If you think garden season starts in the spring and ends at the first frost, think again! When the tomatoes are all gone and summer squash is but a memory, you will truly appreciate the taste of fresh, green vegetables coming to you right from the garden.
Depending on your climate, you can be harvesting from your garden all year long, including through the winter months! Here in Tennessee, we begin planting our fall crops in late August/early September, starting with winter greens.
What to Plant in Fall
Greens (kale, collards, spinach)
Cole (broccoli, cabbage)
Root vegetables (beets, carrots, garlic)
Many fall plants have extremely small seeds, so it is very easy to plant them too thick. This means you'll need to thin, removing the extra seedlings. You can start out leaving a plant every six inches, then as they grow larger, thinning again a few weeks later with a plant every foot to 16 inches.
These young kale seedlings need to be thinned!
Kale and collard greens thinned to every 6 inches.
You may even be able to transfer some of your thinnings to new rows or fill in gaps in a row. Just don't be surprised if at first your transplants go completely limp and look like they have died. Your plants have simply gone into "shock" from the disturbance to their roots. Simply water them in and keep them well watered. By the next day, maybe two, you will find the transplants have rebounded and come back to life.
Transplants will often go into "shock" and appear limp and dying, before rebounding back to life. To help you in planting these super small seeds, some companies now offer "pelleted" seeds. Each individual seed has been coated in clay or a similar inert material, encasing the seed in a hard shell that dissolves when wet. This makes it much easier to space plants properly, either by hand or using a walk-behind planter. You also save yourself time and tedious effort, eliminating the need to do any thinning. You will find that pelleted seeds are the perfect solution for carrots. Lettuce seeds spaced to produce large heads are infinitely easier to sow. Other seeds available in pelleted form include beets, parsnips, many types of flowers, onions, herbs such as basil, celery, and Swiss chard.
Tiny seeds can be purchased coated in an inert materials with a hard shell that dissolve when wet, making them much easier to plant at the proper spacing.
I find vegetables like broccoli and cabbage easier to grow by setting out plants. Ideally we'll start our own plants from seed, but when life gets busy, I often find it more convenient to pick up a few trays of starts from my local garden center.
The plants have been staggered to give each one more room as they grow to full size.
Before mulching I lay down soaker hose. This allows me to water as needed. The soil stays moist the underneath the mulch and does not dry out when exposed to the hot sun of late summer.
Next I mulch my broccoli transplant with straw to eliminate weeds and hold in moisture.
Using Row Cover in the Fall Garden
The last step is to cover the plants with an insect barrier made from polyester cloth called "remay." Fall insects have had all summer to grow and develop an appetite. Remay offers protection without resorting to pesticides! Remay is sold in various weights or thicknesses, offering frost protection as well. As temperatures turn colder you can replace the remay with clear plastic, which offers even more protection. If power is available, on extremely cold nights you can place an electric, incandescent light under the plastic. The heat from the bulb will be enough to protect your plants from even very hard freezes.
Don't miss out on this most rewarding times to garden! You taste buds will thank you!
Join Douglas at the upcoming MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, Penn., where he’ll will be speaking on Friday afternoon about growing food, green building, and his life at The Farm Community, one of the largest and most successful ecovillages in the world. For more about The Farm, check out Douglas’s two books, Out to Change the World: The Evolution of The Farm Community and The Farm Then and Now. You can also see it all firsthand by attending one of his Farm Experience Weekends at The Farm in Summertown, Tenn.
Read about Douglas' Recycled Log Cabin.
Oregon State University is the state agricultural college, and I live in an old neighborhood full of bungalows, where professors raised their children and planted fruit trees—plums, pears, apples, cherries, and one glorious fig—in the back yards. The professors have moved up into the hills, seeking quiet and larger houses, but the old trees remain, still producing fruit. I have a map of these trees in my head and in late summer mornings harvest the produce and preserve it for winter. Other mornings, I bring back the excess from Sunbow Farm and spend an afternoon roasting and canning tomatoes or pickling cucumbers and red cabbage. I am an opportunistic canner; I take what is about to go to waste and save it, rather than working from a series of pre-planned recipes. There are three essential tools in an opportunistic canner’s basement that make such quick action possible.
