Now’s the Time to Plant Your Cool Season Vegetables

by Heather Stone

Photo of a hand holding two red radishes.

Photo courtesy of pexels – skitterphoto 9301 (1)

Mid- August to Mid- September is the prime time to start planning and planting your fall vegetable garden. Even though it’s still hot outside, the nights are getting cooler and the days shorter. Now is the time to get those quick-growing, cool-season vegetables in the ground. For bountiful late-season harvests here are a few guidelines to follow.

-Know which crops to plant and when. Here’s a list of our favorite cool-season vegetables and their days to maturity.

  • Kale should be planted 85 – 90 days before the first frost. The leaves can handle a few light touches of frost and become sweeter each time.
  • Carrots can be planted 80-85 days before frost.  They can be harvested when young and tender.  Even after the cold temperatures shrivel the tops, they can be dug, sweet and juicy, from the ground throughout the fall.
  • Beets can do double duty with green tops for salads and tasty roots as well.  Plant seeds about 65-70 days before frost, depending on the type you choose.
  • Leafy greens such as spinach and leaf lettuces, arugula, mustard greens and Swiss chard all do best in the cooler temperatures of fall. Plant seeds about 50-60 days before frost depending on the type of green chosen. These can be harvested when young and immature for delicious baby greens.

    Photo of leafy green seedlings.

    Photo courtesy of pexels by kaboompics 5809

  • Radishes are always great to spice up salads. These are fast-growing and can be planted 30-35 days before the first frost. Pull them when young and tender.

 

 

 

 

 

-Keep moist. The garden will dry out more quickly in the warm days of late summer than it did in the spring. Keep a close eye on new plantings to make sure those seeds or seedlings stay well-watered. A light covering of grass clippings or straw can serve as mulch, helping to retain moisture. Using a light row cover over newly planted areas can also help retain moisture, provide shade and protect against light frosts further down the road.

Fertilize once a week with an organic fertilizer with nitrogen and enjoy delicious salads and veggies all fall long.

2018 is the Year of the Beet

 

The National Garden Bureau has proclaimed 2018 as the year of the beet and you can enjoy them in so very many ways. Try some new recipes to enjoy this nutritious and underused vegetable this year.Photo of a bunch of Chioggia Beets showing the red and white circles inside.

  • Beets can be dried and made into chips, juiced, roasted, baked, pureed into soup, glazed, pickled or steamed,
  • Beet greens are delicious in salads, soups or sautéed.
  • Beets come in a range of colors, shapes and sizes and some have a sweet mild, rather than an earthy flavor.
  • Beets are full of fiber, vitamins A and C and have a higher iron content than most other vegetables.

Say farewell to kale and hello to beets this year.

Packet picture of Golden Detroit Beet seeds

February Plant of the Month – Beets

Plant of the Month

February 2017

Common Name: Detroit Dark Red Beet

Scientific Name: Beta vulgaris var. crassa

 

Native Range: Europe & Asia

Hardiness Zone: 2-7. For zones 8-11 grow as a fall crop

Days to Maturity: 55-65

 

General Description: The Detroit Dark Red Beet is the most popular all-purpose red beet. It is globe-shaped, tender with blood-red flesh that is sweet and delicious. Beets are easy to grow and tolerate a wide range of climates. Beets prefer cool weather; in zones 8-11 where summers can be hot, grow them as a fall, winter or early spring crop.

 

Site Requirements:

  • Light: Full sun to part shade
  • Water: Consistent moisture
  • Soil: Well-drained, sandy loam soil high in organic matter. Avoid acidic soil areas.

 

Seeding:

Sow seeds directly into soil in early spring as soon as soil can be worked. Beets tend to have spotty germination. Presoaking seeds for 1-2 hours will soften seed coat and speed germination. Plant seeds ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Seeds need close contact with the soil; it is best practice to press down on soil after planting. Sprouts will emerge in 10-20 days. Thin seedlings when they reach 4-5 inch to 3 inches apart.

 

Harvest Time:

Pull up plants when exposed root tops are 2 inches across.

