Sunday, October 15, 2017

The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

Hummus rich garden soil

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ever wonder why we need added vitamins and minerals beyond what we get through our food?  Over the decades, the food we eat has gone down in nutritional value as the soil has gone down in fertility.  Truly, we are what we eat.  The nutritional value of what we grow is part the type of vegetable it is and a whole lot of what the plant is “fed” from the soil in which it grows.  

It really all starts with the soil.  Plants grow to the lowest constraint.  Like people, plants need a balanced diet with beneficial microbes, minerals and nutrition.  Veggies can't create minerals, but they can take them up from the soil if they are there.  Healthy veggies can take up more from the soil and create more nutrition in the plant.  A healthy plant will have the most nutrition.

Saying all a vibrant, robust vegetable plant needs is NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) is like saying all a person needs is carbs, fat, and protein.  Those things are needed to survive, but you need much more to thrive.  Life is much more complex than three compounds!

When we think of the bouquet of the vitamins and minerals we need to be healthy, where do we think this comes from?  We can’t get it from osmosis!  We have to get these from what we consume.

I read a book recently by Steve Solomon and Erica Reinheimer called “The Intelligent Gardener; Growing Nutrient-Dense Food” that does a nice job of giving all the details about how minerals affect the tilth of the soil and the ability of the soil to support healthy, robust plants.  Steve is the guy that founded Territorial Seed Company.  

The minerals and nutrients we should be concerned about are calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K), sodium (Na), phosphorous (P), sulfur (S), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), boron (B), Zinc (Zn), cobalt (Co), selenium (Se), silicon (Si) and molybdenum (Mo).  There are also other trace minerals that plants and our body needs.  It is a good idea to include Azomite or kelp to your garden each year to supply the additional trace minerals.

Steve recommends getting a detailed soil analysis at the get-go.  For those just beginning to work with re-mineralization of the soil, he recommends Logan Labs for the testing.  You can get all the information you need on collecting the sample and sending off to the lab at  Steve recommends the standard sample test.  At the moment the cost is $25.  They can also do a particle size distribution (clay, sand, silt) for an additional cost if you have been curious what your garden's soil type is.

When you get the results, Steve has posted a worksheet that you put your results from Logan Labs and it calculates for you what you need for amendments to get your soil super charged for growth and nutrition.  Here is the link:  It uses an acre as the basis.  For those of us doing small space gardening, just divide the number of square feet in your garden by 43560.  This will give you the pounds you need to add to your garden for each mineral on the spreadsheet.

It gives a summary of how to put your soil in balance with a worksheet at the end to enter the results from Logan Labs to calculate exactly what you need to add to your garden to get minerals at optimum levels.  He recommends going slow so as to not get any minerals in excess in your garden.  It is a lot easier to add minerals than take them away!
Victory Garden Poster from WWII
I also liked this spreadsheet from Logan Labs that gives by vegetable type their mineral needs:  This can be handy if you are focused on one type of crop that you want to maximize your yield.

For most of us backyard/flower bed veggie gardeners that grow a variety, Steve’s spreadsheet is the way to go.  You can also do side dressings of amendments specific to certain veggies to give them a boost.  I do this for my fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.  

If the whole spreadsheet thing is just more complicated than you want to worry about, Logan Labs provides a service for giving you what you need to add to your garden.  There is also a listing on the SoilAnalyst web page:  You can use an on line calculator from Erica that costs $9.50/year unlimited usage.  Here is the link:  All you have to do is input the numbers from Logan Labs and it spits out the amendments you need.

If you are applying minerals to mulch and not tilling in, I would recommend to add the minerals in early winter and then a balanced fertilizer in the spring.  This gives time for the minerals to get down to where your roots will be growing in the spring.  

As you prepare your bed in the fall or spring, you should add fertilizer.  For a balanced organic fertilizer, here is what Steve recommends from his book for 100 square feet of garden space:
2 quarts oilseedmeal (soybean, cottonseed, or canolaseed meal)
1 pint feathermeal 
1 pint fishmeal
1 quart soft/collodial rock phosphate or bonemeal
1 quart kelp meal or 1 pint Azomite
1 quart agricultural gypsum

Once you get your soil in balance, you can keep it that way by recycling back what you take out by composting and using a balanced fertilizer.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors  We do a combination of making our own and getting more that we need from a local horse farm.  Just be sure that if you get your compost from someone else that they are not using a systemic herbicide on their fields.  Herbicides don't know the difference between a veggie and a "weed".  

