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.

GO BEYOND ICEBERG LETTUCE

By Engrid Winslow

There are many different types of lettuce and perhaps you were wondering how to use these various types. Here’s a general description of some different types which will take you beyond the traditional iceberg followed by a quick tutorial on growing them.

Lettuce, Organic Bibb, Speckles Lettuce, Summer Bibb

  • Butterhead/Buttercrunch/Bibb/Boston – Any of the “B” lettuces form loose heads of large, softly ruffled leaves that range in color from bright yellow-green to magenta-tipped emerald. They have a slight crunch when you bite in, followed by a melt-in-your-mouth silkiness. The leaves are buttery and slightly sweet. They are perfect for use in sandwiches or salads and the largest outer leaves are great as a wrap for various fillings because of their pliability.

 

 

  • Romaine forms a long, straight head of crisp leaves with a prominent center stem. They come in the familiar crisp, tall, green heads to shorter and fluffier versions that range from dark red to lime green with red speckles. They can be harvested when young for a tender and delicate salad. They have a mild crunch from the center stem when mature and are the classic lettuce for a traditional Caesar salad since it’s a perfect contrast to the creamy, cheesy dressing. It can also be used as a scoop for dips and holds up on a burger.

Picture of the Tri-color Romaine lettuce package. Lettuce, Organic Romaine, Freckles Lettuce, Dark Green Romaine

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Oakleaf lettuce has unusually shaped leaves that form a loose cluster with tender, crunchy stems. The flavors can range from sweet when young to slightly bitter if left longer to mature. They come in gorgeous colors of green but the dark red is a version high in anthocyanin

with a powerful punch of antioxidants. They are great in salads and when mixed with other lettuce types or on a sandwich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • With loose bunches of leaves connected at the base, the loose leaf lettuces are known as bunching or cutting lettuces. They are typically mild, savory to sweet and crisp-tender. They are generally more heat-tolerant and some, such as Black Seeded Simpson, are slower to bolt than other types of lettuces.

Front of the Red Deer Tongue Lettuce seed packet.

Lettuce, Organic Leaf, Tango

 

Lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best ways to use these lettuces is to combine them with other greens, such as arugula or baby kale in a salad and, lucky you, we have two blends that will do that for you.
Picture of a packet of Gourmet Salad Lettuce seeds.Picture of a packet of Heirloom Lettuce Blend seeds.

Lettuce is very easily started from seed, both indoors and out in your vegetable beds. They take about one week to germinate, depending on temperatures. If starting indoors, be sure the seeds stay moist by spraying them gently from a spray bottle or bottom-watering until they germinate and the seedlings are strong enough to handle overhead watering. A plastic dome over the tray really helps with this. The seeds are tiny and should be planted with a very light (no more than ¼ inch) layer of soil.             If planted outdoors in cooler temperatures and cold soil they may take longer to germinate. Thin the seedlings to 3 inches apart and pull every other one for early salads leaving the rest (now 6” apart) to reach full size. Successive sowings every 3 weeks in short rows provide these tasty plants throughout the season. All lettuces will bolt and then become bitter in the heat and long days of summer, but you can delay this by mulching to keep the soil cool.

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.

 

WRAP IT UP!

Fresh lettuce leaves.

Photo courtesy of Pezibear / pixabay

From the Kitchen of Engrid Winslow

During summer no one wants to turn on the oven and it is easier to prepare a wrap than almost any meal.  Everyone loves a burrito, right? Well, let’s riff off that and give you even more ideas for fillings and wraps.

 

Veggie Leaves – Think outside the iceberg lettuce wraps and try using large spinach leaves, Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, and Kale, thinly sliced zucchini, Bibb lettuce or Romaine Lettuce or Savoy or other Cabbage.

 

Leftovers – You’ve got leftover roasted or grilled chicken?  Shrimp stir fry? Fried Rice? ½ a jar of roasted red peppers, noodles of any kind? You’re golden to just shred some carrots, slice some tomatoes and wrap in rice paper, tortillas or vegetable leaves for a satisfying, no-cook meal.

 

Crunch – Add a satisfying crunchy element such as toasted nuts, corn, coconut, shredded purple cabbage, sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds, finely sliced celery, sprouts and cucumbers.

 

Cheesey/Creamy –  Add tofu or crumbles of tangy cheese such as feta, avocado, mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt.  Other good mix-ins are cotija, fresh mozzarella, cream cheese or blue cheeses.