 

Fun Facts:

  • Reddish green leaves make a great addition to summer salads
  • Planting garlic and mint with your beets will improve the growth and flavor
  • Beets are very sensitive to toxic substances in the soil and may not germinate if planted near walnut trees or soils containing herbicides

Grow for Flavor

by Sandy SwegelChioggia Beets

If you read just one gardening book this year, I have the perfect book for you. It’s a British gardening book and while growing conditions in merry old England aren’t anything like growing in hot arid Colorado, the advice here transcends climate. It’s about how to get the most flavor and nutrients by “how” you grow.

“Grow for Flavor: Tips and tricks to supercharge the flavor of homegrown harvests” doesn’t just repeat the advice on how to grow organically that is now found in many books or all over the internet. Author James Wong of the Royal Horticultural Society takes growing edibles to the next level by referencing scientific studies on how nutrient content and flavor molecules increase according to growing conditions and cooking methods.

Beets are one example.

If you want more antioxidants, roasting beets doubles their antioxidant levels compared to eating them raw.

If you want sweeter beets, sow them extra early. Sowing beets in cooler conditions leads to increased sweetness and more intense color.

If you aren’t fond of ‘earthy-tasting beets’ it’s the organic compound geosmin that gives that flavor. You can harvest early because young beets haven’t developed as much geosmin. Or you can put vinegar on the beets as my great grandparents did because the geosmin is degraded by acid.

 

If you juice beets for their cardiovascular benefits, the substances you want more of are nitrate and betalains. To get more of those, sow a mid-summer crop and fertilize with nitrogen to hike cardiovascular benefits by 300%

Another way to hike health benefits is to skimp on the water, Lack of water or ‘drought stress’ increases phytonutrients by 86% and makes beets richer in zinc and iron.

All this info is from just one page of the book so you can see why I love it. And I love my local librarian who procures such unusual books for our local library where I can read them for free!
Photo credits
http://www.blog.imperfectproduce.com/blog-1/2016/6/15/the-history-of-the-beet

Roasted Winter Vegetables

January Recipe

from the kitchen of Engrid Winslow

Roasted Winter Vegetables

 

Even though your garden is sleeping, you can still enjoy this seasonal recipe.

  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Dice or chop equal amounts of the following:

Potatoes

Beets (chop a bit smaller because they take longer to reach doneness)

Butternut Squash

Parsnips

Onions

  1. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet large enough that they roast instead of steaming. Toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30-45 minutes, stirring at least once.

 

Variations:

  • Substitute or add other vegetables such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, turnips, sweet potatoes, kabocha, acorn, delicata or other winter squash.
  1. Drizzle with balsamic before serving.
  1. Add pumpkin seeds during last 20 minutes of roasting.
  1. Add dabs of goat cheese while still warm but not too hot.
  1. Add fresh sprigs of thyme or rosemary

Time to Reboot the Veggie Garden

by Sandy Swegel

We ate the last of the Spring Peas this week. They were gnarly and kinda tough, but I savored the sweet Spring memories. Even though the peas were planted in a little shade and watered regularly, a pea plant can only take so many blistering hot days. Pooped-out peas are a sure sign that it’s time to start thinking about the Fall Garden. It seems slightly absurd since we still don’t have a single red tomato here in zone 5, but if I want a lush fall and winter garden, the time to reboot the spent Spring garden is now.

But it is July and it’s hot, so let’s start the fall garden in nice easy baby steps. These week’s plan is simple:

1. Pull out the finished pea plants. Pull out the weeds. Scratch in some fresh compost and keep the area watered for a few days as the soil settles down.
2. Plant some seeds. Keep the patch well moistened (or throw some row cover over to keep the water from evaporating so fast.
3. Have something cold to drink and flip through your seed cache or favorite seed website to plan something new and different the next time a little patch of soil is ready for replanting.

Some excellent July planting choices:

Leafy greens: arugula, Asian greens, collards, more kale or chard
Cool-season herbs like cilantro and dill
Root crops you want to enjoy after frosts like carrots and beets
Rapini (Broccoli raab)

Don’t stress yourself in the heat….just plant that one little patch that’s just growing weeds now and reap the rewards in September.