3 Essential Tools for Home Canning
First, I have a steam canner from Territorial Seeds. Rather than filling the huge canning pot with water and waiting forty minutes for it to boil, I can prepare my applesauce or grape juice and can it immediately, using about a quart of water and a fraction of the time. The timing is the same as a boiling water canner and it works on the same sorts of preserves—pickles, jams, juices, fruit in syrup, and tomatoes. This means that I can preserve a small batch of something, like three jars of pickled red cabbage, without feeling guilty about energy use.
Second, I have a large collection of jars. Some of them are old; I have quart jars with Bicentennial designs on them, and others read “Magic Mason” or “Mother’s Canning Jar.” I scour thrift shops for cheap jars in January. My partner’s mother ships jars to me from Tennessee and friends pass jars my way when they have too many. I buy the lids in bulk, string the reuseable rings on thick pieces of Christmas yarn, and I am ready to go when a bushel of cider apples appears in the back yard, gleaned from the tree down the street.
Finally, I have two books —The Joy of Pickling and The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. Both are comprehensive, accurate, and detailed, discussing the general theories of preserving as well as giving specific recipes for a huge variety of vegetables and fruits. When I had a pile of very ripe cucumbers last year, I made senfgurken, which required tough-skinned fruits. Every year, I find new recipes in the books because I have new vegetables to work with.
I don’t can all of our winter’s produce; we eat more dried fruit than canned because of the sugar content and we prefer fresh kale to months old green beans. But, the last few weeks of August, just before school starts, are devoted to preserving whatever harvest comes my way. Like Greg Brown’s grandmother, I “put summer in jars” for the long winter nights.
To read more about the Twenty First Street Urban Homestead, check out my blog at 21StStreetUrbanHomestead.Blogspot.com. To see more of Julia Lont’s amazing artwork, go to www.JuliaLont.com and www.BlueCamasPress.com.
Now that we’ve got harvesting, trimming and curing under control for the season, I’ll return to discussing the various types of garlic. In this post, I’ll take a closer look at the Asiatic variety. Asiatic garlic tends to mature earlier than other types, making it an excellent addition to any garlic-lovers’ garden, or a good choice for growers who want to make the most of early market sales. Although not as popular as certain types, such as Rocamboles and Porcelains, and thus not as readily available, some popular Asiatic cultivars that you may find locally include ‘Sakura’, ‘Pyongyang’ and ‘Asian Tempest’.
In my experience, Asiatics are generally easy growers. The plants tend to be rather squat, with their broad, yellowish-green leaves drooping softly away from the central stem. Asiatics produce a scape, like all hardneck varieties, however, the umbels have a very distinctive elongated appearance. These umbels contain few bulbils, usually less than ten, but what they lack in number they more than make for in size. The huge bulbils are a great way to increase your planting stock, as you can often get a differentiated, albeit small, bulb in the first year or two.
The scapes on Asiatic garlics do not curl tightly like many other hardneck types, but do so in a rather lazy curl. Also unlike other hardnecks, the scapes of Asiatic cultivars do not need to be cut prior to harvest, since removing them has no significant effect on final bulb size.
In general, Asiatics mature significantly faster than other garlic types. Often, they are ready to harvest up to several weeks ahead of other varieties, making them a good option for both green and early market sales. They can also help you to resist the temptation to harvest and eat your other bulbs too soon! The early maturity of Asiatics means that the plants have to be watched carefully, and harvested when only a single leaf has gone brown. If they are left in the ground any longer than this, the outer skins, which tend to be quite fragile, become prone to splitting.
The appearance of Asiatics can vary significantly between cultivars. Sakura, for example, has white bulb wrappers and a somewhat squat shape, while others such as Asian Tempest and Pyongyang, have a smooth, slightly flattened teardrop shape and degrees of purple striping. Cloves skins also vary between cultivars, ranging through pale purple-gold to violet-rose, to dark purple. The number of cloves also varies, with bulbs containing from four to ten cloves arranged in a single layer around the central stalk. The cloves of most cultivars tend to be elongated and curved, however, the cloves of Sakura are comparatively stocky and fat.