 

Make it sweet – For a refreshing dessert try a wrap with one or more of the following:  fresh fruit, jam, dried fruit, cream cheese, chocolate, whipped cream, yogurt, honey or vanilla pudding.

 

Add Acid – Sometimes a squeeze of lemon juice or lime juice can perk up the fillings in your wrap. Another easy addition would be pickled anything or make a quick pickle by stirring rice wine vinegar into thinly sliced onions (or another veggie of your choosing) and letting them mellow for 10-30 minutes.

 

Add Spice – Some filling will be even better with a dollop of salsa, sliced jalapenos or roasted chili peppers.

 

Here’s an easy marinade for chicken, shrimp, beef or tofu that can be grilled, stir-fried or roasted:

½ cup pineapple juice

½ cup lemon juice

2 T olive oil

2 tsp honey

Salt

Pepper

 

Don’t marinate shrimp for more than ½ hour or so or they will get mushy. Tofu, beef and chicken will hold up to a longer marinade.

Serve with coconut, shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers and other toppings so that everyone can personalize their wrap.

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

The Joy of Spinach

by Engrid WinslowSpinach, Organic Bloomsdale

There are two types of spinach available for eating:  flat leaf spinach is a smooth-leaved variety that is usually canned or frozen. Most of what gardeners grow is the sweeter savoy or curly leafed spinach. The leaves are wrinkled and are the ones used in pre-packaged spinach at the grocery store.  It is easy to start from seed, prefers cool temperatures and can be harvested as baby spinach or left to grow larger. There are hybrids that can tolerate more heat and combine the smooth and savoy-type leaf.

Does Spinach have other things going for it? Yes and YES! Spinach is high in carotenoids, which the body can turn into vitamin A. It packs a powerful punch of other vitamins and minerals including vitamins C, B6, B9, K1 and E, folic acid, calcium, potassium and magnesium.  It is also an excellent source of fiber and contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are beneficial for eye health. Not to mention that spinach contains high amounts of nitrates, which may help regulate blood pressure levels. There are even studies showing that the antioxidants and other compounds in Spinach may suppress the growth of human cancer cells.

Best of all, Spinach is good raw and cooked.  There are so many ways to use it that it is almost miraculous. If someone says they don’t like Spinach, try sneaking it into meatloaf. In fact, Spinach can be “hidden” in soups, stews, scrambled eggs, quiche, lasagna, dips and smoothies.  It can stand alone when creamed, sautéed or made into a salad or swapped out for half of the basil to make a delicious pesto. It plays well with pasta, fruit such as strawberries, and cheese.  Endless possibilities.  Here are two recipes – one for the Spinach “lovers” and one for the (think they are) “haters”.

 

Puglia Sautéed Spinach

This recipe hails from Southern Italy where all manner of greens are very popular.  You can substitute Swiss Chard, Kale, Collards or even Chicory.  You can pile it on top of polenta, sip some Italian White wine, close your eyes and practice your Italian accent.

4 TBL olive oil                                                                     1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves chopped garlic                                                  14 oz. sliced Cremini mushrooms

10 oz. Spinach                                                                    ½ cup Pinot Grigio or other Italian White wine *

Salt and pepper                                                                   2 TBL Balsamic Vinegar

Fresh Italian parsley, Chopped

 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in the oil until they soften and caramelize. Add the mushrooms, and fry for about 3 to 4 minutes. Toss in the spinach, and sauté stirring constantly until spinach is wilted.

Add the vinegar, stirring constantly until it is absorbed, then stir in the white wine. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until the wine has almost completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

*(or substitute vegetable or chicken stock, if desired)

 

VEGETABLE FRITTATA

¼ cup olive oil                                                                1 lb. potatoes*, cooked and sliced

1 small onion, very thinly sliced                                  1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly

1 clove minced garlic                                                      2 cups baby spinach

½ tsp. Salt                                                                        8 eggs, beaten

¼ tsp freshly ground pepper                                        3 TBL cubed butter

2 TBL thinly sliced basil

Turn on broiler. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, pepper, and onion until soft, 3–4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in sliced potatoes, the butter, salt, and pepper. Stir in half the basil and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes. Broil until set and golden on top, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil.

