Protection Racket, Fall Plantings

It seems that everything I plant for the late summer and fall garden needs some kind of protection. This time of year, with hot and dry conditions, I like to give everything a thick mulch after planting. I usually use either straw or shredded paper for mulch. The mulch conserves moisture, suppresses weeds, and helps keep the soil cooler.

Red Belgian endive mulched with shredded paper (click on any image to enlarge)

The Red Belgian endive in the photo above was planted in mid July. Thanks to a mulch of shredded paper, it is growing nicely even in our hot weather. And I’ve only had to water it occasionally, despite our lack of summer rain.

lettuce seedlings covered with netting

The birds are also a big problem here. They will peck and eat any and all unprotected plants. So I have to cover all the tender young seedlings with bird netting. I planted some lettuce this past week in an area that gets afternoon shade. After planting I mulched with shredded paper, then covered the bottom half of the cold frame with bird netting. That way I didn’t have to remove the material used for the cold frame cover, which isn’t needed in warm weather.

PVC pipe support for bird netting

In the main garden I am using PVC pipe to make a frame to hold the bird netting. It’s similar to frames used for low tunnels. I sink a piece of 3/8″ rebar into the ground as an anchor, then slide the 1/2″ PVC pipe onto the rebar. I’m using old fashioned wooden clothes pins to secure the bird netting to the PVC pieces.


Lacinato kale

After enriching the soil with compost, I planted Beira Tronchuda cabbage (aka Portugese kale), Lacinato kale, collard greens and broccoli in the beds where garlic had been growing. I mulched the plants with straw and watered them in with a drink of fish emulsion before covering with the netting.


kale planted with protection from birds

The rest of my planting of kale went in a garden spot where bush beans grew this spring. Here I have Beedy’s Camden, Lacinato Rainbow and Winterbor kales planted, along with more broccoli and some cabbage and cauliflower. Later in the season I can use the PVC frame to support some floating row cover material to protect the plants and help extend the season a bit.

bed with carrots and radishes planted

Carrot seeds take a fairly long time to germinate, typically one to three weeks depending on soil temperatures. I usually cover the seeds with a thin layer of peat based potting soil, then lay a board over the rows. I’ll check them periodically and when I see the first sign of sprouts I’ll remove the boards. In the photo above you can see the boards over the carrot rows, while next to them I have some radishes covered with straw. The radishes will be up in no time. I’ve got some daikon and ‘beauty heart’ types planted here.

turnips sprouting

Another quick sprouting seed is turnip. I planted several types last week (Hakurei, Tokyo Cross and Purple Top White Globe), watered well, then covered the soil with straw.  They were up in three days. After they sprouted I brushed back the straw, where it will serve as a nice mulch. It looks like I will need to do some serious thinning of those turnip seedlings if I want some nice roots and greens.

hosta eaten by deer

Deer are always a problem here. We spray repellent periodically, which helps keep them away. Still, it wears off and they come back for a meal. Hostas are like deer lettuce – and they really like them! In the photo above you can see Old Glory was ‘pruned’ back recently by them. Oh well, the hostas are looking a little tired by this point in the season anyway. At least they left a few leaves.

deer droppings

That’s not all they left. It appears they have also been hanging out near the asparagus beds. They don’t eat the mature foliage, but they did leave their calling card as you can see in the photo above. For all I know they may have bedded down there. Looks like I need to spray some repellent in that area soon. I wish I could repel them away for good! We spend lots of time (and money) trying to protect almost everything we grow from the marauding deer.

That’s a look at some of the types of protection I use around the gardens, and also a peek at what’s been planted for our fall garden. If I’ve done a good job of protecting the crops, then we will have plenty to eat from the garden in the coming months.

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15 Responses to Protection Racket, Fall Plantings

  1. Mike says:

    Hey, that looks just like our hosta…deer donations and all.:) So birds actually get in there and eat your kale seedlings, very interesting. So far I have never had an issue with this…thank goodness. Looks like you have a very good system in place for keeping them at bay.

