Monday, August 22, 2011

Fall Gardening

As the slow starting, but now very nice summer rolls toward fall, my thoughts turn to planting some fall veggies! I'm lucky to live in an area where fall/winter gardening is fairly simple, though I don't always remember to get things planted at the right times!

The bare bed in the back of this pic held garlic which I harvested & braided a few weeks ago, the one in front has tomatoes, an artichoke, cantaloupe, cucumber & crockneck squash. Russian Red Kale is already coming up in that bed, self-seeding from plantings past. I've dug a couple of new beds, after covering areas of lawn with cardboard & grass clippings (this sounds more civilized than it is, some is 2' t
all, & cut with a small sickle!) And have been reading up on crop rotations & increasing soil fertility.

This summer there have been a few 'rages' over folks planting their front lawns to vegetables, while others extol that practice as ecologically & visually sound. In Western Oregon, we're lucky that many communities seem to welcome, or at least accept, veggies in the front yard, composting, rain barrels & the like. I have a mix of herbs & flowers in front, with most of my veggies in my big back yard (lot is 50' x 100', with the house toward the front, so lots of room for veggie beds, fruit plantings, etc.)

I've had a CSA share the last couple of years, & we're also blessed with a couple of weekly farmers markets, one that runs 12 months of the year. Our local OG farmers grow both familiar & unusual vegetables, & it's always fun to try a few new varieties.

Since quinoa is one of my favorite seed/grains, I've got a couple of rows, plus a few of amaranth. These plants are used in many cultures as both a green & for their seeds, so I've been picking & cooking a few leaves at a time.I also have the perennial 'Good King Henry,' which is setting seed this year.

A few weeks ago I came home
the farmers market with a bag of salad mix from Growing Wild Farm which included a lovely 'green' with bright magenta tips, obviously related to lambs quarters/ quinoa - Yum! It was delightful in salad or cooked, & so pretty.
When I asked about it later, they thought it was purple orach, but from the pictures on-line, it looked more like Magentaspreen, so I ordered seed of both a magenta orach, & Magentas
preen from Nichols Garden Nursery, & will soon plant some.
In this photo, the Magentaspreen is on the left (both green & fuscia leaves), Red Hopi Dye amaranth in the middle, cherry vanilla quinoa on the Right, & the more familiar shiny purple basil at the top (to show size).

All of these (except the basil) are in the 'goosefoot' family, related to our more modern spinach, & have been in cultivation for hundreds of years. An article on saving seed warns against planting several
varieties close together if you want your seed to be 'true' to form, but also comment you can get some interesting variations if you do so! And they can all self-seed - but are nicely edible!

My son has a good crop of wild Lambs Quarters growing, which we call 'Emily Spinach,' as his 7 year old LOVES greens, & will go out & harvest a batch, then bring it in & cook it herself! I'm thinking of giving them some of the Magentaspreen seed to try as well.

In the "Ladybug Letter," Andy, a gardener & blogger talks about growing orach & ruminates on how to market 'red greens' with such funny names (goosefoot or mountain spinach)!

These 'greens' are best picked when 8-10", or you can harvest individual leaves as I do, leaving the tops to set seed. Quinoa seed has saponin (soap), so needs to be rinsed before cooking; but is a simple 'grain' for the home garden - & wonderfully gluten free!

Some seeds/plants for late summer/early fall planting:
Leafy greens (lettuces, salad mixes, quinoa & its relatives, spinach, arugula, chard and mâche [corn salad]); root veggies (beets, carrots, onions, turnips, radishes, salsify, and rutabagas); brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and Chinese cabbage); leeks & bulb fennel, and fava beans & peas will all thrive in the cooler weather and shorter days of fall. Some herbs & flowers(parsley, calendula, nasturtium, cilantro) may be planted now as well. In many regions, some of these cold-hardy crops will even survive the winter to produce a second harvest in spring.
You can plant small lettuce or sew seeds under tomatoes, to take advantage of the shade. Some gardeners recommend mulching around late summer sewn seeds/plants, to retain soil moisture. Seattle 'Tilth' publishes a great year round gardening guide for the NW, which gives month by month tips on planting & soil health.

Consider planting cover crops in some of the beds (one suggestion is to have 1/3 or 1/4 of the garden beds in a cover crop, to enrich the soil & hold it in place). These can be cut & dug into the soil or added to the compost pile. Buckwheat, clovers (red, Austrian, Crimson, white), alfalfa, fava beans are all options. Your county extension office will have suggestions for your area.
Buckwheat is good for any season, as it matures rapidly & can be cut when 1/3 of the plants are blooming & chopped into the soil. The feed store a few blocks from me sells such seed in bulk, which is very handy for the home gardener who may only need a handful of seed.

Happy gardening!


Dia said...

Here's another link on cover crops - nice overview of the options, & the edibility of some. I like the comment "prepare the soil as you would for any other annual crop. Till the area and make sure the pH is between 6 and 7."

Dia said...

Here's a link on the history of Magentaspreen, & the origin of the 'spreen' bit - quite fun!

A fellow GF blogger has a lovely little article on her new favorite pizza topping - with Quinoa & spring onion -

She used lots of garlic rather than a sauce (YUM!) I'm thinking a pesto made with a combo of basil & quinoa would be nice