Saturday, September 30, 2023

What's happenin' in the late September edible garden

Cactus zinnias on right and Flame cock's comb on right
Saturday, September 30, 2023

We are having a very dry September again this year.  In the past, we could depend on the rains starting by mid-september and supplemental watering being pretty well over until next summer.  Our temperatures are above average as well, with low humidity.  Tomatoes, peppers, beans and squash all love this type of weather.  

Tomatoes, peppers, beans and squash all love this type of weather if you make sure they have enough to drink.  I am getting a bumper crop of beans right now.  I have many peppers just waiting to ripen, lots of flowers and baby tomatoes, and many baby squash and flowers on my Trombetta squash.

The shallots I planted a month or so ago are all up.  Herbs are doing well.  The basil is in full bloom.  I do need to do a cutting of my basil and make some pesto before frost hits and my basil all dies.
Cardinal basil in forefront and Genovese basil in background
The winter lettuce seed I planted about 10 days ago has sprouted and most have their first set of leaves.  When they get their next set of leaves, I will start transplanting them into their winter pots which I will cover with a portable greenhouse cover.

If you are a garlic lover, October is prime time to plant your garlic for next summer's harvest.  I save the biggest cloves from my summer harvest to plant in the fall.  Unfortunately, the early warm up followed by frigid temperatures killed the garlic I have in a large pot.  I did find some volunteers that survived in the old spot in the garden bed I had been growing garlic this summer.  I transplanted them into a new bed.  Hopefully, they will come up later this fall.  I do have my eye on one or two new varieties that I'm looking forward to trying next year.

My potted sprouting broccoli, Ruby Streaks mustard, tatsoi and chard are very nice sized so we'll have them for winter salads and braised greens.  I also have several volunteer celery plants in pots that will do well under cover all winter.  

My cactus zinnias and cock's comb did really well this year.  I'm sure I will have many volunteers come up next year.  I'll look later in the fall to collecting some cactus zinnia seeds from each color (gold, orange, fuchsia, peach, and yellow).  I had started the cactus zinnias from seed in early summer..  It was a combo pack of different colors and looking at the flowers, different sizes.  They were all pretty and just bloom continuously.  One plant produced huge orange flowers!  Definitely need to save some of those seeds.
Fuschia pin cushion zinnia
Hummingbird vine, Heavenly morning glory, and Red Malabar spinach volunteer vines went a little crazy this summer.  Next year, I'll need to thin them back much more than I did this year!

My husband has been busy hauling in dirt from our pasture to backfill around the addition we put on.  I am looking forward to getting my southern exposure flower beds back!  Right now, I have been temporarily growing in the beds at the back of the house, which is northern exposure.  We don't have alot of garden bed space in back so about half of my veggies have been grown in pots.  I only have the tomatoes, shallots, squash and garlic in the ground; everything else is in pots.

I do like growing Egyptian Walking Onions, eggplant and peppers in pots so will continue to do so.  Tomatoes, pole beans, squash, okra, cucumbers, corn, garlic and melons all are more productive in the ground.  You can still do well in pots using compact varieties, but smaller plants do mean smaller yields.

Pretty soon, it will time to reflect back on this year's garden, see how much I was able to can, pickle, dry and put away in the freezer to develop next year's garden plan.  It is best to do at the end of the season when all is still fresh in your mind.  It is also a great time to write up the list of things you'd like to learn more about over the winter to try in next year's edible garden.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Time to pickle!

Home made pickles
Sunday, September 24, 2023
As fall comes, try pickling extra veggies.  My favorites are the traditional pickles, pickle relish, pickled garlic and hot sauce.  You can pickle any veggie you have extras of.  Peppers love fall temperatures and are a great option for pickling.  Home pickling is super easy and a great way to preserve those extra veggies for winter eating.

My husband loves the stacker type pickles on his burgers.  I slice up my extra cucumbers to just the length and width my husband likes them for his burgers and use herbs and spices with organic apple cider vinegar for pickling.  The trick is to make sure you do not put less salt or vinegar in them than the recipe calls for.  Salt and vinegar are preservatives.  They keep the dilly solution acidic enough so your pickles do not spoil.

You can make any variety of cucumbers into pickles.  Pickler cucumbers have been bred to be smaller and have smaller seeds than slicer cucumbers, but both have the same fresh cucumber taste.  Don’t let the cucumber get too big, this results in big seeds and slows down cucumber production.

