Gardening in Almonte: More Fall Planting

[David Hinks]It remains glorious fall weather and what a contrast it is with last fall. Last year the end of the season for tomatoes, peppers, squash, basil and other frost-sensitive vegetables came to an abrupt end in my garden September 19 when the temperature dropped to -3C (a killing frost is usually considered to be -2C). The average first fall frost is October 7. September 19 was pretty close to a record early date. By way of comparison the first killing frost in 2013 was late in October.

While we keep an eye on the forecast low temperatures and prepare to cover our tomatoes the cool-weather plants such as kale, Swiss chard, parsley and salad greens will continue happily for a few more weeks (hopefully). For me this underlines the importance of knowing the growing requirements of vegetables and how they fit with the realities of the Almonte climate. Plan to take some workshops with the Almonte Library and the Neighbourhood Tomato next spring as gardening experts share their experience with growing vegetables in our area.

Last week I wrote about the possibilities of planting cool weather vegetables for a fall harvest and the spectacular results that have been achieved with plants such as radishes, mizuna, lettuce and arugula that had been planted August 14. These beds continue to be harvested in a technique called cut-and-come-again harvesting. Leafy greens are 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.

Additional plantings of radishes made August 28 are nearly ready for harvest.

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Tatsoi, also planted August 28, is nearly ready to be given an initial cutting. Tatsoi (Brassica narinosa or Brassica rapa var. rosularis) also called spinach mustardspoon mustard, or rosette bok choy, is an Asian variety of Brassica rapa grown for greens. This plant has become popular in North American cuisine as well, and is now grown throughout the world. The plant has dark green spoon-shaped leaves which form a thick rosette. It has a soft creamy texture and has a subtle yet distinctive flavour. It can be grown to harvestable size in 45–50 days, (or can be harvested earlier in a cut-and-come application) and can withstand temperatures down to –10°C (15°F). Tatsoi can be harvested even from under the snow.

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Claytonia which was planted September 4 is making a slow start but is probably the most cold-hardy vegetable grown. Claytonia perfoliata is a rosette-forming plant, growing to a maximum of 40 cm in height, but mature plants can be as small as 1 cm. The common name miner’s lettuce refers to its use by California Gold Rush miners who ate it to get their vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Most commonly it is eaten raw in salads, but it is not quite as delicate as other lettuce. Sometimes it is boiled like spinach which it resembles in taste.

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The Great Veggie Grow-off

We are rapidly closing in on the final weigh-in on Saturday October 10. 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.