A quick chart showing the loss of minerals and correlation to disease:  Feed your soil, feed yourself.

If all this is a little too much for you, then be sure to add a nice thick layer of compost, use organic fertilizer per instructions on application rate, add Azomite for minerals per the instructions, and cover with mulch this fall.  By next spring, your garden will thank you.

Fall is a great time to put in any new garden beds you have been thinking of so the bed is teaming with worms and ready for planting this spring.  It is really easy to do.  You simply put down cardboard to smother the grass and then use the layers of compost, fertilizer, minerals and mulch.  Easy ways to make a new vegetable garden bed

Interplant your veggies in your new flower beds and get the added benefit of built in pollinators that come to see your flowers and weed suppression with mulch  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

Saturday, October 14, 2017

21 no tech storage crops

Storage beans

Saturday, October 14, 2017

There are no tech ways of keeping your veggies like our great grandparents did.  Here is a listing of crops that store for 2 months or longer without refrigeration.  For more on varieties grown for storage, The First Victory Gardens and Colonial Vegetable Garden  

Cool Storage Crops
The following crops can be kept over the winter without any refrigeration needed.
Beans-dry thoroughly and store in Mason jars.  Let bean pods dry until crisp.  Remove from pods and leave in open container to dry for another 2 weeks.  Don't limit yourself to the mainstream varieties of storage beans.  There are so many interesting, ancient varieties to try.  Growing beans  Once dried, they are easy to rehydrate and use.  Even if you don't grow your own, buy heirlooms in bulk to use in winter chilis and soups.  Use dry beans instead of canned
Corn-Pick after husks dry.  Remove husks and store in dry location until kernels come off when ear is wrung.  Store whole in bins or remove kernels and store in Mason jars.  There are so many beautiful, healthy heirlooms out there to grow and use.  
Garlic-After pulling, allow to dry in cool, warm location out of the sun.  Braid and hang after 2 weeks in cool place with moderate humidity like a basement.  Or cut back dry stalk after another two weeks and store in open container.  For those that dry out, I will grind into garlic powder.  I personally like to pickle my garlic in organic apple cider vinegar and homegrown hot peppers.  Garlic harvest is here!
Onions and Shallots-Be sure you have grown storage type onions.  There is a huge difference in how long an onion will last between varieties.  In general, any sweet onion type does not store well.  After pulling, cure in warm, dry location out of the sun for a week or two.  Braid and hang in cool place with moderate humidity.  Or cut back tops, allow to dry another couple of weeks and store in a ventilated storage container.  Everything to know about growing onions
Shallots drying in the shade
Hot peppers-Chose thin skinned varieties like Rocca Rossa that are easy to dry.  I simply place ripe peppers on the counter until they are completely dry and then store in Mason jars or plastic bags.  Other hot peppers that are thick skinned, I cut and put into organic apple cider vinegar to make hot sauce.  Dried peppers can also be used to make spicy olive oil.  Preserving peppers
Potatoes-Look for storage types to grow.  There are many varieties out there and some overwinter much better than others.  Harvest when tops begin dying back.  Cure in cool, dark place with high humidity for 2-3 weeks.  Store in boxes or cloth covered baskets in cool, dark place with moderate humidity like a basement.  Potatoes have to be kept out of sunlight.  If they turn green, do not eat! For more growing and harvesting tips see  Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio
Pumpkin and Winter Squash-Harvest after vine has died before hard frost.  Cut leaving 2" of vine for each squash.  Cure in warm, sunny location for a couple of weeks.  Store in open boxes or on a shelf in cool place with moderate humidity.  My butternut squash would keep on the counter into June.  Look for long storage types.  Harvesting and keeping winter squash  You can also buy pumpkins at the store at great prices this time of year and keep them to use throughout the winter.
Sweet potatoes-Dig at least a month before your first frost.  Cure in warm, humid location for a couple of weeks.  Make sure all skin wounds have scabbed over before moving to winter storage area in a cool, humid area like a basement.  
Tomatoes-Before a hard frost, pick all your tomatoes, including the green ones.  Wrap each tomato in news paper and place in a dark area.  The tomatoes will ripen over time.  They won't be as wonderful as a vine ripened tomato, but much better than a store bought one.  I have had some tomatoes that last into February this way.  Preserving the tomato harvest