The taste between Asiatic cultivars is as varied as their appearance. When raw, they can exhibit a heat that ranges from the mild to the intense. Strength of flavor also diverges from a delicate mild garlic taste to those that are increasingly flavorful and robust. These differences aside, all Asiatic garlics have in common a rich, rounded flavor that tends to become even more developed with cooking. So, although these cultivars may be more difficult to find than Rocamboles and Porcelains, their flavor – and the fact that they have a storage life of four to six months – makes them definitely worth keeping an eye out for!
End of summer is a great time to tidy garden beds and harvest herbs. Herbs have a tendency to take a walk on the wild side. As the days get shorter, growth slows and before long the sun cannot support all the greenery from summer.
This is the perfect time to harvest your herbs. You can cut them back so they remain lush, improving the tidiness of your garden, and providing herbs for the winter ahead. When you harvest your herbs, you will have enough for at least 5 families! They make wonderful gifts. For soft herbs like chives and garlic chives, I cut around the outside. You can either then dry or freeze your cuttings. For rosemary, I trim back as I would a tree, cutting off he lower limbs. I have not been successful in finding a rosemary that survives outside in my Zone 6 region.
Before winter, I will harvest all the limbs so I don't waste any of that great flavor. Rosemary is perfect with lamb, on potatoes, or on cheese bread. For sage, savory, and thyme, I simply trim them into a pleasing, healthy shape. For basil, oregano and marjoram, I remove about half of the top growth. Basil also will not survive even a frost. So when they call for frost, I harvest all that is left on the plant.
I dry my herbs to preserve them. I put loosely in a paper bag in a dry, warm area out of the sun and let dry naturally. Loose is the key here so they get good air circulation and do not mold. They should be completely dry in about 3-4 weeks. I like putting them in clothes closets to dry as they release such great fragrance. Once dried, remove the leaves from woody herbs and store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. With a soft herb like chives, you can just crumble into the airtight container. I use wide mouth canning jars for herb storage.
If the winter is not a bad one, most perennial herbs like chives, oregano, sage, savory, and thyme can be harvested year-round straight from the garden.
In September, plant more greens, carrots, and radishes. October is the month to plant garlic for next year’s harvest. You can pick up transplants like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kale, as well as herbs at many big box stores and nurseries since gardening has become so popular.
Caring For New Seeds and Transplants
Like in the spring, newly sown seeds need moisture to sprout. Keep seeds and transplants moist until they get their first real set of leaves and are well established. Then water as needed.
Many crops you can harvest into December and beyond, depending on how cold fall is. Some get sweeter with some frost, like carrots, chard, and lettuce. With cover, you can harvest all the way through winter!
A quick reminder, save the seeds from your best performers to plant next year. You can replant seeds from any heirlooms or open pollinated plants. Not only does it save you money, but it also gives you the plants that do the best under your garden and zone conditions.
For more tips on small space and container gardening, check out Melodie's blog at www.victorygardenonthegolfcourse.com.
Zucchini plant in bloom
Ah, zucchini. One of the first summer veggies to fruit. You know summer is officially here when your zukes are flowering and producing nice long fruits. By mid-summer, the novelty has worn off. By August, you can't give the things away! I even saw a box in my local hardware store with free zucchinis.
So, what's a gardener to do with all that excess bounty? Well, you can donate them to a food pantry, you can preserve them in a few different ways, or you can use them in ways I'd never even thought of!
How to Preserve Zucchini Harvests
For preserving, you can freeze them, can them or dry them. I don’t care for canning zucchini as they are not acidic enough to just use a water bath; the full pressure canner set up is required. You could pickle them, lowering the pH enough to use a water bath. There are all kinds of fun pickling recipes out there. Adding peppers is a way to add zing to an otherwise bland taste. Just make sure you follow the recipe exactly as the proper pH is critical to safe canning.
I am exploring the freeze and dry methods. For freezing, first slice them, lay them on a cookie sheet and freeze them. After they are frozen, you can put them in a freezer bag. When you need a few, they are easy to get out of the bag. If you put them into the freezer bag fresh, they will freeze together. I am trying a few frozen whole. With a sharp blade, I can slice them when I need them, kind of like frozen cookie dough.