I can a jar at a time.  You want your cucumbers fresh for preserving.  I harvest the cucumbers before they get too large.  This does two things, it keeps the size of the seeds in the cucumber down and it keeps the vine producing.  All vegetables are in the business of insuring survival so they give everything they have to producing their seed, the vegetables we harvest.  If you keep removing their seeds, they keep trying to make more!

I typically can 2-3 cucumbers at a time.  These will fit nicely into a quart canning jar.  Make sure the jar and lid have been sterilized.  I slice them lengthwise to the size that will fit on a bun; make sure you remove the ends of the cucumber as some ends are bitter.  I add 2-3 flowering dill heads, 4-5 sprigs of salad burnet or tarragon, 2 cloves (the spice), 4-5 garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teas of caraway seeds, 1/4 teas of peppercorns, one cardamon seed pod, 3 tablespoons of salt, a bay leave, and a grape leaf to keep the pickles crunchy.  Fill the rest of the jar with water (about 2 cups is all that is needed).  If you like 'em spicy, throw in a pepper or two with stem removed.  Slice the pepper in half to get the spicy seeds.  

There is also ready to use pickling spice you can buy if you want to keep it simpler.
Sliced cucumber with herbs from the garden for seasoning
You can get a good jar seal by heating the water and seasonings on the stove to a boil, let cool, add the vinegar, then pour over the sliced cucumbers in the jar, and put the lid on. It is critical that you have at least the amount of salt and vinegar recommended or the pickles can go bad.  I shake the jar a couple of times a day until the salt is completely dissolved. You let them ferment in a cool, dark place 1-4 weeks and they are ready to eat!

Unopened pickle jars will keep for a year or longer in the pantry.  Once opened, keep refrigerated and eat within a couple of months.

You follow the same basic procedure for peppers or any vegetable you want to pickle.  

I like to make hot sauce with my Cayenne and Jalapeño peppers.  It is super easy.  I just take the peppers we like, slice them up and completely cover with organic apple cider vinegar in a quart canning jar.  Let sit in the refrigerator for 2-4 weeks.  Then put mix in food processor and process until smooth.  I then put back into a quart jar.  You now have your own hot sauce!  I keep my jars in the refrigerator.

For more on fermentation for food preservation, a good book is "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz.  For traditional pickles and pickled peppers, I use Ball's Canning Book.
Cucumber ready to harvest
I love taking my garlic harvest and pickling all the cloves.  I first learned about picking garlic when I went to a general store in Albany, Georgia.  They had many local canned items in Mason jars for sale.  I saw the jarred garlic and mouth it.  They added some spicy peppers in the jar that gave it a kick.  I loved it!  It has become my favorite way of preserving my garlic harvest.

How to pickle garlic
  1.  Get quart canning jars.  I use Tattler or glass lids.  The vinegar eats at metal lids.  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty
2.  Either make or purchase raw apple cider vinegar.  Any neutral tasting vinegar will work.  I just like the nutritional benefit of raw vinegar.  Make your own apple cider vinegar
3.  If using your own garlic or purchasing whole cloves, separate the cloves and remove the "skin".  You can also buy separated cloves, sans skins in many grocery stores that you can use.
4.  Slice 2 or 3 hot peppers and place in the jar, if you like your garlic a kick.
5.  Fill the rest of the jar with garlic cloves to an inch or so below the mouth of the jar.
6.  Fill the jar with vinegar.
7.  Put the jar in the frig.
8.  Use cloves any time a recipe calls for it!

Another way to preserve cucumbers is to make pickle relish.  This is not the sweet pickle relish.  I use this for egg, salmon or tuna salad.  

How to make pickle relish 
  1.  Get your canning jars, lids and rings.  I chose the pint size since one pint of relish lasts me a few weeks.  You can go smaller or larger, depending on how quickly you will use the relish.  I use Tattler (BPA free plastic lid) or glass lids.  The vinegar in the relish eats at metal lids.  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty
2.  To let the pickled relish taste shine through, the recipe calls for white vinegar.  You can use apple cider vinegar.  Any neutral tasting vinegar will work as long as it is at lease 5% strength.  Make your own apple cider vinegar
3.  Here are the ingredients.  Feel free to adjust the spices to your taste.
8 pounds of cucumbers (peeled or with skin) finely diced
1/2 cup pickling or canning salt (finely ground salt with no additives)
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 tablespoons dill seed
1 tablespoon mustard seed
4 bay leaves
4 cups white vinegar (can use any vinegar with 5% strength or higher)
4.  Wash, peel and dice your cucumbers, place in large bowl, add salt and turmeric, cover with water  and let mix soak for 2-3 hours.  Drain in colander or fine meshed sieve and rinse well.
5.  Add cucumbers, chopped onions, seasonings and vinegar to large stock pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
6.  Remove bay leaves and fill hot pint jar with mixture, leaving 1/2" head space, making sure all bubbles are removed.  Screw on hot lid and place in pressure cooker or pot large enough that pint jars are covered with at least 1" of water.
7.  Bring canner/large stock pot to a boil, process for 15 minutes.  Wait 5 minutes before removing.
8.  Remove jars straight up from pot; do not tilt.  Allow jars to fully cool for a full 24 hours.
9.  Gently remove ring and test seal by lifting jar by seal, while supporting jar with other hand.  If seal holds, relish can safely be stored in the pantry.  If seal does not hold, relish should be placed in the refrigerator.