Winter squash and pumpkins

Cold Storage Crops
The following crops needs colder conditions for winter storage.  Can be an unheated garage, buried garbage can or root cellar.  Ideal storage temperatures are 32-40F.
Apples-Store individually wrapped fruits in perforated plastic or waxed boxes to maintain high humidity.  The colder the conditions, the slower the apples will ripen.  Check weekly.  Fruit for small spaces
Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Celeraic, Parsnips, Rutabaga and Turnips-Harvest before a hard freeze.  Trim tops to half inch and cut long roots back.  Pack in damp sand in sealed container to keep moist conditions and store in cold basement, unheated garage, root cellar, or buried garbage can.  The other option is to freeze.  All about beautiful beets All you need to know about growing carrots All about turnips
Cabbage can also be made into sauerkraut in a crock with simply salt and water.  How to preserve cabbage
Leeks-transplant into a shallow pot after trimming tops back by half and trimming roots.  For growing, leeks are part of the onion family so follow the same growing tips.
Pears-pick when still somewhat green and hard.  Cure in a cool area (40-50F) for about a week.  Wrap only blemish free fruits in paper in perforated plastic bags or waxed boxes in high humidity.

Any blemished veggies can either be chopped and frozen or dried and stored in canning jars or plastic storage bags.Check your stored veggies regularly.  Be sure to remove any that are starting to develop blemishes.  

For other preservation methods like canning, freezing and drying, see these blogs  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty Freezing the extras for winter Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Plant a last minute edible fall/winter garden

Overwintering onions in pot

Sunday, October 8, 2017

It’s not too late to plant one last garden. Plant now, and enjoy harvesting these 17 veggies through the autumn, into early winter and some even all the way through winter.

If your want to ramp up the flavor and nutrient value of your fall meals, consider planting the season’s last garden using quick-growing crops such as greens, cabbage and radishes. It’s not too late to get plants in the ground for fall and winter harvests and definitely if you live where winters are mild. In fact, many plants get sweeter in chilly weather, and some hardy plants can be pulled right out of the snow for fresh eating like carrots and onions.

If the thought of fresh-picked salads and hearty, nutritious sautéed greens on your fall table appeals to you, use the information here to sow your fall garden and enjoy homegrown flavor, nutritious produce this fall and winter.

A few of the plants listed here can still grow from seed, but for most you will want to use transplants to make the most of the remaining growing season depending on how quickly it gets to freezing in your area.  If you haven’t already started seeds for transplanting, seek out transplants from garden centers.  The ornamental kale and cabbage for sale are not only pretty, but also edible!  Check well-stocked local stores for sturdy, healthy-looking plants. 

Make sure to add a scoop of finished compost to planting holes and organic fertilizer to add nutrients to soil that may be depleted after the summer harvest.  Espoma is readily available at most big box and hardware stores.  For greens type veggies, the general vegetable garden fertilizer is a good choice.

Choose the Right Varieties
In addition to choosing the right plants for cold-weather harvests, you can also increase fall and winter harvests by planting specific varieties. Look for varieties marketed as: fast-maturing; short and compact; textured (such as curly kale and Savoy spinach), winter-hardy, frost tolerant, overwintering, for every season, year-round, remarkably cold hardy, etc. 

Because daylight hours are getting shorter in the fall, you will need to add about 2 weeks to the “Days to Harvest” your seed packet gives as the seed packet dates are based on spring planting.  Plants grow slower in fall because the days are getting shorter instead of longer. 

The list below starts with the produce that will be ready for harvesting the quickest.  You will want to get the slowest growers (at the bottom of this list) in the ground as soon as possible; you may be able to continue sowing seeds of some of the fastest crops into October or beyond.  Those that are planted as transplants can be ready 2-3 weeks sooner than the dates listed below.