*use any small, waxy fleshed potato – not baking potatoes

Three Wild and Spicy reasons to grow Wild Arugula

by Sandy Swegel

Wild arugula is my favorite spring green of the week and this year it’s the first thing I’ve seeded out into the garden during our warm spell.

Similar to regular arugula, wild arugula has a “wilder” taste and thinner leaf.  It looks quite like a mustard weed when young if you aren’t familiar with it.  Definitely a cool season crop as once the temps get to 80 wild arugula can be quite bitter.

It is very easy to grow, as mustards often are, and can handle less than ideal soil and water.  (Watch out…low water makes it even spicier.). I like to plant it somewhere it can establish itself as a perennial that I can just pick a few leaves now and then to add some zest to dinner.  But a Spring garden patch is essential to get cups and cups of the greens to use in making pesto.

 

So here are my three favorite wild and spicy reasons to grow wild arugula.

SPRING SALADS.  Arugula has a nutrient profile similar to other spring tonic herbs like dandelion and nettles, but I like the taste even better for salads or lightly steamed.

 

PESTO.  Wild arugula pesto is an absolute favorite.  Make it with garlic, olive oil, walnuts and Parmesan or goat cheese and you have a fantastic sauce for fettuccine noodles, topping for pizza or spread for appetizers.

POLLINATORS. Naturally, foods that are favorites of pollinators are favorites of mine.  Once summer sets in, wild arugula bolts and sends up tall tiny spiky yellow flowers that pollinators love.  I’ve seen all kinds of bees and butterflies snacking on the wild arugula flowers from summer through late fall.  I also snack on them….I like the flavor of arugula flowers even better than the leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credits

https://www.dherbs.com/articles/featured-articles/wild-arugula-pesto/

http://honest-food.net/arugula-pesto-recipe-pasta/

Wild Arugula; Delicious Low-Water Beauty

Plants as Conversation Starters

by Sandy Swegel

One of the awkward parts of the holiday season is ending up at gatherings where you only know the person you came with and everyone else is a stranger. There’s always the option of getting a plate of food and finding a comfortable chair to sit in and people watch but it can be awkward. I recently had a great time at a party I was going where I didn’t know many people or have much in common with them and it was entirely thanks to plants. So I know you’re supposed to bring a small gift when you are invited to a dinner, but wine or even grocery store flowers can set you back $15- 20 and I’m frugal or cheap or broke, depending on my mindset that day. So I’ve taken to making my own flower arrangements from gathered natural items and thrift store vases. These can turn out quite creative and cute (I used ornamental cabbages as the center “flowers” recently.) or so unusual that my family says things like “What weird thing is that?”

So at this recent party, the hostess took my cabbage flower and evergreen arrangement politely said thank you and put it on an out-of-the-way table. I sat on a comfortable chair with a plate of food and stumbled over small talk. As my mind idly looked around the room I looked up at the ceiling and saw a stray ivy vine tacked up along the beams near the high ceiling. Its pot was on a narrow ledge about ten feet high and I blurted out without thinking, “Who gets up to water that pot?” The husband came over and said proudly, “That’s my job.” And together the two of them started an animated story about this little vine had grown over 40 feet long in just the past year and now was entwined across the ceiling like a spider web or halo over their living space. We had a great bonding conversation about the marvels of this ordinary little vine and its impact on their lives as they had to find new places to attach it every month. They appreciated that I noticed and admired it too.

The nice part of this brief encounter was later in the evening when the hostess stood by the little arrangement I brought and looked at anew and commented how beautiful the cabbage and juniper berries were.

It was a win-win-win situation. We came to appreciate each other in a new way because of how we each appreciated nature. And the ivy? Well, you know how vain plants are…it loved being the center of attention.

 

You can use plants as a conversation starter in your own home by having unusual plants like a string of pearls or bloomers most people aren’t familiar with like a clivia. At other people’s homes, you can just take a moment to remark on the plants that grow there. Turns out the plants we live with and manage to keep alive are important to us.

Photos:

http://carlaaston.com/designed/swap-holiday-decor-for-indoor-plants
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/41376890297731993/

Garden and Grow Flowers all Winter Long

by Sandy Swegel

For gardeners foolish enough to live where winter takes hold and the ground freezes, the time between first frost and last frost can be very long. Some gardeners are wise enough to welcome the break from the work of the garden and enjoy the natural flow of the seasons. Others like me start longing for a greenhouse or dream of living in warm tropical climates. I fantasize about building a mobile greenhouse I could drive down south to grow all winter and drive back to Colorado next Spring. I mourn the death of geraniums in beautiful pots and the brown frozen leaves of basil.

