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.

TOP 10 VEGETABLES FOR PART SHADE

by Heather Stone

Do you have a garden that gets more shade than sun, but you still want to grow vegetables? No problem! There are plenty of vegetables that will grow well with partial sun. We’ve put together a list for you of vegetables that perform well with 6 hours or less of direct sunlight. Read on to find out how to keep yourself in fresh veggies all season by making the most of your shady spots.

 

 

  1. Mesclun Greens (Needs 3 hours of sun)

Mesclun is simply a “mix” of various greens. All of them doing well with just a few hours of sunlight. They germinate quick and reach maturity in a matter of weeks. Try our Mesclun Mix– a great combo of arugula, mustard greens and Chinese cabbage.

  1. Arugula 3-4 hours

This delicious peppery green is easy to grow and loves the cool weather. Plant in early spring about 1 month before the last frost and continue sowing every 20-30 days until mid-summer. Grows well in containers. Try our Wild Arugula!

  1. Lettuce 3-4 hours

Lettuce is a cool-season green that isn’t a big fan of direct sun. The varieties are endless and so easy to grow in the ground or in containers. Plant in early spring and again every two weeks for a continuous supply of lettuce. Make sure to provide shade for the late spring and summer plantings.

  1. Spinach 3-4 hours

The nutrient-packed leaves of spinach love cool weather and protection from the full sun. Spinach is an easy to grow and productive crop that every garden should find a spot for. Like lettuce and arugula plant in early spring and sow successively every 2 weeks for a continuous supply of spinach. Try our Bloomsdale or Nobel Giant varieties.

  1. Kale 3-4 hours

A powerhouse of nutrition, kale is easy to grow in the ground or in containers. The young tender leaves of kale are great in salads. The mature leaves are excellent sauteed or added to soups and stews. Start in early spring and continue you to sow for fresh greens all season long.

  1. Swiss Chard 4-5 hours

Easy to grow from seed and looks fabulous all season long Swiss Chard’s beautiful leaves are easily planted in the perennial garden as well as the vegetable patch.

  1. Radish 4-5 hours

There’s nothing like a fresh spring radish. They are quick to germinate, fast to mature and come in a rainbow of colors. We carry 5 different varieties! No garden should be without radishes.

  1. Peas 4-5 hours

Peas do fine in partial shade in either the garden or the container. They are pretty quick to germinate and prefer cool weather. So get them in the ground early and you’ll have peas to snack on in early summer.

  1. Beets 4-5 hours

Beets can thrive along the shady edge of the garden. The roots might not get quite as big, but if you keep them well watered they will produce excellent tasting greens and sweet, tender roots.

  1. Bok Choy 4 hours

This cool season vegetable germinates in a few days and can be eaten raw or cooked.  Bok Choy is an excellent addition to the part shade garden.

 

Winter Smoothies

from the kitchen of Engrid Winslow

We know you can’t wait for spring and fresh veggies from your own garden – we can’t either! Here are a couple of smoothies and a juice drink made with readily available winter produce to tide you over. In addition, they are paleo-friendly, gluten-free, vegetarian and low in calories.

Tangy Apple Kale Smoothie (serves 1)

1 cup water
2 Granny Smith apples, seeded and cut into chunks
2 cups baby kale
1 frozen banana

Combine everything and blend until smooth.

Cinnamon Squash Pear Smoothie (serves 1)

1 pear, seeded and cut into chunks
1/4 cup frozen, cooked winter squash
1 tsp. Honey (or 1/2 tsp Maple Syrup)
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon

Combine everything and blend until smooth.

Early Riser Breakfast (serves 2)

1 beet
1/4 red cabbage
2 carrots
1/2 red bell pepper
1 orange, peeled
1 apple
1/2 lemon, peeled

Juice each item, combine and stir.

Thanksgiving Kale

by Sandy Swegel

Three Ways to Enjoy Kale for Thanksgiving

I got off easy this year in Thanksgiving tasks…I only have to bring a vegetable side dish.  All the traditional dishes were spoken for by the time I got to pick my contribution so as I looked out the window at the overgrown kale plants, it became obvious I should make a kale dish.  My own recipes for kale aren’t too exciting, so I asked the internet.  Here are some awesome possibilities for kale that I came up with.

