Fall Planting Guide: Enjoy fresh greens and more until the snow flies!

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garlic

My garden is so forgiving… it never gets angry or shouts at me, even when I miss a weed or two. If I don’t get it watered, well her roots will go down a little deeper and rather then wither up and die, she’ll work harder to become stronger for me.

Each spring she rises up with rejuvenation and power… through the cold, hard surface life bursts forth. And if that wasn’t enough, she creates new off spring so I can I have more of her beauty. Just when I didn’t think I can take another miserable day of nothingness, she suddenly appears. As if to say, “Here I am dear. I’m back for you tend” …and most lovingly of all, she’ll never leave me.

The garden’s are screaming, “Harvest us! Harvest us! We’re cold out here!”
“It’s just the beginning of August my dears… we’ve got more time…” I whisper to no one in the garden, yet to all things green… but time is ticking.

chard seed packet

Now is the time I start my fall planting so my family has fresh greens and more, right through until the snow flies… I’ve even drawn up next summers raised bed gardens. I’m a planner 😉

Here is what you can be planting now in your gardens! Please remember that I live in Zone 5 and this guide is for folks gardening in similar climates.

*Snow Peas~ Dwarf White Sugar- 50 day edible pod. This plant will produce with several frost, they’ll actually make her sweeter!

 

 

*Broccoli~ can be sown now as well. I recommend the hybrid Marathon. A 50 day variety that will do well with several frosts.

brocolli

 

*Cold hardy lettuces are a wonderful addition to the fall garden. Here are some of my favorite tried and true Heirlooms.~Red Sails- 40 day loose leaf with maroon tinged leaves

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~Ruby Red- 40 day loose leaf with beautiful glossy bright-green frilly leaves with heavy intense red shading. One of my favorites!
~Speckles- 45 day a dense bibb like head with apple green leaves flecked with red brown polka dots- Amish Heirloom
~Tango- 40 day loose leaf resembles endive but a darker green. Plant forms tight erect rosettes and deeply cut leaves. Very nice lettuce.
~Merriveille De’Four Seasons- 45 day French bibb type with reddish leaves producing a pale blond green tight head with excellent flavor. This is by far one of my favorite varieties!

*Kale is another wonderful cold hardy crop with lots of great nutritional value along with a wonderful nutty flavor!  It will tolerate several frosts.

Red Russian Kale in our hoophouse

Red Russian Kale in our hoophouse

~Red Russian 25 day for baby- 45-50 to maturity. This is the variety I use for it’s short day length to maturity and it’s nice thick, purple leaves. It’s wonderful fresh snipped into a salad or steamed with a splash of plum vinegar on it.

*Spinach is a cold weather loving green that is delicious tossed into a salad mix, all on its on as a salad or steamed. I love to toss into a stir fry, omelets and quiches.
~Rushmoor is a 40 day quick grow.
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~Bloomsdale- 45 days is my old stand by. Nice small leaves and will continue to produce after many frosts.

*Swiss Chard is a wonderful addition to your winter greens mix. I typically grow Fordhook and Rainbow.
~Ruby Red and Rhubarb Red-30 days for baby chard are both beautiful red stemmed varieties with tender leaves
Chard
~Fordhook – 30 days for baby leaves. This is a white stemmed variety that is the standard.

*Radishes are a great choice for your fall garden with their fast production and love of cool weather. Here are a few of the quickest to maturity.
~Champion is the fastest at only 20 days. Bright red globe with a true radish flavor
~Cherry Belle- 21 day is the old time favorite!
radish
~French Breakfast at 24 days is one of my personal favorites. With it’s oblong half white and half ping… it is just pretty on a salad.
~Pink Beauty at 27 days is a nice, firm quarter sized radish with a milder flavor. This is much nicer for folks who don’t the spiciness of a standard radish.
~Purple Plum at 28 days is very similar in size and flavor as Pink Beauty.

A couple tips to keep the harvest going longer:
*If you have access to straw bales, make a straw bale hot bed. Follow this link for a great how-to. http://www.ehow.com/how_12166098_build-bale-bed.html

*When there is a predicted frost, cover your tender plants with bed sheets, being sure to secure the edges with rocks or another heavy object so it doesn’t blow away if it becomes windy. Do not use plastic to cover your plants, because this will actually ‘burn’ the plant causing black ‘burn’ spots where it touched.

*If you experience an unexpected frost, you can sprinkle the damaged plants lightly with a sprinkler or hose as long as the sun has not touched the plants. As soon as the suns direct light touches the plants it will be too late under most circumstances. Some plants will come out of it.

If you’re interested in more info on growing crops through cold months, a great resource is “Winter Harvest Handbook,” by Elliot Coleman. This is my go-to book for everything with regards to winter harvesting! It’s a must have for every gardener!

