Gardens Gaining in Popularity
vegetable planting charts indicate the best time for planting seeds
indoors is generally between February through April, depending on the
vegetable. The best time to put out transplants can range from April to
August. Yes, August! Seed planting time outdoors ranges from April to
September. Yes, September!
summer solstice is about two months past. We don’t often think about
it, but we have on average between 123 and 143 freeze-free days each
growing year where we live. In my last column I mentioned we were at
the 70th day, more or less, of the freeze-free season, and getting
ready to collect some produce whose days to harvest numbers were being
satisfied. That was two weeks ago. So, let’s somewhat arbitrarily say
we have between 40 and 60 frost-free days remaining. We can be
conservative, and maybe a little daring, too.
beans germinate successfully when the soil and the air temperatures
have warmed up both day and night. That’s what we have in mid to late
August. There are several early varieties one might give a try. I might
even try a bush Lima or a few early yielding wax beans. I know the
weather is unpredictable and the date of the first frost is uncertain.
Beans are so prolific, I think they’re worth a try right now.
we live here in the Catskills, the unwritten but often spoken phrase
around St. Patrick’s Day is, “Got your peas in yet?” Peas don’t like
the high heat or sunlight of mid-summer. But, we are past that by a
month. Nonetheless, peas don’t enjoy too much shade or too
cool temperatures, either. Both will compromise their flavor. There are
lots of pea types that are worth a try now, especially the early edible
pod sugar snap ones. There are no guarantees with these warmer loving
crops, but I think it’s worth a try. (We do believe there’s global
warming, don’t we?)
the tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, celery,
melons, squash, and other bounty of the continuing season cannot be
redone, but they are coming in now. Harvest and savor their goodness.
Relish their physical beauty, and the emotions they ignite. You should
have until at least late September, and perhaps a gift of a few or more
Now that beans and peas have been
encouraged with caution (that’s why I used the word ‘try’ repeatedly)
we can move forward with greater expectations.
are truly entering another great
growing season. It’s real and sustained and guaranteed to provide
satisfaction. What lies ahead is wondrous for its diversity of texture
and taste. To do this you need to change your focus as you continue to
savor the goodness that’s coming from your garden put in probably
around the Memorial Day weekend. Remember those times, marked by
rushing about and scrambling and getting everything ready for the
planting weekend, and wondering all the while whether there still might
be a frost coming. When is the next full moon? Etc.
the days grow shorter and the nights
cooler, we alter our palates to a different level of enjoyment: eating
tasty and delicious foliage and roots. These will flourish in the
autumn. With the 40 to 60 frost-free days remaining, we needn’t be
concerned. Most of what we are going to plant will benefit and become
enhanced by the change in temperatures and day length. There is an
added bonus to a fall garden: there are fewer problems from insects and
diseases, both of which prefer warmer temperatures to do their dirty
work. Also, rainfall is usually more even and regular.
August sowing can include spinach,
collards, kale, Swiss chard, leaf lettuce, broccoli, and mustard.
Radishes, and endive germinate fast and like cooler temperatures.
Beets, carrots, and turnips sown now can be harvested after hard frosts
for extra sweetness. They will be smaller, but wonderful. Bok
choy and other Chinese vegetables, rutabagas, leeks and Brussels
sprouts enjoy the fall weather and improve as cold weather
So, here we are
savoring all the garden goodies of our earlier and continuing efforts,
and at the same time extending the season so that when that bushel
basket of summer plenty begins to dwindle, usually in late September or
early October, we are already segueing into our second season’s crops.
These later crops are famously sweeter and more tender than those
salad greens can be snipped with a scissors after about 20 or 25 days.
They are eminently edible and tasty as it gets. Think lettuces,
mesclun, arugula, spinach, chard and chicory. Broccoli rabe and
attractive kale also fit into this regimen, maybe harvesting a week
later. Leave an inch or two above the soil line and subsequent harvests
will be coming along well into November and maybe later.
more exotically? A few more that love cool temps are miner’s lettuce
(Claytonia), mache (corn salad), and upland cress (St. Barbara’s herb)
harvested young, ten or fifteen days after sowing.
Here’s hoping you have a second harvest well into the colder months.
Don’t forget to label where the root vegetables are planted. These will
gain in sweetness, as the ground gets really cold. If it’s not frozen,
go get ‘em. Beets, carrots, turnips, and daikon radishes will be
smaller, but wonderful.
When do you plan your gardens for next year? In winter as the snow
flies? Before winter sets in, make maps of your garden spaces, and
maybe, plan one or two beds for a succession planting in late season.
It can be your second harvest: fall produce for you, of course, and
maybe to share. A sugary gift to others is always appreciated. You
might even favor this later gathering in cool weather as surprises from
The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on
August 15, 2007
2007 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.