The Washington Post set the tone for choosing a kale recipe.  They recommend an awesome “Slow Roasted Tuscan Kale” because “It doesn’t taste healthful, an important trait for those avoiding anything virtuous during the holidays.” Ain’t that the truth!  Most people don’t want lightly sautéed kale for a holiday meal: they want rich and creamy comfort foods

 

Taste Test Winner

Chef Suzanne Goin’s recipe is even vegan, but no one needs to know that. the long slow cooking makes it holiday yummy.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/a-simple-thanksgiving-side-dish-that-plays-well-with-others-kale-cooked-long-and-slow/2016/11/14/c3cea252-9bae-11e6-b3c9-f662adaa0048_story.html

Soufflé

The Today show was adventurous and made a video to make a kale soufflé.  If you’re going to do the work of a soufflé, I say go all the way and make Martha Stewart’s Kale and Cheese Soufflé.  http://www.marthastewart.com/1136714/cheese-and-kale-souffle. It has a perfect holiday ratio of butter to kale.  One stick of butter per bunch of kale!

Healthy but Still Tasty

If you insist on your kale dish being healthy, I like the recipes that add in fruit and nuts.  Kale and cranberries and toasted almonds sound great to me. Skip the cheeses so the vegans can have something good to eat!  http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/kale-salad-warm-cranberry-vinaigrette-recipe/

 

Photos:

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/slow-cooked-tuscan-kale

Trapped by Nature

by Sandy Swegel

Traffic jams and Mother Nature conspired yesterday to make me notice. I had to get to work early and as I reached the top of a hill I could see the traffic on the single highway was at a dead stop for miles. In my hurry that day I had also let my cell phone battery run down and the car charger was suddenly broken. I decided I was too impatient to wait and tried a detour but soon it was obvious a thousand other people were trying this too. So I was driving about five miles per hour for 45 minutes with no smartphone, no music or news to listen to, and it was the best thing that happened to me all week.

Forced idleness tricked me into simply being and observing. My detour took me thru areas of small farms just after sunrise. So many wonders.

There was a hundred-year-old cottonwood tree with only the outer three feet of all the branches turned bright yellow. Every other leaf was dark green. It looked like a punk rocker hairstyle. Then traffic inched on and I saw fields of organic kale. Some frozen solid and white frosted. Others just an acre away but three feet or so upslope were dark green. Cold sinks into low areas and that morning the frost line ran right through the field of kale. Traffic inched forward and I saw flocks of chickens put out to free range surrounded by the flimsiest electric fence. I laughed out loud and remembered my first chickens where we installed one of those portable electric fences. We stood back proudly and watched as our chickens figured out right away that even with clipped wings they could fly up to the top of the short electric fence and not get shocked because they were birds and didn’t have a foot touching the ground to conduct electricity. They just jumped off into a neighboring field.

 

The rest of the slow ride gave me dozens more magical moments. A hay field already finished for the year had hot air ballooners just starting to inflate tiny collapsed balloons. Down the way, llamas stood at fierce guard between the big noisy cars and their sheep munching quietly in the background. Hawks and huge birds of prey were swooping as if on roller coasters on the winds coming off the mountain

I hope events conspire to give you a rest sometime. Life is so busy and full of thinking and doing that we grown-ups don’t get delighted so often. And much as we’d like, we can’t force the magic. I drove the same way home that day. The cottonwood tree had turned more normal yellow during the day. The chickens were locked away safely from coyotes and I forgot to look for the llamas because I was thinking about dinner. So if you have a moment today when the grandeur of Nature breaks through the mundane…be sure to notice and be happy.

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

Jumpstart your Lettuce Garden

Jumpstart your Lettuce Garden

Our new tricolor blend of romaine lettuces has me itching to get my salad garden started. I like Romaines because they are especially nutritious, comparable to kale. And I like this blend because it’s shiny and colorful. There’s a lovely gloss to the colorful Romaines that looks beautiful in the garden and on the plate. I want my food pretty!