    • Villager says:

      Birds managed to get under the netting before I secured the edges a little better. They ate two broccoli plants the day after planting. A lot of people have problems with them eating tomatoes, but for us it’s seedlings.

  2. Robin says:

    Boy all the critters keep you quite busy! Don’t they know that us gardeners don’t like to share??

    You really have your fall and winter crops under control! I have a nice list made up 🙂

  3. mandy says:

    I’ve started my fall plantings too. I love that tip about covering the carrots with boards! I’ve got a sheet on top of mine, I’m succession planting more as soon as I get more seed and I’ll give that a try. Did you start your kale indoors? I have my spinach and kale started inside since it’s been so hot but rather plant direct as it saves time. Love your garden posts!

  4. I use floating row cover to keep the birds off my seedlings. I just leave it there over the brassicas, and that also keeps the cabbage looper moths from laying their eggs on them.

    I never thought of shredded paper for mulch but I am going to avail myself of that idea directly. There are lots of people who shred paper before they take it to the recycler, and no one seems to care if you take stuff out of the bin as long as you are tidy about it. Or I may just get myself a shredder — I have plenty of stuff that could go into it. What a great idea!

  5. Jody says:

    You really go the extra mile for your fall plants. I’m sure you’ll be rewarded. We might need some row covers for our late season broccoli this year. It feels like we might have an early winter here. Will the pvc pipe you’re using now also hold up in cold weather?

    • Villager says:

      Eliot Coleman championed the use of PVC for his ‘quick hoops’ at his farm in Maine. He used the 1/2″ PVC pipe to support floating row covers. I’m guessing if it will hold up to Maine winters, it will be ok for us in Indiana!

      • Jody says:

        Thanks villager. I read a good tip about keeping the re-bar in place. The author said to sink 12 inch re-bar stakes into the ground leaving 6 inches above ground; then instead of burying the PVC in the ground to hold it in place, you simply slide the PVC pipe over the re-bar. Isn’t that a clever idea?

  6. The boards over the carrot seedlings is interesting. We just sowed our carrots (just in time for a run of hot weather for the first time in weeks). I actually delayed sowing our turnips because our weather has been so erratic, but will probably sow those in a few weeks. I opted to squeeze in a quick radish crop in the meantime.

    I like your bird netting, it looks much more substantial than we find locally here. I hate our netting, it tangles like crazy when we take it off the supports.

    Got to love deer. Always keeping us on our toes. At least they’re contributing to the cost of fertilizer for the gardens. Here hostas mostly fall victim to slugs!

    • Villager says:

      I’m not sure where I first got that board idea, but I’ve been doing it for years. I got the bird netting from American Nettings. It’s a knitted polyethylene 3/4″ mesh, made in Canada. I’m pleased with it so far.

  7. LynnS says:

    Those cute deer are night-time thieves! Have you noticed they’re picky with their Hosta plants? (The nerve!) This is the first year in many that we haven’t had problems and I’m sure it’s because of the double-fencing we put up around the back. The front Hosta bed is unprotected but they’re obviously discouraged enough not to even come visit now. No, I don’t miss them! 😉

    Your gardens look great, despite the bird-proofing. The fencing and half hoops are very tidy — I didn’t realize you had bird problems (do you feed the birds??????).

    • Villager says:

      We don’t feed them in summer. We have a huge mulberry tree that draws in half the birds in the county. When the mulberries are gone, they turn to whatever else they can find to eat. At least that’s my theory. It seems to be worse in summer and fall than it is with the spring plantings.

      As for being tidy – I just don’t photograph the messy parts! 😀

  8. kitsapFG says:

    I use bird netting over pvc hoops as well. Keeps my cat out of the newly seeded beds, as well as the wild birds and other critters, and later this fall/winter it will protect the fall/winter crops from my hens who will be allowed back into the garden to forage this winter.

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