Were quickly approaching a period of true plant dormancy, where the plant family stops growth and waits for the earth to begin tilting the other direction. Some have termed this stoppage the vegetation myth, attributing it to gods, some gods going to the underworld for a specified term, others dying, later being resurrected.
This dormant period we now know is due to shortened daylight hours, daylight of less than 10 hours duration. In our area, that will be Nov. 8 through Feb. 4, 2013. What this means to gardeners is that they should not expect outdoor plant growth, even under frost cover, for that period of time. This dormant period does encompass the time, though, when lawn grasses and perhaps other grasses tiller or add new blades to their top growth.
Plants in the greenhouse, too, will pause in their growth unless they receive supplementary light from grow lights or fluorescent lights. Even before and after those dates, note that our sun shines from a rather low position in the south, unlike the overhead sun of summer.
If your mache, lettuce or spinach has achieved harvestable growth, you can harvest, but dont expect regrowth of cut-and-come-again lettuce, for instance, until sunny hours lengthen.
There are always end-of-season surprises when you close out the food garden, often happy surprises.
In our case I had an unexpectedly large harvest of sweet potatoes. I planted later in June than usual, buying started plants in pots from Garden Center West. They took off quickly, showing much more rapid growth than I had ever experienced with planted slips (the usual way of propagating sweet potatoes) or even whole planted sweet potatoes left over from the year before.
I dont know the variety of Garden Center Wests sweets, but we harvested several of baking size, some over two pounds each, all with moist orange flesh. There was no rodent damage, although Mickey (my Cairn Terrier) had marched through the vines several times in search of voles, but there was some skin damage from wireworms or other subterranean dwellers.
Control of those soil-dwelling pests is in order for spring. I think flooding the bed is an organic control, but its rather hard to do since theres such fast drainage through the gaps between boards lining my beds. Perhaps a trap and discard method would at least reduce the numbers of wireworms.
Early on, grasshoppers and other leaf eaters turned Tuscan kale leaves to lace, but the plants are now recovering and putting out beautiful new nutritious leaves. I left kohlrabi unharvested for too long, and now new kohlrabi nuggets are forming on the old globes. I havent seen that before, but have seen small cabbages form on cabbage roots left in the ground after the head was harvested.
Other obligations interfered with my usual time in the garden, and I failed to thin carrots, beets, scorzonera and parsnips. I hope the latter two crowded crops are doing as well as the beets and carrots, both of which have produced large vigorous vegetables in spite of their crowded situations.
Mickeys persistence in finding voles at the end of one raised bed resulted in his stomping down mint and grasses, revealing a very large sweet meat squash we didnt know had developed. A very nice surprise.
My mache/corn salad is growing, I hope it will be ready for harvest before the days of dormancy occur. A few plants are already at their peak, but the rest of the green carpet is about half size right now.
Send garden questions to email@example.com or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.