OrgLettuceRoamaineTri_BBB

It’s pretty easy to get lettuce ready to eat earlier than your standard growing season. If you’re either busy or lazy (or both as I often am) there are some almost no work ways to get your salad growing.

Almost No Extra Work: Row Cover
Direct seed as usual into your garden. Put a layer of row cover loosely over the area. Secure with anchors or with heavy rocks which will also capture a tiny bit of extra heat. The row cover alone will speed germinate the seeds if you have a spell of warmer weather. The row cover then will protect it if the warm weather is followed by frigid temps.

A Little Bit of Extra Work: Pots
Want to have lettuce even sooner? My friend Cathy seeds her lettuce in lightweight pots and brings them inside at night or when the weather is extreme. It’s easy for her because she has a south-facing sliding glass door and moving the pots in means sliding open the door and moving the pots two feet in or out. She has the extra satisfaction of going to the Farmer’s Market in April where market farmers are selling similar pots for $25.

Invest Work for the Future: Cold Frames

Cold frames are an awesome way of having more of your own fresh food. They do take some time and money….but you will quickly make up that investment with what you save on fresh greens.

Work like a Farmer for Lots of Lettuce: Plugs
Growing your own lettuce plugs is one way to get a garden of lettuce without thinning or empty spots. Start your seeds under lights in plug trays that you can plant out when it’s a bit warmer. Very satisfying to have a full evenly-space plot of lettuce plants in the hour or so it will take you to plant out the entire plug tray (100-200 plants).

http://wcfcourier.com/lifestyles/home-and-garden/gardening/lettuce-plant-some-frilly-fun-veggie-can-be-grown-in/article_2a856188-c725-5af2-960d-9fd1d89f4896.html

http://thefoxplot.com/tag/beekeeping/

Fall Equinox

by Sandy Swegel

Fall Equinox is upon us which suddenly spurs me to lament all the gardening I didn’t get done this year. In particular, I don’t have much of a winter garden growing. Am I going to have to start buying store-bought greens? I thought maybe I could outsmart Mother Nature by using row cover and soil heating cables to get some lettuces and kales going, but a farmer friend broke the bad news to me. Can’t be done. Sure I can get some growth. But lettuce and other greens are affected more by photoperiodism, than heat. Huh? I asked. She said Farmers know to get all their Fall and Winter plants going well before Fall Equinox because once the days start getting shorter, plants don’t grow as vigorously. (This, of course, doesn’t apply if you are further South where your days stay longer.) The farmer said I can get the lettuce to grow, but I won’t have the vigor and growth I need to provide myself with enough food for Fall into Winter. Lettuce is what they call a “long-day” plant. This is also the reason, more so than heat, that lettuce goes to seed in the middle of summer….because the days are long.

Who knew? Well, farmers and people who live off the land know. They start their winter lettuce in late summer.

Besides me, there’s another group of people who want to outsmart Mother Nature. Astronauts. One of the obstacles to living in space and inhabiting other planets is food. NASA has run food experiments on the Space Station for years, but now for the first time, astronauts are growing their own lettuces to eat instead of just to experiment on. What a treat for them instead of all those dried space foods.

Photo credit
http://collectspace.com/
http://gardenofeaden.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/how-to-grow-winter-lettuce-from-seed.html

 

 

BBB Seed

Best organic heirloom vegetable seed

Wildflower Seed

Grass and Wildflower Mixes

Start your Seeds…Again.

by Sandy Swegel

This time it’s going to be a lot easier. You don’t need lights and cold frames. You don’t even have to use trays and little pots. You can put the seeds directly into the earth.  You don’t need much time.  Seeds germinate in warm soil really fast. All you really do need this time of year is water.  Seeds you start mid-summer are at risk of germinating and then drying out, so you have to remember to sprinkle them daily and keep the soil moist.  But that’s about it.

  1. Why Start Seeds Now?

The least romantic reason is to Save Money.
The second least romantic reason is to Save Time.
The romantic reason is Beauty and Abundance.

