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.
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.
*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
~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 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.
~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
~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!
~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!
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!
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