Elliot Coleman's Winter Harvest Handbook is a regular go-to for me!

Elliot Coleman’s Winter Harvest Handbook is a regular go-to for me!

For more information on season extension growing, check out Michigan State Universities website on hoop houses. Follow this link http://www.hoophouse.msu.edu/

If you’ve never tried a fall garden, now’s the time… go for it and enjoy your gardens until the snow flies!

Be sure to check out my Facebook page for daily tips, photos, recipes and lots more fun. Follow this link or simply click on the icon on this page! Enjoy friends!
https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651

Happy Day,
Jean

Rhubarb & Asparagus Growing Tips & Yummy Spring-Thyme Asparagus

Spring, asparagus, rhubarb, gardening, organizing, spring cleaning… these are all things that start happening about now in most homes.  I get this fuzzy feeling inside when the air turns warm and it gets that ‘spring’ smell… the trees start adding leaves… the grass greens and the ground feels squishy under your bare feet… this need to clean rushes ahead of me and I just want everything inside to feel like outside.  Rebirth and spring seem to go hand and hand… I love the way everything comes to life and the death and nothingness of winter fades behind and the re-juvination starts exploding all around me.  I get a rush every time I go outside and walk… and I also see all the work that needs done, the repairs, the weeding and so on.  But you know what, it’s OK because it’s spring and it just feels good!

Lets look at some of the yummy stuff popping up in the gardens and the great ways to use them. I am sure most of as children remember the rhubarb and asparagus patches and if you didn’t, then now is the perfect time to start your own and create wonderful, happy traditions in your own back yards. 
Growing Asparagus and Rhubarb are one of the easiest and most rewarding things you can grow. They will live for years serving you up fresh wholesome goodness every spring with very little care. When compared to orchards and some other wonderful, yet very labor intensive crops, these two are a breeze!  Here a few simple and easy care instructions that will pay off hundred fold for you in the years to come.
Asparagus~
*If you are starting a new patch please come see me at market where I offer 2 year old crowns and I will be happy to give you these instructions first hand. 
*If you have the option you should make all attempts at purchasing all male asparagus crowns- such as Jersey Giant or Jersey Knight.  These are all male cultivers and will offer you many more stalks of that great green stuff!
*A good guild is to plant about 25 roots per person in your household. This will give you enough to feast on and even some to freeze later.  You will need a square per root, the crowns multiply year after year and you will end up with a very nice patch that will serve you faithfully for 15 to 20 years.
*You should start with at least two year old crowns and then you can harvest on the third year.
*Use earth or sea salt each spring and sprinkle as you would your food around the plot.  This kills weeds by taking moisture and the asparagus thrives on the sodium.
*Mulch in the spring and again in the fall- mulching your plants is crucial!  Mulch with compost, straw or grass clippings in the spring; it should be any where from 4 to 6 inches in depth. It will prevent weeds from taking over the area and it helps retain moisture through the season.  Each Fall add a good cover of about 4 inches of well rotted manure and then cover with a mulch to be about 6 inches in depth.
The crowns will gladly grow up through and provide you with a bountiful crop spring after spring.  DO NOT use sawdust or bark, asparagus likes a near neutral soil level.
Rhubarb~
*Is well suited to cool climates and loves to be fed!  Each fall mulch around the base of plants with about 4-6 inches of composted manure.  Rhubarb is a heavy feeder and needs this to produce heavily.
*In the spring & fall mulch around the plants with about 6 inches of straw or grass clippings. This helps hold back the weeds and maintains moisture.
*Never cut your stalks with a knife, rather grab hold of the stalk close to the ground and carefully pull the stem out. Cutting will make the plant stem ‘bleed’ and this will make rot a more likely problem. 
*For a heavier and longer harvest, cut the flower stalks as soon as you notice them forming.  Allowing the plant to go to bloom, will tell the plant the harvest is over and make fewer stalks.
*Never harvest more than two thirds of the stalks.
*You can start harvesting stalks when stalks are about 1 to 11/2 feet tall.  Trim off the leaves which are not an edible part of the plant.  The leaves contain high levels of ‘Oxalic Acid’ and is toxic to animals and humans.

Yummy Spring Asparagus

This dish goes a long way accompaning your favorite grilled chicken or fish dish!  Let your taste buds savor the fresh spring taste, the earthy goodness that flows out of this spring treat that never seems to last long enough.

1 pound bunch of asparagus from The Garden Gate Farm, trimmed
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. fresh Thyme from Garden Gate
1/2 tsp. earth or sea salt

In a large iron skillet on medium heat put butter, oil, salt and thyme in, saute for 1 minute; add aspargus and saute until crisp-tender- about 10-12 minutes depending on how you like it.
Serve with your meat dish and enjoy this spring time treat while it lasts.

Happy Day,
Jean