If sowing seeds, be sure to keep the soil moist.  Seeds sown in the fall have the same needs as seeds sown in the spring.  Outdoor seed starting tips

16 Varieties for Winter Gardening
Ready for harvest in: 3 to 9 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: For small and fast maturing radishes, broadcast seed directly in beds, or use chicken wire as a guide to space seeds 1 inch apart. Harvest after a few weeks in the ground and before the bulb becomes too hot and fibrous. You can sow seeds once a week for continuous harvests.
2-Turnips  All about turnips
Ready for harvest in: 5 to 10 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Harvest when roots are mature, but before they become bitter. A “neck” will begin to form when the root has reached maximum size, and quality will decline as the neck elongates.
3-Spinach and other hardy greens   Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 7 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Transplant seedlings about 6 weeks before first frost. Harvest the leaves around the outside of the plant; always leaving 5 leaves on each plant.  This will let you harvest for weeks from the same plants.  Other hardy greens include miner's lettuce, corn salad, sorrel, arugula, salad burnet.
4-Winter hardy greens  Fall and winter greens
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 7 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Sow seeds directly into the garden or pot.  Harvest the leaves around the outside of the plant; always leaving 5 leaves on each plant.  This will let you harvest for weeks from the same plants.  Winter hardy greens include miner's lettuce, corn salad, sorrel, arugula, salad burnet, cultivated dandelions.
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 12 weeks for leaf lettuce; 11 to 13 weeks for head lettuce
Can survive frost: Yes (depending on variety-try Winter density, Rouge d’Hiver, No Name Red Leaf, Arctic King, Continuity, Salad Bowl, Mottistone to name a few)
Fall planting notes: Keep transplants indoors until soil cools. Lettuce seeds won't germinate in hot soil temperatures, above 75-80F.  You can also broadcast seeds in cool soil every two weeks for a continuous harvest. I like starting my seeds in a pot in a cool area and then transplant into the garden.  Harvest in early morning for best taste and structure.  
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 8 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: I like getting the transplant pots with several colors; then separate and plant into the garden. Harvest sequentially as leaves mature, 1 to 2 outer stalks per plant; be sure to leave at least 5 significant inner stalks per plant for continuous harvesting.
Ready for harvest in: 7 to 8 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Harvest as soon as leaves begin to become dull/less green and bulbs stop increasing in size.
Ready for harvest in: 7 to 16 weeks, depending on variety
Can survive frost: Yes (the denser varieties are the most hardy)
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Harvest at peak size and succulence, before leaves begin to yellow and split, and before plants go to seed.
Ready for harvest in: 6 to 9 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Harvest sequentially as leaves mature.
Ready for harvest in: 8 to 9 weeks
Can survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Heads grow fast. Harvest before flowering begins. May produce secondary heads. Harvest edible leaves, too — they are even more nutritious than the buds.  I love the leaves in salads.
Ready for harvest in: 8 to 11 weeks
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Carrots don't appreciate being transplanted.  Sow directly in the garden or pot.  You can use the thinnings as tasty baby carrots and salad additions. If you do start in a pot to transplant, handle the transplant carefully and make sure its main root is pointing straight down when transplanted.  Harvest mature roots at maximum diameter while they are still sweet. 
Ready for harvest in: 8 to 12 weeks
Survive frost: Light
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Cauliflower heads often develops in just a few days. Harvest at full size, before it begins to yellow.  Making sure the head is covered by the leaves keeps the head a nice white.
13-Brussels Sprouts  
Ready for harvest in: 11 to 13 weeks
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Grows best in very fertile soil. Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. When a node begins to grow a bulge out of the stalk to form a sprout, remove the leaf just below it to optimize growth. Harvest when sprouts are at maximum plumpness, before outer leaves become fibrous and sprouts becomes bitter.  Sprouts can be harvested well into winter.  
Ready for harvest in: 10 to 13 weeks
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Transplant when seedlings are about 3 inches tall or sow directly in the garden. Choose best seedlings (healthy and vibrant green) to transplant. Harvest outer stalks carefully, leaving 3 to 5 large stalks per plant for continuous harvests.
Ready for harvest in: 12 weeks
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Plant seedlings deep, leaving 1 to 3 leaves above soil. Harvest outer leaves to leave inner leaves to continue growing.  In mild climates, collards can be harvested all winter long.  Baby leaves are good in salads, larger leaves are great steamed or cooked.
16-Onions and Shallots  Everything to know about growing onions
Ready for harvest in: Next spring for mature onions, 6 weeks for green onions
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Onions, leeks and shallots like loose, rich soil.  Be sure to plant varieties for the length of daylight your zone has in the summer.  It is the number of daylight hours that stimulates the onion to form bulbs.  In our lower Midwest garden, we need intermediate onion types.  Don't be tempted to grow Vidalias in Minnesota; they just won't make bulbs.
17-Overwintering Fava Beans and Peas  Grow a European favorite-the fava or broad bean
Ready for harvest in: 4 weeks-Next spring
Survive frost: Yes
Fall planting notes: Inoculate the seeds to get the nitrogen nodules that support more vigorous growth and nitrogen in the soil.  There are snow peas that are ready to harvest in just 30 days.

