Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fall Planting – Fall Crops & Winter Storage

Fall Planting – Fall Crops & Winter Storage

Sadly, too many of us are tired of our gardens by fall, often because weeds have taken over, or because we planted the wrong things and we can’t even get rid of them.

I suggest we take another look at it, because gardening in the fall can be very productive, and will give you fresh vegetables well into the winter, if they are grown and stored properly.

Much of a good fall garden should be carried over from the summer garden. Squashes, while requiring warm weather to grow, can be stored for months, as can potatoes. Eggplant, okra, peppers, and tomatoes will produce right up until frost kills them if you will continue feeding them. And tomatoes can be brought into the garage or basement while still green, to extend the harvest another month (unless you cover them with a portable greenhouse as I show in the Photos section of the MittleiderMethod Yahoo Groups site).

Vegetables that can survive a light frost, if provided some protection, do best for growing in the cooler fall weather, and include the cabbage family, leafy greens, and root crops. And some of these actually have their flavor improved by a touch or two of light frost! The greens can also tolerate less direct sun, so the shorter days are less of a problem than for fruit producing crops.

Choose from the following, which can be seeded as late as September in some locations: Beets, carrots, chard, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips.

The larger crops including broccoli (Waltham), Brussels sprouts (Jade Cross), cabbage (Danish Ball head), and cauliflower (Snow Crown) should be transplanted in August for fall harvesting in the temperate climates.

Many of the fall crops can be stored through the winter with little loss of taste or nutritional value, if you store them in moist sawdust at temperatures around 40 degrees f.

Here’s a good chart showing fall planting times for vegetables, depending on when your average first fall frost date is – by the Yankee Gardener website:

Seeding crops when the ground and the weather are still warm, as in August and early September, is often easier than spring planting, because the plants germinate and grow quickly in the warm conditions. In addition, most of the cool-weather crops are more flavorful when harvested in the cooler weather of late September, October, and November.

Many of us could learn from our friends in the Southern United States about the benefits of eating more greens. Nutritionally you probably can’t beat them. They are high in vitamin A, K, folic acid, dietary fiver, antioxidants, carotenoid, riboflavin, and iron.

Spinach is common everywhere, and some of us enjoy red beets and their tops, but how many eat Swiss chard, which can be harvested all year? Or turnip tops – which are also tasty and nutritious! And I recommend the Southern greens, such as collards, kale, and mustards, which are different still, and will add variety to your diet.

Don’t give up your gardening yet, folks! Now’s a great time to put the finishing touches on a great gardening year, and provide your family with fresh vegetables through the winter.

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