|Go green for fall!|
|Written by Chandra L. Mattingly|
|Thursday, September 06, 2012 2:47 PM|
What a blessing it was this past weekend to hear the pitter-patter not of little feet, but of rain!
While too late for most farm crops, the rain was just in time to drench my newly-planted broccoli, cabbage and kale transplants and prompt late sowings of lettuce, collards and spinach into sprouting. Nor is it too late for others to do likewise, seeding greens and transplanting broccoli and cabbage plants, if you can find them.
This year we even started a few Early Girl tomatoes in mid-June, reserving half of our homemade greenhouse for four of the younger plants. The other side, planted in April, yielded our first ripe tomato the last day of May, and those four tomatoes are continuing to produce.
But the younger tomatoes are growing like gangbusters, with clumps of good-sized green tomatoes visible through the open sides of the hothouse. Come cold weather, we'll enclose the sides again and perhaps even add a nighttime heat source. In last year's mild weather, we had tomatoes into March – probably rather costly due to the heater, but with decent size and great flavor – and organically grown.
We've also got a small patch of very late-sown corn, a short-season variety I pre-sprouted and sowed Aug. 20. It may well get frosted before bearing, but then again, if the weather holds, it may produce small ears. I'll let you know. My usual last-sowing date for 80-day corn, such as Silver Queen, is mid-July. Right now we're picking Obsession super-sweet corn planted the last week of June.
So what can you expect if you plant and sow now, the first full week of September?
Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage: Transplants going in now will take eight to 10 weeks to mature, but the plants will withstand light frosts – and heavier ones with a row cover. Our average first frost is anytime in October, so they may just have time to mature. Transplants should have been started six to eight weeks ago, aside from cauliflower which should have been started two weeks later.
Peas, beets and carrots also make good fall crops, but probably should have been sown a week or two ago. If you have leftover seed and the garden space, you might try planting some anyway as our fall frosts sometimes come quite late. Figure on 14 weeks for carrots to mature (or dig them small), 10 weeks for peas, and eight weeks for beets.
Almost sure crops are the greens. Lots of folks plant kale and collards as fall and winter crops, though the latter may not be hardy here, again, depending on weather. Some varieties of kale are extremely hardy; either plant may be covered with a row cover, which has brought them through rather severe winters for me.
Both kale and collards can be harvested in about eight to 10 weeks, or longer if temperatures drop. The vitamin-rich leaves become sweeter after frost.
For lettuce, spinach, and other salad greens, figure on about seven weeks. Both lettuce and spinach will withstand light and sometimes even heavy frosts. I had a few spinach plants winter with no protection at all a few years ago when we had a pretty cold winter. Again, row covers can extend the growing and harvesting period.
Finally, radishes and some varieties of Chinese cabbage will grow from seed in as little as four or five weeks. They, too, withstand light frosts, and mature radishes and heads also can be stored in pits filled with leaves, as can carrots and cabbage.
One fall we grew dozens of Chinese cabbage and stored them on a roofed but not enclosed concrete porch, covered with – you guessed it – a row cover! We threw away a few outside leaves, but had Chinese cabbage to eat all winter.
Right now we are harvesting and eating tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, green beans from a late planting, collard and kale leaves from wintered-over plants, a little lettuce from plants started inside during the heat, onions, leeks, shallots and sweet corn. The second planting of broccoli and cabbage are coming on, and come frost, we'll also have sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts.
And yes, we watered. We're now on the commercial rate for water usage – I just wish Rising Sun would follow Aurora's lead and allow folks to meter outside water usage for credit on the sewage portion of the bill. The water we use for gardening does NOT go down the sanitary sewers.
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