For drying, slice and either use a dehydrator, the sun or your oven. Zucchini has a great deal of moisture so it will take a while to completely dehydrate. You can speed the process by salting, squeezing out the excess (cookie sheet weighted down on top of another cookie sheet is an easy way to do this) for about 15 minutes, then either popping into the oven, setting them out in the sun or placing in a dehydrator for a couple of hours should do it. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn if you are using an oven. Recommended temp for drying is 120-200 degrees F max.
Using Zucchini in the Kitchen
I ran across some recipes in Capper’s magazine that looked tasty: zucchini spaghetti and meat balls, stuffed baked zucchini, and zucchini parmesan. I have tried a variation on the baked zucchini and the zucchini parmesan and both were quite good.
They have this nifty little gadget called a spiralizer that you put a zucchini in and it will make nice long spaghetti noodles. You can use them just like spaghetti but with no carbs or gluten. Cool, huh? Just toss with your favorite sauce and serve.
Grilled zucchini is tasty with sea salt and olive oil. It is one of our standbys. Just be sure to not heat your olive oil above 340 degrees F; the smoke point of this delicious, nutritious oil.
There is also fried zucchini. It is easy to make. Just whip up 3 eggs with a little milk. Mix together 1/2 cup of cornmeal with a 1/4 cup of flour, salt and seasonings to taste. Dip the zucchini slices first in the egg batter then in the dry meal. Place in 350-375 degree F oil and fry until golden. If you are going to eat by itself, using a Cajun season salt adds a welcome zing of flavor.
For any extras you have, you can freeze them, too. Just put a single layer on a cookie sheet and let freeze through. Then, put all the pieces into a freezer bag. You can pull out any time you have a craving for fried zucchini! Just thaw and warm up in the oven.
The baked zucchini was good. Take a large zucchini, cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Stuff with your favorite meat stuffing recipe and bake until the zucchini is tender at 350 degrees F. Mine took about an hour and a half to become tender. Top with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese and put bake in the oven until cheese is golden and bubbly.
There was a recipe in the magazine for zucchini parmesan. Basically, you layer sauce, sliced Italian sausage, breaded and fried zucchini to fill a baking dish, then top with mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 degrees F until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese golden and melted.
We didn’t have any Italian sausage, so I made up a stuffing mix which is below. I just then layered sauce, then breaded and fried zucchini, then meat stuffing until the baking pan was full. For my pan, it was 3 layers of each. Then top with mozzarella and parmesan and into the oven at 350 degrees F until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted.
I was amazed at how delicious the zucchini lasagna was. It is low carb, gluten free, full of just harvested veggies and a great way to utilize the bounty from the garden!
Here is a meat stuffing mix I really like: 1 small diced onion, 3 eggs, 1 piece of whole wheat toast crumbled, 2 teaspoons of ground garlic, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper, 2 teaspoons of dried mixed herbs from the garden, and a half pound of burger (bison, grass fed beef or venison). Just mush it all together by hand. When combined, use to stuff the zucchini or layer as part of the zucchini lasagna dish.
Classic Zucchini Bread
Then there is the ever classic zucchini bread. Recipes abound on the internet and cookbooks for this perennial favorite.
Now you have several ideas for fully utilizing all your wonderful zucchini besides the compost pile : )
For more tips on small space and container gardening, see Melodie's blog at www.victorygardenonthegolfcourse.com.
An heirloom can be defined as a traditional or heritage plant variety that is preserved generation after generation through small scale agricultural practices. Throughout history, small-scale family farmers and gardeners have taken pride in preserving plant heritage through seed saving. Preserving heirloom plants is vital to the future of safe food. Fortuitously, there are plenty of food revolutionaries who are playing major roles in heirloom seed preservation including Jere Gettle, founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, deemed by the New York Times as “The Indiana Jones of Seeds”. We can all do our part in our own gardens by saving our seeds and growing them year after year, sharing our harvests and sharing our seeds with our neighbors. Seed saving is one of the single most important things a backyard organic gardener can do for the future of food.