Photos:
http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Healthy-Recipes-Winter-Vegetables-Fruits-21357784#photo-21357809

Ultimate kitchen recycling

by Sandy Swegel

Winter is going on and on. One day of sun and ice melt is followed by three days of cold and snow. I’ve been cooking a lot, trying to meet my need for gardening by preparing great food. One of the best things about cooking, from a gardener’s perspective, is that I’m making compost! But there is one more way to cheer up a snow-bound gardener and that’s to regrow the vegetable scraps rather than just feeding them to the worms.

I first encountered the idea of re-growing food scraps from a children’s gardening book because it’s fun to do and a great way to teach kids about food and where it comes from. But this long winter, re-growing carrot tops and celery bottoms is also a great way to entertain the gardener yearning for Spring.

It’s super easy to regrow your scraps. You don’t even have to have soil, water works. Cute cups or plain bowls or recycled tin cans are good containers. And you just need the tiniest shaft of light to keep things green.

When you shop, choose:
Vegetables with roots (like green onions)
Roots with leaves (carrots, beets)
Whole plants (bok choy, celery or kale)
Fresh herbs (mint sometimes has little roots already growing)

When you’re making salad or soup:
Save inch stubs of carrots and onions. Carrots can go on a shallow bowl or plate of water. Onions can be put in a couple of inches of water in a juice glass.

Save two-inch ends celery or bok choy or an onion.

 

Growing your scraps is pretty easy
You want to put the roots in water and the top of the plant above water. Ideally, change the water every day so slime doesn’t happen.

As the food scraps grow, you can pot up the vigorous growers like celery and beet greens, and snip from the new growth all winter.

Remember, it’s your food. It should not only be yummy and nutritious and pretty. It should also be fun to play with.

 

 

Photo Credits
http://www.aboutone.com/kitchen-scrap-gardening/
http://www.theoldschool.com/motivate/tips/2013/propagating-beet-greens
http://www.missladybugsgarden.com/5/post/2013/02/regrowing-rather-than-throwing.html

 

Best Heirloom Vegetables

Wildflower seed mixes

Grass seed mixes

Expand Your Vegetable Garden the Easy Way

by Sandy Swegel

Two forces collided around the kitchen table this week.  First I was oogling our seed catalog and indulging in winter snow day daydreams about summer gardens and how I might turn my tiny urban yard into a farm so I could grow one of everything. At that moment I wanted to be surrounded by beautiful shiny vegetables. Then the second force came.  I went grocery shopping for my favorite winter recipe:  a very simple roasted winter vegetable dish with squash and sweet potatoes and beets, marinated in olive oil and rosemary. Yum. The winter squash was even on sale.  Then sticker shock hit. A single large winter squash was $5, even on sale!

The force of wanting to buy more seed collided with the force of not wanting to pay retail prices for food.  The only natural outcome is I have to find more space to garden so I can plant more squash.

It’s too late for any of the summer or fall garden expansion methods of either tilling in land or doing some lasagna gardening.  So I will use the easy method my urban farmer friend Barbara taught me.  Out in a neglected corner of the yard where there’s just some old grass, I’ll dig a shallow hole next May and fill it to an overflowing mound with a bucket of compost.  I’ll plant squash seeds there and cover the surrounding grass with cardboard.  The squash plants will grow over the cardboard as it takes another year to make good garden soil underneath.  I can drape the burgeoning squash plants over the fence and maybe up an old ladder onto the shed roof. (I did mention the tiny yard, didn’t I?)  But the key to expanding my garden this way is that I’m not doing all the heavy work of putting in a new 10 x 10 garden bed for squash.  The squash roots and cardboard are going to help do that.  My yield won’t be as high this year as a full amended composted garden, but then the work will be almost nothing to grow a lot of $5 squash for the price of $1.89 seed packet.

The key to baking yummy winter vegetables is to cut them in 1-1/2 inch pieces, marinate them in olive oil, salt and rosemary, and bake them on flat cookie sheets.  The flat baking sheet is crucial to the outcome because then the sides of the vegetable get a nice crisp roasted texture.  Here’s a more formal recipe:

Recipe:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-winter-vegetables-recipe/index.html

A Gift for Wild Animals

by Sandy Swegel

After the first big cold snow of the season, I find myself drinking coffee next to the window, captivated by the Wild Kingdom drama of the outdoors…watching the many different kinds of birds foraging or lurking near the bird feeder waiting their turn, or hearing the rustling of unknown small furry creatures in the garden debris.

