From one day to the next, green leaves rapidly yellow. Production is absent from my squash and cucumbers, only leaving miles of stems with no flower production.
It’s time for me to pull out my tomatoes, cucumbers and squash and prep the soil for my cool season veggies.
Garden soil prep is especially important for a fertile growing situation. We have just asked so much of our soil while growing our summer veggies, and it is time to replenish the soil’s nutrients to maximize the next period of growth.
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. Add an additional 2 inches of chicken manure or earthworm castings as a top dressing, then work into a couple inches of soil.
The trick with a cool season garden is to install plants while the days and soil are still warm enough to jumpstart the roots and top growth. Some of my favorite cool weather options are broccoli, heirloom kale, onions, beets, rainbow chard, lettuce and cauliflower.
For broccoli, consider installing Marathon or Romanesco. The 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. It’s great sautéed, juiced or chopped in a salad. I prefer removing most of the stem before eating.
The great thing about kale is you will enjoy repeated yields. They are very frost-hardy, and a six-pack will keep you in kale until spring warms.
We devote an entire bed to onions. Sierra Blanca is a sweet white, and Cabernet red has a skin so deep, it is almost purple. Onion starts will not be ready to enjoy until early spring. Bulb onions can take 100-125 days to mature.
When buying starts in a six-pack, you’ll need to separate each piece of onion. Think about each piece as a thin green onion. We use our finger to create a shallow row and lay each start (separated thin green onion) flat on the soil 3-4 inches from each other. Once you’ve placed all your separated starts, cover the roots with some of the soil from the row.
Keep the onion start in the laying position and water. As the roots gradually grab the soil, the start will pull itself upright. Installing this way will protect you from over-burying the onion.
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 harvest from your chard plants for months of use.
A cool weather garden is simple and most always successful. Let’s keep growing food.
Contact Nicole with questions or comments by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.