October at the Ag Center Community Gardens

October 5, 2022

By Jessie McSwane

Farms for the Future

Gardening, or growing in general, is such a unique experience. It’s not like other hobbies, passions, or careers because so much of it is completely out of our control. If you like knitting or woodworking, those are skills you can master. You learn the techniques, you use the best materials and tools, and with time, you create products that are beautiful or functional – hopefully both! With gardening, however, you can learn good techniques, study plants, understand the science that goes into being a successful grower. But still, there is no guaranteed results. That’s because there is so much out of our control: weather, soil structure, chemistry, and pests. We can understand these variables, prepare for them, and do our best to protect against them – but it is still out of our control. We’ll touch on a few of those factors, along with ideas for planting and preparation!

This month, we have two main hazards to contend with. The final month of hurricane season and weekend pumpkin traffic. Both are entirely out of our control and can remind us of how powerless we really are – a humbling experience. Of course, the latter hazard is just an inconvenience, and is not meant to make light of the sheer size and power of hurricanes we have seen here and are being seen in other parts of the country currently. If you like to track potential storms like I do, check out this page

We are still experiencing moderate drought conditions – although much alleviated by recent rain and cooler temperatures. We’re basically balancing a soil moisture check book. We have spent, through irrigation and evaporation, more than we earned (rain) this year and we are running a deficit. We need a lot of precipitation to overcome our deficit and we still do not have a balanced checkbook. We’re getting there, though! Some of my plants that effectively stopped growing in July and August are filling out again for one last push before our first frost. 

Speaking of frost…I can’t believe I just typed out those words… 

Speaking of frost, we are approximately 6 weeks out from our average first frost date! 

Side note: In case you’re wondering, I have this date on my radar because I am waiting for the first light frost to come before I harvest rosehips. I am excited to try some rosehip recipes!


Back to the point, this date is important for us all as we decide what (or if) to plant in the waning weeks of the growing season. Soil temperature is one of those variables of which we need to be aware. This website is a great planning tool for the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. It also has a soil moisture radar if that is something that interests you.

Successful fall plantings depend on soil temperature, air temperature, days to maturity, and frost hardiness. Here is a list of suggestions to plant at the 4-6 weeks until frost:

  • Arugula
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Radishes (fast growing varieties)
  • Beets are in the 6-8 week range, so this might be pushing it.

Jessie’s note was adapted from her letter to the community gardeners at the Trust’s Agricultural Center at Charnews Farm. Interested in becoming a community gardener, click here to learn more.


November 2021, Priscilla's Farm, Farms for the Future Participant

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