How Low Can You Go?
Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a decent vegetable harvest even into early winter. Several plants will grow well into the snowy months, and a good frost sweetens them by forcing the plants to make more frost-protecting sugars.

Can Survive Hard Freeze
(nighttime temperatures between 25 and 28 degrees): 
• Broccoli
• Brussels sprouts
• Cabbage, regular
• Carrots
• Chard
• Collards
• Fava beans
• Kale
• Kohlrabi
• Lettuce (depending on variety-look for winter hardy)
Onions, leeks, and shallots
• Overwintering peas
• Parsley
• Radishes
• Spinach
• Turnips
• Winter hardy and perennial greens  Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden

Harvest Longer
In fall, promote faster growth by packing plants a bit more tightly than you might normally do. You can extend your growing season by adding thick layers of mulch around plants, or by using season-extending techniques such as row covers. When nights get chilly, protect plants by covering them with a cloth or blanket.  Extend the season with protection for plants

You can use the greens you get not only for salads but also for juices and smoothies.   Grow your own smoothie and juice garden

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Plant peas and broad beans in Oct/Nov for early spring harvests

Overwintering Austrian peas in early April
Sunday, October 1, 2017

If you’re after a really early crop of broad beans or peas, why not sow them in autumn?  They can be sown from October to early November and with just a little protection from harsh frosts you could be harvesting peas and beans as early as April and pea greens all winter long.

The advantages of autumn sowing is that your plants will be able to develop a strong root system over the fall and winter, overwintering and bursting into growth again in spring, meaning that you get an earlier harvest in next year’s garden.

Broad beans are also called fava beans.  You want to choose the varieties that are cold hardy.  Some that fit the bill are Aquadulce Claudia, Sweet Lorane, Superaguadulce, and Broad Windsor to name just a few.  Favas are best sown in October or November to allow them to grow into hardy young plants before winter sets in, strong enough to withstand the winter frosts. Then, when the warmer spring weather arrives, they quickly put on growth and produce delicious broad beans in early spring. 

Round-seeded pea varieties are ones that you can typically plant in the fall for spring harvests.  Their greens are a great addition to winter salads, too.  To name just a few that can overwinter, try Douce de Provence, Austrian, Kelvedon Wonder, Meteor, and Douce Provenceis peas.  This will ensure the young plants are established before the winter sets in. Their pretty flowers are a welcome sight in early spring.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October 2017 Edible Garden Planner

Pepper plant covered in peppers
Sunday, October 1, 2017

The October garden is very productive.  The summer vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, basil and cucumbers continue to produce at a reduced pace.  These crops are very prolific right now.  The cool season crops like lettuce, carrots, radishes, peas, cabbage, beets, broccoli and cauliflower are coming into maturity throughout October and into November.  Flowers, bees and butterflies are abundant in the fall garden.

Now is the time to save seeds from your favorite fruits and veggie plants from the season if you haven't done so already.  The plants still producing well this time of year are great ones to make sure you have some seeds to plant again next year.  The varieties that do well in your garden conditions are ones you want to invite back!

Basil will turn black when it gets close to 35 degrees.  I pull all the leaves when it is forecasted to get close to freezing or any chance of frost.  You can chop basil, put in an ice cube tray and cover with water to then use any time your recipe calls for fresh basil.  It stores best when frozen in water.  I also dry some to add to my "Herbes de Provence" seasoning mix.  You can also make into pesto and place in freezer bags with just enough for a meal.  Gives a whole new meaning to “fast food.”  Pesto is great over pasta, fish, or as a condiment on sandwiches.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil...