The best gift for outdoor animals is a heated bird bath.  I might even put two out, one on the deck rail for the birds and one on the ground in a wild area for all the other thirsty creatures…rabbits, squirrels and even the field mice. When it’s super cold like it is now, snow doesn’t melt and there are no natural water sources near my house.  Maybe a water source will keep the squirrels from eating holes in my irrigation pipes.

Holiday Shopping List for all the Animals in Your Life

Dogs:  Plump baby carrots are the gift of choice for my dogs.   I had to fence off the main garden from their enthusiastic digging, but I leave an area of little round carrots and beets for them to “discover.” Cats:   Catnip of course. Don’t waste your time on anything else. Chickens:  Swiss Chard is my chickens’ most favorite food. I think they like its natural saltiness. I throw bags of dried leaves on the garden bed as insulation just so I can harvest some greens from under the bags all winter. Wild birds:  Sunflower Seeds naturally…and any seeds. I discovered dozens of little birds the other day in the snow in a patch of lambsquarter and tall weeds that I had foolishly allowed to go to seed. Bees:  Wildflower seeds of course. Rabbits:  A wild clover patch, anything green. Field Mice:  Any seeds left to fall on the ground.  Overgrown zucchini and pumpkins left to rot. Squirrels:  Pumpkins.  The Halloween pumpkin left out is the perfect squirrel buffet. Owls, hawks:  Any of the above-mentioned seeds left in the garden bring the mice and voles and other rodents that are the perfect gift for the birds of prey.  The rodents double as gifts for the snakes. Soil microbes: What else but moo poo tea is the ideal gift for the soil Earthworms:  Make them a compost pile.  And forget to harvest some of the root vegetables. As the vegetables decompose in place in early spring, hundreds of hungry earthworms show up for the feast. Humans:  All the vegetables are the perfect gift of health and vitality for the humans in your life, especially when packaged with the love you grew them with.

I wish to all this Winter:  abundant food and water and a warm place for all good creatures.

Photo Credit:

http://birdsandbloomsblog.com/2013/11/09/winter-bird-bath-tips/

http://dipperanch.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-last-purple-rattlesnake.html

Seed Starting in July

by Sandy Swegel

As a gardener, I’m always surprised by the veggie seed sales in July.  I know from a marketing point of view the prime seed-buying season has past and companies have to move product still in inventory.  But from a gardening perspective, it doesn’t make much sense to give 50% discounts in July because a gardener should be starting lots of seeds now.  It’s the perfect time to start seeds!  Of course, I always think it’s the perfect time to start seeds.

How to know what to plant in July?  Stand in the garden and look around.

What do you not have enough of?  I don’t know why I thought ten chard plants would be enough when I love to eat the red-stemmed chard.  There’s barely enough to eat for this week much less into the Fall.  And kale?  I didn’t know last Spring that I’d get into juicing this summer….I’ve gone through all my kale and spinach.  And carrots add so much sweetness to juice I clearly need more.

What do you want to can? More beans, please.  More cucumbers.  Beets for pickling.

What do you want growing in Fall? Broccoli is so good in Fall.  Our CSAs are starting their broccolis now for Fall sales.

Typical plantings in July:

Beans Carrots Cucumbers Beets Kale Spinach Chard Scallions

You can try some of the atypical plantings too.  I’ve seen research from Iowa that says you can still plant corn up to the fourth of July and get a reasonable crop.

It’s probably too late for squash or tomatoes to grow from seed….but those seeds store for many years, so if there are varieties you know you’ll want to plant next year, it’s fine to buy the seeds now.

While you’re in the veggie garden, this is also a good time to plant perennial herbs and flowers that will last for years and bring pollinators.  This is also a great time to seed annuals that reseed themselves.  Cosmos and marigolds are good examples.

The biggest challenge to starting seed in July is making sure the seedbed stays moist during germination.  A sprinkler set with a timer to run just a short while every day helps.  Or my personal favorite and much written about helper:  row cover.  Put your seeds down. Water thoroughly. Lay some row cover over the seeded area with rocks to hold the row cover down.  That will give you some extra needed protection from the hot July sun.