Garden Girl Nicole Hackett

It’s time to move on – and plant fall vegetables

It’s time to move on – and plant fall vegetables

Garden Girl Nicole HackettWith the heat and weeks of smoke-filled air, the area’s summer veggie gardens have begun to tire.

My green veggie leaves have rapidly begun to yellow. The production on my Early Girls is staggered and weak. And the squash and cucumbers have miles of stems with little to no flower production.

For me, it is time to pull out my tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, then prep the soil for a cool season veggie garden.

Soil prep is important for a fertile, growing situation. We have asked so much of our soil while growing our summer veggies, and it’s time to replenish the soil’s nutrients to maximize growth this next growing season.

However, fall veggie soil prep does not need the same level of nitrogen as in the spring. Amend garden soil and raised beds with a premium organic soil conditioner formulated for vegetables. Look at the label’s ingredients for words like chicken manure, earthworm castings and alfalfa meal.

Jumpstart the roots

The trick with a cool season garden is to install the plants while the days and soil are still warm enough to jumpstart the roots and top growth. Some of my favorite cool weather veggies to grow are broccoli, heirloom kale, white and red onions, Brussels sprouts, rainbow chard, lettuce and cauliflower.

Broccoli is a family favorite. Plants grow fast and can be ready to harvest in about 45 days. Most plants give one large head and several smaller offshoots. Broccoli is best bought in a six-pack. Space plants 18 inches to 2 feet apart. Keep your eye on your broccoli. Occasionally aphids can become an issue, so have the neem oil handy.

Heirloom kale is leafy, with deep, textured margins. Kale is great sautéed or chopped in a salad. I prefer removing most of the stems before eating. The great thing about growing kale is that you will enjoy repeated yields. It is very frost hardy, and a six-pack will keep you in kale until spring warms.

We devote an entire bed to onions, including my favorites of Walla Walla sweet white and Stockton Reds. Some years, I have had to settle for Red Burger onions if the Stocktons were not around. They are a decent substitute.

Onion starts will not be ready to enjoy until early spring. Bulb onions can take 100-175 days to mature.

Brussels sprouts challenge

Brussels sprouts are challenging. In all honesty, mine have never matured with a tall branch filled with those baby blossoms. But I try each year, because it is one of my favorite vegetables. Many of our customers are successful with Brussels sprouts, so I keep trying.

Rainbow chard is as beautiful to grow as it is yummy. Vibrant stalks of orange, gold and red support wide leaves of flavor. Sauté chard with olive oil and garlic, chop and fold into soups or steam and use as the base for a vegetable quesadilla. You will get repeated harvests from chard plants for months of use.

A cool weather garden is simple and most always successful. Let’s keep growing food.

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with ­questions or comments by email at