Bee on zinnia with purple and white basil flowers
I have plenty of pesto from last year so this year I am letting the basil flower.  The bees just love it!  Bees favorite flowers are those with the small flowers like basil.  The purple holy basil flowers mixed with the white sweet basil flowers are quite pretty, too.

Other herbs will do just fine through frosts like parsley, rosemary, thyme, chives, savory, and sage.  It takes good snow cover to stop these herbs.  Many winters you can harvest these herbs the entire season for cooking.  Cut back the extra now, dry and make into seasoning mixes which you can give to the whole family at Christmas.   Make your own "Herbes de Provence" 

I will wait until it gets below 32 degrees before I strip off the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.  You can freeze or dry these veggies.  Tomatoes are a high acid fruit so you can also easily can sauce from them without using a pressure canner, a stockpot is all that is needed.   Preserving the tomato harvest  Be sure to follow any canning recipes exactly so your canned goods don’t spoil.  For more on preserving your extras for year round use, see Preservation garden

Daily harvest in the early fall garden
Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants are tropical perennials that can be brought in to overwinter.  If you have a favorite plant you would love to have in your garden next season, bring it in to an attached garage or even your living room.  I have overwintered peppers and eggplants.  You get a serious jump start on the season in the spring.  I am bringing in my favorite sweet pepper plants, the tiny hot pepper plant Chipetlin and my white eggplant to overwinter.

Make sure you pull the tomatoes from the vine before the vine dies.  Wondering what to do with the green tomatoes?  You have a couple of options.  You can make fried green tomatoes-yum!  Just use some fish fry seasoning; we like Andy’s Cajun Seasoning.  A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!  You can also wrap green tomatoes in newspaper and store in a cool, dark location and many will ripen.  Check about weekly to cull any that spoil.  They won’t taste as good as fresh off the vine, but are better than store bought.

October and November is garlic planting month for the Zone 7 garden!  Plant in the waning cycle of the moon.  Garlic loves loose, well-fertilized soil.  Loosen the soil down to about 6 inches, mix in a couple of inches of compost, and plant your garlic cloves about 2-3” deep.  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......  Garlic leaves are one of the first greens you will see in spring.

Chard in the forefront with morning glories in the background
Now is also a great time to divide any perennials you have, whether they be herbs, edibles or ornamentals.  This will give them all fall and winter to put down strong roots.  Perennial greens (like chard, sorrel, cultivated dandelions, salad burnet) are always the first up in the spring.  This is the perfect time to plant any perennial plant.  The fall and winter allows the plants roots to grow deep, preparing it for a fast start in the spring.  Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden

It is still not too late in early October to transplant fall crops like cold hardy types of lettuce, cabbage, chard, pak choi, broccoli, kale, parsley or perennial herbs.  You can check your neighborhood nurseries for bedding plants.  I use my Aerogarden to start from seed cold hardy crops I want in my fall and winter garden.  Starting them indoors gets them going quicker.  With less sun and cooler temps outdoors, plants grow much more slowly so getting bedding plants or starting indoors gets your fall veggies to full size quicker.  Add about 2 weeks to the "Days to Harvest" timing for fall planted edibles.

To extend the season, you can order a mini greenhouse to cover your pots or a part of the garden you have planted your cold hardy greens you want to harvest all winter.  You can also purchase row covers that cover plants and provides protection from frosts, but not hard freezes.  Preparing the garden for frost

Portable greenhouse with potted salad greens inside for winter growing

Winter hardy kale, spinach, Austrian peas, carrots and winter onions don’t need to be covered and can be harvested all winter (as long as the ground isn’t too frozen) and into spring.  I grew Austrian peas last winter and they provided greens for salad all winter long.  They have very pretty flowers, too.  Come spring I had lots of early peas too.

I’ll put our portable, plastic mini greenhouse over the greens in my Earthboxes sometime this month or next.  One watchout with green houses-they get very, very hot in sunny weather so be sure to open them to allow circulation in fall and early winter.  They will need to be closed up when winter really sets in December sometime.