The vinegar and processing per the instructions are critical for food safety.  The acidity mush be high enough to use the boiling water method.  For low acid foods, pressure canning is required for food safety.  For more detailed instructions on canning:

For options on jars, see my blog:

Saturday, September 23, 2023

How does your garlic grow

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Fall is the time to plant garlic for next year's harvest.  There are many varieties to choose from.  Mail order supplies run out fast so if you want to order some, now is the time to get your order in.  Big box stores should have garlic cloves that you can buy for planting as well.  It is a carefree edible that is easy to grow; just plant in fertile, loose soil in fall and watch it sprout and grow.

Garlic has been around for thousands of years and is rich in lore.  It has been reputed to repel vampires, clear the blood, cure baldness, aid digestion over the ages.  It originated in Asia, was cultivated in Egypt and has been a Mediterranean staple for centuries.  Today’s studies have shown garlic is antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and a cancer fighter. And, it tastes great!  Garlic is high in vitamin C, B6, calcium, manganese, selenium and more.  For more nutritional info,  garlic nutritional value 

It is easy to grow and has little pest issues.  All you do is throw them in the ground in the fall in October or November and by early summer, they are ready to harvest.  Loosening the soil and adding compost prior to planting can boost the garlic bulb size.  I have planted Elephant garlic straight into my mulched flower beds and had great luck.  Their flower in spring is quite striking as well.

There is soft and hard necked garlic.  For storing, soft neck garlic is the ticket.  Soft neck garlic can store for months.  It's stems can be braided, too.  It is also the strongest flavored.  Hard necked varieties can be milder, have larger cloves, is easier to peel, and more cold hardy.  Garlic connoisseurs say hard neck varieties have rich and complex flavors.

If your winter weather is too mild, hard neck varieties will make small heads.  If you live where zoysia and bermuda grass thrive, soft neck garlic is the best choice.  You can always buy a sampler pack and try different types to see which grow best in your garden conditions.  

A good bet for finding which grow best in your area is to visit farmers markets and see what varieties are offered locally.  Locally grown garlic can also be used for planting in your own garden. 

I gravitate toward hard neck garlic for our Zone 7 garden because it is so much easier to peel than the soft neck garlic I have tried.  Elephant garlic is also a staple in my garden because the cloves are huge!  Elephant garlic is actually in the leek family but has a strong garlic flavor.  I usually try a new garlic variety advertised to give huge cloves and easy to peel about every other year.  I always save my best cloves from the summer to plant in the fall.

The clove puts out roots in the fall.  Depending on how warm the winter is, there can be green shoots showing through the cold months.  Garlic will be some of the first to start growing in spring.  The stems resemble onion greens.  The hard neck type garlic has a flower, or scape, with a cute little curl in it.  They are great in salads.  There is debate among garlic growers if removing the scape will also increase the bulb size.  Either way, you can't lose by harvesting them.
Hard neck garlic scapes

You can tell the difference in the two by looking at the flowers.  Leeks and soft neck garlic have a onion type flower (below) while hard neck garlic has a curly scape flower (above).
Elephant garlic flower
You should choose the biggest cloves to plant.  The bigger the clove, the bigger the harvest!  Cloves as a root vegetable like loose soil, compost and steady fertilizer.  Like carrots, radishes and beets, you can add sand to give a looser soil structure in your garlic bed.  Simply tilling in compost should provide the soil texture that garlic loves.  Compost and mulch well in the fall before cold weather sets in.

Plant the cloves root side down (that is the flat end, not the pointy end), 1-2” deep, and 4-6” apart.  For planting by the cycle of the moon, garlic should be planted during the waning cycle of the moon.  After the greens sprout to 6”, add compost or fertilizer as a side dressing.  Garlic does not need a lot of nitrogen so compost is a good choice.  
Garlic sprouting in winter
Garlic is ready to harvest then the tops begin to die off in the early to mid summer.  Each leaf represents a layer of the white covering on your clove bulb.  Dig up one or two when about half of the leaves have died (40% yellowed/brown leaves).  If the bulb is still small, wait a couple more weeks before harvesting.   If you harvest too late, the outer covering will have disintegrated and you will have just loose, naked cloves.