History of Garlic
The origin of garlic can be traced back to Central Asia. Garlic’s illustrious history includes reverence in a vast array of ancient cultures and has been traced back to use in Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilizations and is mentioned throughout Ayurvedic medicine. It has been considered sacred by many civilizations that used garlic not only for its culinary charm but also for its highly medicinal properties. Garlic is the earliest documented plant used by humans. Garlic is a natural antibiotic which has been used in many cultures to prevent and treat a plethora of diseases. Garlic is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
According to the extensive research done on garlic collections around the world by Dr. Gayle Volk, Cryobotanist with the USDA in Ft. Collins, Colo., the varieties of garlic worldwide have been narrowed down to 10 distinct varietal groups. Five varieties are hard-necked including Rocambole, Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe, and Marbled Purple Stripe. Three are bolting hard-necked varieties that may produce softnecks including Asiatic, Creole and Turban. Two are soft-necked varieties which include Silverskin and Artichoke.
There are many stories of garlic being recovered from ditches, swamps, abandoned farms and the like. According to David Stern, founding director of the Garlic Seed Foundation, “stories like these prove the tenacity of garlic. Garlic has an enormous presence of life, meaning that it is highly adaptable and incredibly strong”. David states that American scientists discovered garlic growing and thriving in unbelievable growing conditions in the Ural Mountains which borders Afghanistan, the Soviet Union and China. This garlic was found growing at high altitude in almost no topsoil, exposed to harsh elements including strong winds and extremely cold temperatures. David highlights that garlic is one of the few plant species that has three separate means of reproduction: vegetative via the bulbil (clonal daughter), vegetative via the cloves in the bulb, and sexually above 4,000 feet via flowering.
Gateway Garlic Urban Farm
St. Louis, Mo., is home to a recovered lost heirloom garlic that has been hiding out at an abandoned farm for over 70 years. The discovery was made by the founder and owner of the Gateway Garlic Urban Farm, Mark “Carondelet Garlic” Brown, who truly understands the importance of garlic.
Mark became intrigued after finding out that between 25 percent to 30 percent of heirlooms are recovered by individuals who have found them still growing at abandoned farmsteads. He immediately began his quest to find lost heirlooms in the river city region. In 2011, Mark found a series of farmsteads and went door to door asking if he could search for crop remnants on their land. He first located the original foundation and searched the perimeter. He searched many farmsteads and discovered nine separate garlic varieties. From those 9 varieties, he collected 50-100 samples of each and transplanted them into berms he built at the Gateway Garlic Urban Farm with the intention of saving the seed stock. He sent those nine separate varieties off to an organization in New Zealand to have them tested.
According to the tests, one of those varieties was said had its own genetic drift, which means that it meets the criteria to qualify as its own variety. This variety, merely scallion size, was found on an abandoned farmstead that had trees growing through the original farmhouse foundation. The garlic was growing around the foundation and even under the forest canopy. This land had not been farmed for over 70 years. This garlic variety recovered is a member of the Rocambole family with the origin being traced back to Eastern Central Europe. Mark says, “This makes since because it was found on a farm that was settled by German immigrants”. The recovered heirloom is a hardneck type of garlic that is closely related to the German Red Garlic variety.
After Mark discovered the importance of this lost variety, he went back to the site where it was found and asked permission to collect the remaining plants. He dug up over 40,000 garlic plants and transplanted them into the Gateway Garlic Urban Farm. He grew this variety in raised berms of pulverized clay with a top dressing of compost.
The first year, he saved most of the seed stock and planted it in the fall. He sorted through thousands of cloves, only selecting the largest ones to be planted so that the final outcome would be a larger bulb of garlic. He donated 40 lbs of the smaller cloves of garlic to Mutual Aid, a local food pantry. Mark spent over 2 years reconditioning these plants. Mark stated that, “Garlic becomes highly adapted to its environment, reseeding itself as the bulbils drop to the ground, meaning this garlic has been replicating itself for over 70 years”. After 3 years of nurturing this resilient variety of garlic in historic Carondelet at the Gateway Garlic Urban Farm, he decided to name the garlic Carondelet. According to Mark, the Carondelet variety of garlic is unique in that it is highly adaptable; it withstands the bitter cold winter temperatures in the Midwest and is also drought tolerant. According to Mark, “the Carondelet variety of garlic endured this past winter like a champion compared to the Creole and Mediterranean varieties” The flavor is moderately tangy and spicy. It is fairly easy to peel, especially with the technique that requires shaking garlic between two metal bowls.
