October’s bright blue weather

In the Garden

The first verse of Helen Hunt Jackson’s (1830-1885) beautiful poem October’s Bright Blue Weather is:

O suns and skies and clouds of June,

And flowers of June together,

Ye cannot rival for one hour

October’s bright blue weather.

This most eloquently describes October weather that I have profoundly enjoyed all the years of my life, whether as a child in the eastern part of Tennessee or here, many years later, in the desert. There is no mistaking it in the breathtaking foliage back east, but in Ridgecrest it gently sneaks up on us with subtle changes. The sky really is bluer and the air is so fresh in October no matter where you live.

Summer gardens have done their do until next spring. and it seems that growing season is shutting down for a long winter’s rest. Wrong! We can grow many things during the winter in our climate, and it’s time to get started. Get your seeds or transplants for a vegetable garden in the ground by the third week in October.

Begin by deciding what you would like to grow – and if you are willing to do the necessary chores. i.e., protecting from the cold, maintaining a proper watering schedule and harvesting often. This truly is no small endeavor in the chilly hours of our winter mornings.

If you still want to have a go at it, there are a few things you need to do. Purchase some “frost blankets” that will protect to at least 28 degrees. Or you can use an old plastic/flannel tablecloth, blanket or quilt. Yes, they are unsightly, but they get the job done very inexpensively. Have something on hand to anchor these covers down as the wind can get really fierce and you may find your covers hanging in the trees. I tried the garden hoops, but the wind snapped them in the center of their bend. Bricks work really well as anchors.

Since the hours of daylight are short in winter, locate your plantings in the sunniest area of your garden and uncover the beds during the day. The commercial frost blankets will let in the light, but if you want maximum growth, roll the covers back. Don’t forget to re-cover before nighttime.

Prepare the soil as you would for a spring/summer garden by adding compost. Take a soil sample and adjust for any deficiencies. Work the soil down to about a foot and water deeply to start. Keep a watchful eye on the soil to make sure it doesn’t dry out.

You will be astonished at how much you can grow in a small area or in a container. I’ve had great success with a variety of leaf lettuce, and Swiss chard and spinach are wonderful, easy to grow, healthy choices. There is a world of difference in the taste of fresh spinach and what you get from the store. Cilantro loves the cold weather, and it’s a requirement for Mexican and Asian foods. Other things to try are onions, garlic, carrots, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.

Enjoy your garden and while you are out and about, look for the bright orange and yellow trees in front of the Ridgecrest Post Office. They are small, but spectacular seen against a bright blue October sky!

Story First Published: 2012-10-10