garlic: Spanish Roja, Chesnok Red, Music, Siberian (all hardnecks) and Inchelium Red, Lorz Italian andNookta Rose (all softnecks)
  • Shallots:Dutch Yellow, French, Holland Red, Frogs Legs

Plant in a well-mulched bed with lots of compost. Break apart garlic head into cloves, plant 2” deep with the pointy end up. Plant individual shallots in the same manner. Space them 4-5 inches apart, in rows 12 inches apart.

Sheet-mulch a New Bed

Here’s another task I’ll be doing soon, to extend one of my beds: I’ll be sheet-mulching a section of lawn. It’s a simple way to get rid of some lawn without having to dig it up.

Here’s what you do: gather up all the non-diseased weeds and small yard clippings and pile them on top of the grass that you want to convert. Don’t use runner weeds like bindweed, and cut off the seed heads.

On top of the weeds, lay down a few layers of overlapping newspaper. On top of that, lay down a layer of cardboard, also overlapping so there are no spaces showing.

On top of the cardboard, lay down a thick layer of mulch. This could be compost, a compost/soil mixture, or arborist chip mulch. If you use compost or compost and soil, you’ll be able to plant into that in the spring. If you use arborist chip or another woody mulch, you’ll have to rake that off the bed before planting.

The weeds and clippings will break down on the grass, bringing the “decomposer” microorganisms to the surface. The paper and cardboard will shut out light and water from the grass, helping to kill it. The mulch holds everything in place.


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