The Island Garden
If you are a gardener and have harvested, peas, beans, potatoes, garlic and other crops, you will have parts of the garden sitting bare. With our last frost date somewhere around early October, you have eight to 10 weeks to grow some more crops.
Right now you can start turnips, kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, carrots and other crops that you can mulch in early October and harvest right up until Thanksgiving. Also starting new crops now puts them out of the typical insect season, so your fall planting should have a minimal number of insects.
Now is also the time to check to see what you might want to enjoy during the winter months. For example, if you like Swiss chard, kale or collard greens, start them today. Another plant you might find easy to grow are radishes. Grow the long Japanese-style radish and enjoy them in stir-fries. Also for stir-fries, you can start Chinese greens such as bok choy, pak choy and tatsoi. These will grow well outside until hit by a frost.
In two or three weeks you should start more spinach and lettuce. The nights will be cool enough to get a good crop before a frost hits the garden. Other greens that are fast growing and ready to be picked before it gets too cold are arugula, lamb’s-quarters, mache, mizuna and orache. All these greens make a healthy salad and are fairly easy to grow. If you can’t find seeds in any of the local outlets – Jamestown Hardware and Secret Garden – you can easily find them online.
When ordering seeds, remember it is late in the year, so order the fastest growing plants in the catalog. For example, some green beans will grow in 50 days, others in 80 days. Buy the 50-day variety to ensure a good crop before frost. Similarly, some peas will grow in 55 days, while others might take 70. Grow the 55-day variety and keep picking until frost.
If you have a greenhouse, there is no limit to what you can grow. My unheated greenhouse doesn’t get below freezing at night until mid to late December. Until then, I can continue to harvest even heatloving crops such as tomatoes and peppers. By growing Burpee’s long-keeper variety, I can enjoy tomatoes until mid-January. Fortunately, I have no need to do that because the tomatoes in the heated greenhouse keep producing until mid-January. This year I’m going to try additional lights in the heated greenhouse to see if the tomato plants will continue past February.
Another plant you might want to try if you have a space to store it over the winter is artichoke. By starting artichoke in the fall, the plant will go through a winter and be ready to set fruit in spring. You’ll be able to harvest tasty heads of artichoke for stuffing, or just for dipping in a sauce. The best way to grow artichoke is to plant them in the fall and keep the plants in a sheltered warm spot for the winter where they won’t freeze. Let the pot get fairly dry, but don’t let it dry out completely. Step up the watering in spring, hit it with a little fertilizer, and you will be rewarded with artichoke heads.
Something else that you might want to think about is your herb patch. Harvest as many herbs as possible and dry, freeze or use them up in some other way before it gets cold and growth slows down. If you transplant parsley into a pot right now, it will have a chance to acclimate itself before it needs to be brought indoors for the winter. By doing this now, you can have parsley growing indoors for most of the winter. Then, when you need some for that special quiche or to sprinkle on new potatoes, it will be right to hand.
So don’t leave a space in your garden because a vegetable has been harvested. Plant some new seeds and double your crops – and double the enjoyment of your growing patch.