Cool Season Gardening
As far as I’m concerned, the longer I can grow and harvest my own food the better. Last year I picked my last bowl of salad greens on December 14th . My dinner that night was bittersweet…sweet because I was still eating something I grew but bitter because I knew it would be at least 3 months until I could start again. When I mentioned to my friends that I was eating my own greens that late in the year, they expressed pure disbelief. What could possibly grow between now and when we get a frost or the first few snowflakes fall? Lots I told them…lots of tasty, beautiful greens……
I am a relative newcomer to planting cool weather crops and until a couple years ago, I really only had greens until the first hard frost. But, I finally decided that I want more from my garden and so I invested in some metal hoops and created a mini greenhouse environment in my garden. It was so exciting to see the frost on the ground but my lettuce was still alive and growing.
The first step in having a successful fall garden with tasty greens is to select seed varieties that do well in cooler temps. Some really popular varieties include romaine, red and green leaf, buttercrunch, mustard, spinach, arugula, corn mache (pictured above) and mesclun. Braising greens like mizuna and tatsoi are also fun to grow. Kale, swiss chard, broccoli raab, radishes, and pea shoots are also reliable fall growers and can be picked as microgreens.
Planting a fall garden doesn’t require a lot of space. You can plant in an existing bed where annuals and perennials have died back, in an open spot in the veggie garden, or in containers or window boxes. Direct sow the seed in a wide swath a little denser than normal. When they reach about 3 in. thin them out and have your first salad of baby greens. Keep on trimming back and they will continue to produce. Stagger your cuttings so that some greens have the opportunity to mature and give you more substantial salad fixings.
To keep harvesting through the frosty nights, you will need to cover your crop in one form or another. I highly recommend purchasing metal hoops or constructing your own out of bendable PVC pipe and covering the plants with thick plastic. I used clothes pins to attach the plastic to the metal hoops and it really worked well. I could open up all or part of the “hoop/green house” on warm days with ease and close it up at night. I also got my hands on a large, commercial plexiglass skylight (about 4' x 4') and use thatto cover small greens as well.
Growing fall greens really is easy and so satisfying. Whether in containers or outside, a little effort will yield truly delicious results. Good luck and enjoy…..