October 29, 2012

Late Autumn Vegetable Harvest

Organic Chinese Cabbage 'Minuet' (F1) is a fast growing mini variety which is best grown as a fall crop in the north. 

As the storm rages outside, I thought that I might share some of the late crops which we are harvesting before the storm today. The garden can provide some excellent food crops for home gardeners in the fall. Everyone things about planting seeds in the spring, but more often than not, cool-growing crops grow better in the autumn, since the shortening days and colder weather keeps insects at bay, and reduces the likelyhood of some varieties 'bolting' - going to seed before they are mature due to hot weather. In fact, Chinese Cabbage and rutabaga are often only grown in the fall.

 Many gardeners call it a day once the tomatoes freeze, but we replant fall crops in our raised beds  each August, often while tomatoes are still being picked. Seeds of lettuce, turnips, Chinese or Napa cabbage, spinach, Swiss chard and radishes are sown as soon as soil is made available. These crops can all handle light to heavy frosts, and they mature in less than 50 days, so they are perfect for quick-crops in the fall as the weather begins to cool. Best of all, many veggies grow best when planted in late summer for fall harvest - take the Chinese Cabbage for example. A spring sowing will often bolt to flower as soon as the weather becomes warm, but when sown in late August, the plants form heads easily in the cool weather. Also, insect damage is less likely to occur, especially when crops are covered with fiber coverings, as I did this year. 

Grown under Remay fabric to discourage pests, the only pest left to bother the Chinese cabbage this year, was slugs. With the outer leaves removed, the inner core shows no damage at all. We soak the heads in salted water for an hour to kill any hidden slugs in the outer leaves.
Napa Cabbage, or Chinese Cabbage is a fast crop. 'Minuet' (F1) is a smaller growing variety which matures in only 48 days when sown in late August.  These heads will make many sweet, crispy salads.

'Livigna', a green Lolo Lettuce is often pricey in high-end markets. Known as a European mini head or a garnish lettuce, many prefer it's crispy, green curled leaves better than any other lettuce variety. Pansy seedlings can be seen on the left.

 Lettuce is another plant that often grows better in the autumn. I like the fancier European mini heads of lettuce such as the Lolla series. We can often harvest lettuce right up to Christmas, especially if we cover it with remay fabric. The longer nights and cold weather makes the lettuce grow denser, less lush yet more in-character to well-grown fancy lettuce found in gourmet markets and restaurants. Sometimes seed can be costly for these fancy varieties ( $8 per packet) but when a head costs $6.00 at Whole Foods, one doesn't seem to mind so much!

'Red Cash' is a new variety of Red Romaine bred for the commercial restaurant trade. This organic seed-raised variety forms beautifully dense, tiny heads for the specialty market, or, for ones home kitchen.

Hurricane Sandy is blasting at the coast here in Massachusetts, but so far, we are only getting wind gusts to 65 MPH. We still have electricity, but I am not confident that we will have it for long.

I'll probably think otherwise once our power goes out, but so far, Hurricane Sandy isn't living up to the hype. Sure, like most people in the eastern part of the US today, we are hunkered down, watching the weather channel, and trying to get some remote work done on the computer before we lose power, but as far a storms go, this might as well be a mid-winter nor-easter. Which reminds me - have you heard that this year the winter storms are going to be named? 

Autumn in the greenhouse -  as the hurricane roars outside the glass, the Nerine sarniensis bloom feeling rather safe, even though a tree could fall on the greenhouse with the strong winds coming from the east. I feel that the storm is about a strong as a typical nor-easter in the winter, but seeing that we have few leaves left on the trees, we might be OK.

Green Chrysanthemums (Kermit) and some Japanese mini bonsai-style mums bloom along with the Nerine bulbs as the hurricane blows outside. Maybe we are getting used to these late October fierce storms, as we seem to have taken fewer precautions with this one. At least it isn't snow. Still, with a glass greenhouse which sits next to tall spruce trees, it's a little disconcerting.

 Lydia Puppy Update.

Sad news - we lost the two small males last night, but clearly they had problems anyway. We felt now that we did all that we could. The one small female is finally feeding by herself, which means not only is she getting the nutrition that she needs, it also means that we now can get some sleep!


  1. hopflower10:19 PM

    I am so sorry you lost some of the litter. But the others sound like they are on their way!

    Those nerines are so beautiful. Mine are doing quite well.

  2. Sorry to hear about the two puppies.

    I need to get smarter about my planting. I still haven't planted anything as I still have zucchini and tomatoes going strong in this late warm season we are having in CA. My dream is to increase my planting area somehow so I will be able to start an August planting of fall and winter veggies. Those cabbage heads look amazing.

  3. Sorry to read about the two pups but glad the others are doing well. Are they spoken for yet? Love the pics of the veggies and Kermit the Mum.

  4. Thanks everyone for your kind words and thoughts. Nature has her reasons, and we move forward.

  5. Thanks for the tips on a fall planting. It's something I hadn't even thought of.


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