Gardening in Almonte: Fall Planting – A Report Card

[David Hinks]I have written more than a few times about the possibilities of planting cool weather vegetables for a fall harvest. Mid-August generally signals the end of the heat of summer with cooler nights and generally lower daytime highs. For plants that are frost tolerant and that prefer cooler growing conditions such as lettuce, arugula, spinach and other greens the growing season may well extent past the end of October. Mid-August is probably the best opportunity to plant vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and other greens that will grow very well as the days get shorter and cooler in the fall. These vegetables will grow lush and succulent and the greatest bonus is that there is no danger that they will bolt and try to produce a flower.

I had the occasion on Monday to visit a garden with about a dozen beds of greens that were planted on August 14. The results have been spectacular at least in no small part to the amazing weather that we have had this summer. A significant of harvesting has already taken place. Some vegetables such as radishes, which can produce edible roots in as short a period as 20 to 25 days, have been completely harvested. Others such as lettuce, arugula and mizuna which produce edible leaves as quickly as 30 to 40 days have had leaves picked or cut with the roots of the plant being undisturbed. This technique is often termed cut-and-come-again harvesting.

Many leafy greens can be sheared down almost to ground level and they will turn right around and re-grow additional leaves for your next harvest. It is possible to enjoy at least three or four harvests from each planting. And you can go from sowing the seed to your first harvest in just a few short weeks. Another advantage is that vegetables raised as cut-and-come-again crops can be planted much closer together than you normally would since the veggies are not going to be maturing into full sized plants before harvest time.

Mizuna (Brassica japonica) is a Japanese green with broad, serrated leaves and white ribs. It is a vigorous plant with good cold tolerance. The light green leaves are very juicy, tender and have a nice flavour. The mizuna was planted very close together and has already been harvested but as the photo shows it grows back very quickly.

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Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is thought to have originated in ancient Persia and has been a diet staple for centuries. It provides more nutrients than any other food. It is a very fast growing cool-weather crop but is extremely sensitive to hot weather. It keeps growing very late into the fall and may even survive over the winter. As the photo shows it looks very happy and is ready to be harvested.

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Radish (Raphanus sativus) is a fast-growing, annual, cool-season crop grown for their swollen tap-roots which can be globular, tapering or cylindrical. Both root and leafy tops can be eaten and are normally eaten raw in salads. The radishes were planted quite closely together but can be thinned and the young plants eaten. Many of the radishes have been harvested (and eaten) and the rest will soon be harvested. There will likely still be time for another planting.

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Carrots (Daucus carota) appear to have somewhat slow to germinate. They can take 60 days or more to reach a reasonable size so time will tell if they have enough days left, however they are off to a great start.

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Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) absolutely demands cool temperatures – it will bolt or be bitter in hot temperatures. Types of lettuce include loose-leaf lettuce, Head Lettuce which includes Butterhead, Boston and Iceburg types and Romaine (or Cos) lettuce (think Caesar salad) which forms upright clusters of leaves. The following photo shows a magnificent bed of leaf lettuce that is due for its first harvest.

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Heading lettuce on the other hand takes considerably longer to reach a harvestable size. The buttercrunch lettuce in the following photo still requires a considerable amount of growing.

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Arugula (Eruca vesicaria) aka “Rocket” or “roquette” and “arugula” is a popular green used in salads for its distinct peppery, sweet taste. It grows very quickly in fall conditions reaching picking size in 30 days. The arugula has been cut but bounced back very quickly.

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Turnip (Brassica rapa) has been used as a vegetable for human consumption in Europe since prehistoric times. The greens can be eaten and the crisp mild white flesh can be eaten raw or cooked. It takes about 60 days to reach maturity so as the photo shows still has a considerable amount of growing to do.

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The Great Veggie Grow-off

Last year the Veggie Grow-off produced 2830 pounds of fresh produce for the Food Bank. We are rapidly closing in on that figure with over 2500 pounds of donations so far this season and I am sure that we will exceed it this year. Remember the Food Bank and bring your baskets of surplus produce to the Lanark County Food Bank at 5 Allan Street in Carleton Place and make sure that it is weighed and credited to Mississippi Mills as we compete against Carleton Place and Beckwith in the Great Veggie Grow-off. The Food Bank is open Monday 5pm to 7 pm, Tuesday 9am to 1pm, Wednesday 7 to 9 in the evening, Thursday 9am to noon and Friday 9am to noon. Try to drop it off early in the week if possible – greens in particular if stored over the weekend when the Food Bank is closed do not look very appetizing by Monday. One other option is drop off your produce at the Almonte Library during regular library hours and volunteers will transport it to Carleton Place.