In A Nutshell: Small Farms & Gardens

In A Nutshell: Small Farms & Gardens
By Andrew Ray, October 2023

After a long hot summer, the blessings of autumn have descended upon the Inland Northwest.  Cooler weather, rain, a fresh palette of colors and crops come as a reward for the diligent farmers and gardeners. New blooms from Dahlias, Rose of Sharons, and Mums are on display all over Spokane. I soak up the sweet earthy aroma of every sunflower I pass by.  The senescence of leaves on deciduous trees will bring beauty throughout the season, and then provide work for me to do as a landscaper.

There is a long list of outdoor work that can be done in the fall, I’ll be chipping away at mine.  It’s a great time to be transplanting trees and shrubs, many of which will be going on sale at local nurseries.  Planting bulbs and tubers is a fun way to get your hands dirty and look ahead to future growing season. Pruning back excess growth provides an opportunity for us to shape the plants around our homes. Almost all plants, including grass, will appreciate fall fertilizer applications.  Lawns have been growing quickly the past few weeks, making mowing quite a chore.  I usually continue to mow until mid- October.  Late October mowing is helpful for picking up leaves and getting the grass short for winter. The arrival of freezing temperatures and snow will dictate the end of the growing season, which provides a sense of urgency as we all need to prepare for winter.  I’ll be making the most of the precious light as the autumn days continue to get shorter.

The most fulfilling fall activity for me is harvesting.  It is unbelievable how productive a small garden or fruit tree can be!  I love asking each gardener which of their crops provided the most joy this growing season.  Often the biggest challenge of a gardener is sharing the bounty of their harvests.  Giving home grown food to friends and neighbors creates deeper connections between us. Getting connected to consumers provides the most heartwarming livelihood for the farmers of our community.  Local small farms with pumpkin patches and apple orchards offer a place for us to celebrate another successful harvest.  Fall festivals are fun for the whole family and keep our community tied to the land that feeds us.  

Throughout October, I’ll be harvesting from the walnut orchard that I care for.  Walnuts need to be picked up from the ground, green husk removed, and then dried to be ready for cracking and eating.  I use a shaking mechanism that runs off a tractor pto to get all the nuts down from a tree at once.  After they are scooped up, I run them through an antique walnut huller that was gifted to me from a retired walnut farmer.  The huller machine can separate husks from the nuts much faster than I could with my own hands.  Some local walnut trees have husks that separate from the nut as it falls from the tree, making it easier to just collect the nuts and dry them.  I use a large drying box that can hold hundreds of pounds at once.  Small amounts of walnuts can be dried on a screen in a warm, dry place in your home.  Once they are dried, walnuts can be stored for at least a year.  Cracking open walnut shells is a fun holiday activity that can bring generations of family members together.  The walnuts I farm have a delicious flavor on their own, and taste great in baked goods too!

I’ve cared for and farmed this 1.5 acre walnut orchard for 5 years now, and the property will be going up for sale soon.  The property is 10 acres, with a house, shop, pasture and horse stall located 15 miles NW of Spokane.  I have 10% of the asking price, but am struggling to find financing.

Orchard Opportunity!
If you are interested in partnering with me on the purchase of this orchard property as a future ag-tourism venue, please send me an email: or call (509) 818-7540

Past Articles

May 2023
What a beautiful month it has been in Spokane!  A procession of color, one plant blooming after another... MORE



April 2023
Early April was a bit gloomy for the gardeners in Spokane, but the spring sunshine is starting to come.. MORE

March 2023
Through the March snow, spring is slowly starting to sprout forth. I see green tips.. MORE

February 2023
With the spring equinox (March 20th) on the horizon, I am going to use some of my last precious dormancy hours to introduce myself and this new monthly column...MORE

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Andrew Ray

Local Gardener & Landscaper