Before you lug dozens of plants into your living room where they mostly suffer until they succumb to low light and pests, make a plan for how to garden your indoor area.

If you have good indoor southern exposure…

Blooming plants like geranium, Hibiscus, Bougainvillea and Mandevilla will put on winter-long displays of flowers. Often by January, the dry air and lack of circulation will cause aphid explosions, and you’ll need to give the plants a quick shower or deal with the aphids in some other way before they get completely disgusting. Fragrant plants like rosemary will also thrive and even bloom if you keep them well-watered. Plants that didn’t need much water outdoors have different needs indoors and will probably need to be watered twice a week.

 

Low light windows…
Winter is the time to move cyclamen and African violets out of the direct winter sun to the north or east windows to keep them happy. Begonias also do well in lower light.
Cuttings of coleus bring in lots of foliage color. Coleus plants are so attractive in pots but expensive to buy. Simple jars of water will keep the coleus happy and grow roots so you have plants next Spring.

Herbs…
The rosemary is in the southern window. You can harvest the thyme from outdoors all winter as long as you can push aside leaves or snow. Tender herbs like basil and oregano are another story. I haven’t had much luck bringing them indoors…they bolt or get buggy. I have had great luck seeding narrow windowsill pots densely and enjoying the young leaves as microgreens.

Forcing bulbs…
Amaryllis are great to start now. Setting aside a few bulbs from Fall plantings can occupy your gardeners’ heart for weeks in January and February. Not all bulbs force so there is some experimentation here and some bulbs will need a cooling period in your frig or cold garage. But little daffodils inside in late January give great joy.

 

Forcing stems…
Make a mental note now of what spring flowering trees and shrubs there are in your yard or neighborhood. In late winter after a warm spell, you can see the new buds swell on woody stems. Cut those stems and bring them indoors.

Winter doesn’t have to be long and gray. You can garden inside all season long.

Photos:
http://www.hiddenvalleyhibiscus.com/forum/index.php?topic=144.0
http://picklesandcheeseblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/bright-red-geraniums-in-big-black-pots.html
Miss Priss the Bougainvillea, Good To Grow, Liza’s plants

Keep Your Lettuce Sweet

by Sandy SwegelRows of Lettuce

It’s only the beginning of June, but hot days can already cause your lettuce to begin to turn bitter or bolt. But an attentive gardener can keep her lettuce sweet and tasty with a few easy tricks.

Lettuce generally turns bitter when it begins to mature or bolt. The most obvious environmental factors that cause bitterness are high heat and water stress. There are some studies that suggest long day length also speeds bolting. It’s a bit too much trouble to test this and create darkness for your lettuce but there’s a lot you can do to sweeten your lettuce.

Keep it cool.
Light row cover over the lettuce in the easiest way to cool it down. Just keep the sun from baking it. Alternatively next year you can plant the lettuce somewhere it gets shade in the hottest parts of the day.

Keep it well watered.
Sometimes we don’t notice how hot it is becoming and we don’t increase our watering to compensate. Make sure your lettuce is consistently well watered and doesn’t go through stressful too wet/too dry cycles.

Thin your lettuce.
Loose leaf lettuce can get bitter from being planted too densely and not thinned. This is probably just water and nutrient stress from overcrowding, but give those plants a little more room. By thinning as lettuce grows.

Pick it in the morning.
A cool night is often enough to sweeten lettuce so pick the lettuce in the cool of morning, not just before dinner. Bring a bucket of water with you to harvest and put the lettuce directly into the water after picking.

 

And if your lettuce is already bitter?

No need to eat it bitter or toss it into the compost pile. Wash and dry the lettuce and put it in a crisper in the refrigerator for at least a few hours and up to a couple of days. Lettuce is one of those plants that keeps growing even after it is cut so it will often respond to its new cool humid environment by “sweetening up.”

If your lettuce is still bitter? Send it to compost or toss it in with other vegetables when juicing. You’ll get the vitamins but not notice the bitterness amid the other strong vegetable tastes.

Photo credit:
http://phys.org/news/2015-11-lettuce-quality-conditions.html