Veggies
Lettuces. In most gardens, your lettuces and even spinach have bolted and gone to seed.  You’re probably trying to salvage individual leaves here and there, but they are pretty bitter because of the heat.  Seeding new beds will give you young sweet leaves and plants that will feed you well into Fall and even Early Winter.

Cold Hardy Greens.  The key to being able to eat out of the winter garden is to have big plants with enough leaves to feed you all winter.  Chards and Kale and Spinach seeded now will be big enough come to Fall that even in cold climates you can pile leaves on them and harvest from under the snow.  But you need big plants because come October and November the plants aren’t going to be re-growing much.

Peas.  Peas germinate and grow easily this time of year.  By the time they reach maturity, the chill of Fall nights will make them sweet and yummy.  In Colorado we kind of got cheated out of our peas this year because it became so hot so fast, the peas dried up.  But we have a second chance.

Root crops.  Carrots and beets planted in summer have time to grow to maturity and wait in the soil until cooling Fall weather turns them into sugar. As long as the ground isn’t frozen solid, you can continue to harvest delectable root veggies that taste much better than the spring and summer harvests.

Herbs.  Parsley and thyme are among the many herbs you can harvest all year.  Thyme can be frozen solid.  Even parsley that has frozen will plump and be bright green on warm sunny winter days.

Perennials
You know the adage about perennials. First, they sleep, then they creep, then they leap.  Perennials need their first year to establish roots and many don’t even make flowers until the second year.  Perennials that you seed now will still consider this their first year and then be ready to bloom next year.  If you wait until next Spring to plant perennial seed….you won’t get flowers until 2016.  Planting perennials is one of the most thrifty things you can do in your gardens.  Foxglove and lupines are both underused magnificent bloomers in gardens.  And they can easily cost $8 each in garden centers. You can have dozens and dozens of them blooming next year if you seed now.  All those flowers for cutting you’ve always wanted — daisies and echinacea and rudbeckia – they are simple from seed. One packet of seed will give you dozens and dozens of flowers next year.

So save an entire year of time by planting perennial seeds now. And save a bundle of money by growing your own perennials and by having greens you can pick from for the next six months.

 

Photo credit:  www.modernfarmer.com

 

 

 

Heirloom Vegetable Seeds

Wildflower Seed Mixes

Grass Seed Mixes

 

 

Choices… as your cool season veggies go to seed

by Sandy Swegel

Gardening is always about choices.

There are the early choices about what to plant.
Choices about whether to treat pests.
Choices about when to harvest.

Now as your cool-season greens and herbs and alliums go to seed, you have some choices.

Your first choice is more food. If you are growing your garden primarily to feed yourself, you need to harvest as the market farmers do. When it’s time to cut kale, you don’t just take a few leaves, You get your knife and cut that plant to within two inches of the soil. That shocks leafy greens that they immediately triple leaf production and you will get two more big harvests out of each plant. Ruthless cutting produces more food.

Your other choice is for beauty and generosity. If you let some of those plants bolt and put out seed heads, you end up with a garden that generously feeds the pollinators and butterflies and birds with flowers and seed heads. The swallowtail butterflies ignored all the dill I planted for them and congregated on one old parsley plant to lay their eggs. The nature creatures have reasons for choosing we don’t always understand.

 

But Beauty is why I make my choice this week for letting edibles go to seed.

With the rain this year, bolted lettuce is statuesque. They are four feet high and visible across the yard. Purple Merlot lettuce at this size is stunning next to the sweet peas. The dill is taller than me in the well-watered garden and surrounds all the tomatoes like protective warriors. Yellow mustard flowers and white arugula flowers lean out across the walk begging to be nibbled. Broccoli heads opening up into flowers are beguiling.

So once again you have a choice. You can go out in the hot sun and tidy up your garden, or you can let Nature’s idea of Beauty run amok.

 

Photo Credit broccoli, Todd Dwyer www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/broccoli/bolting-broccoli-growing-broccoli-in-hot-weather.htm
Leeks: http://www.koanga.org.nz/category/all-blog-entries/
Lettuce: http://gardeninggonewild.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/dscf4311.JPG