Mark comes from a long line of farmers in the Northern Illinois and Wisconsin regions. Some of his earliest childhood memories are of harvesting and eating raw sunflower seeds with his siblings and helping his parents harvest peas at the 2 lot urban farm he grew up on in Chicago. His parents were victory gardeners. His paternal grandfather was a ploughman at the turn of the century. Growing food is a part of his heritage. Mark Brown, a Saint Louis transplant has been farming in Missouri for 13 years and has been active in Urban Farming in St. Louis since 2005. In 2007, he founded the Gateway Garlic Urban Farm in the Carondelet Neighborhood, which now has 10 members and 15 allied growers. Mark also spearheads The St. Louis Garlic Fest, which began as a private event with friends enjoying garlic dishes together over a decade ago. The St. Louis Garlic Fest is now in its 6th season and has drawn a crowd of over 3,500 individuals in recent years.
A Network of Organic Growers
Mark Brown is a member of The Missouri Organic Association. Mark is passionate about building a network of allied farmers, sharing resources between organic growers, educating others including the youth about organic farming and sharing the harvest with local food banks. He has helped start many urban farms in the St. Louis area including Tarry There Gardens, a small urban permaculture farm. Mark recently built a 12 x 40 ft poly tunnel using 100% recycled and reclaimed materials where he demonstrates bioponic, aquaponic and hydroponic growing methods. The poly-tunnel and the farm are used as an outdoor education center for the Oak Scouts. Gateway Garlic Farm has open free plots for beginning urban farmers who wish to learn how to grow their own food or sell food at markets. The Gateway Garlic Urban Farm centers on community involvement, outreach and education. They work closely with local food banks such as Mutual Aid and Haven Street. They donate produce on a regular basis to these and other area food banks. Mark owns and grows food on several lots throughout South St. Louis from Dutchtown to Carondelet. He sells produce to several restaurants in St. Louis and shares it with neighbors and friends.
In light of the recent tragedies in Ferguson, Mark and a group of friends, farmers, organic food activists, social activists and volunteers mobilized in Ferguson, Mo. bringing with them the harvest from their fields and donated nonperishable food items. According to Mark, “they created a mobile free food oasis to counter the food desert that was already existing there. They gave away free organic produce and taught healthy eating habits to Ferguson residents”
“It's small farmers who will help end hunger in our world while simultaneously teaching it to be more sustainable.” – Mark Brown
Planting Garlic This Fall
Simply place the unpeeled garlic (flat side down) in a small furrow 6-8 inches apart. Slightly cover with soil so that you can still see the tip of each clove. Mulch the entire patch of planted garlic heavily with straw (a layer that is 6-10 inches thick). The straw helps to suppress the weeds but the garlic stalk is able to emerge through the straw in the spring. For a larger garlic bulb, cut the garlic scapes as soon as they emerge. Harvest bulbs in early July. To harvest, tug the stalk gently out of the ground with both hands from the base of the plant. Peel the outer dirt layer and hang in a cool dry area until they have cured for about 2-3 weeks. The curing process allows the volatile oils to go into the bulbs.Garlic bulbs (heads of garlic) can be broken apart and the unpeeled individual garlic cloves can be planted in prepared loose soil this fall (typically late October) to be harvested next July.
Find out more at www.gatewaygarlic.com Follow Mark's blog at GatewayGarlic.blogspot.com Follow them on Facebook at Facebook.com/gatewaygarlic.
Photo by Kari Pillow. To see more photos from the event, check out Kari's Facebook photo album.
Playful! I took this photograph of a woman selling radishes in the farmers market in Vilnius, Lithuania, in the late 1990s.
The carved radishes were decorations on top of the scale.
What is there really to say? This woman clearly brings her personality to her vegetable stand. As a bonus, her carved radishes differentiate her stand from others in the market and bring cheer to the shoppers.