Store bought conventional garlic has been treated with chemicals to keep them from sprouting so they are not a great choice for growing your own.  Organic garlic has not been treated with these chemicals so these will sprout.  

A great option is to buy garlic from your local farmers market.  You know they grew well in your area and if you like the taste.  Just separate out the bulb(s) into individual cloves and plant the biggest ones.  Be sure to leave the "skin" on the cloves that you intend to plant.  You can eat or preserve the smaller cloves.

If your stored garlic dries up over the winter, grind it into garlic powder.  If you have great tasting garlic that doesn’t store well or you have a bountiful crop, another preservation option is pickled garlic.  This is my go-to preservation method.  Just peel (Quick tip-”peeling” garlic) and cover your fresh garlic cloves in organic apple cider vinegar.  You can add a couple of hot peppers if you want to add some extra zing!  
Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!

Of course, you can also add garlic to the tomato sauce (Preserving the tomato harvest)pickles (Easy, homemade pickles) or peppers you are going to can.  You can flavor vinegars or oils by popping crushed garlic into them (Quick tip-make your own flavored oils).  Many options for utilizing your garlic harvest!

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Time to harvest and preserve your herbs

Multicolor sage
September 17, 2023

End of summer is a great time to tidy garden beds and harvest herbs.  Herbs have a tendency to take a walk on the wild side.  As the days get shorter, growth slows and before long the sun cannot support all the greenery from summer.

Fall is the perfect time to harvest your herbs.  You can cut them back so they remain lush, improving the tidiness of your garden, and providing herbs for the winter ahead.  Herbs are expensive in the store and you get a huge amount from just trimming back your herb plants.  Enough for you and Christmas gifts!

For soft herbs like chives and garlic chives, I cut around the outside.  You can either then dry or freeze your cuttings.  Soft herbs don't retain as much of their flavor when dried.

For basil, I keep a pot indoors over the winter to have basil whenever I need it.  I do harvest basil during the summer and fall to make pesto.  It just doesn't retain much flavor when dried.  Pesto is a great way to preserve your basil.  I freeze in freezer bags and have a quick meal ready to go anytime. 

For rosemary, you can trim the bush into a more pleasing shape or just take the outer third of growth.  I have not been successful in finding a rosemary that survives outside in my Zone 6 region.  By winter, I will harvest all the limbs so I don't waste any of that great flavor.  Rosemary is perfect with lamb, on potatoes, or on cheese bread.

For sage, savory, and thyme, I simply trim them into a healthy shape.  For basil, oregano and marjoram, I remove about a third of the top growth.  Basil also will not survive even a frost.  So when they call for frost, I harvest all that is left on the plant.

I dry my herbs to preserve them.  I put loosely in a paper bag in a dry, warm area out of the sun and let dry naturally.  Loose is the key here so they get good air circulation and do not mold.  They should be completely dry in about 3-4 weeks.  I like putting them in clothes closets to dry as they release such great fragrance.  Right now, my latest cuttings are in an upstairs closet.

Once dried, remove the leaves from woody herbs and store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.  If a soft herb like chives, you can just crumble into the airtight container.  I use wide mouth canning jars or freezer bags for herb storage.

I also keep a gallon freezer bag of a mix of all the herbs in my garden to use in sauces, on meats, in soup, stews, just about anything I cook.  It's a favorite request of family and friends for their own pantry.

If the winter is not a bad one, most perennial herbs like chives, oregano, sage, savory, and thyme can be harvested year round straight from the garden.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

What's happening in the mid-September edible garden

Trellised purple pole beans and potted Egyptian walking onions
Saturday, September 14, 2023

Self seeding flowers like zinnias, hummingbird vine, morning glory, marigolds, Love Lies Bleeding and Cock's Comb celosia are in full splendor right now.  Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, Egyptian walking onions, cucumbers, the Mediterranean herbs like basil, rosemary, sage, oregano, chives, dill, tarragon and thyme and all types of greens enjoy the bright sunshine and temperatures in the 70's.  We are preserving everything we have extra right now.  Love knowing that we can eat food we grew year round.

In the last week, we have seen the temps to the highs in the 70's and low 80's.  We are not getting the fall rains we used to get this time of the year.  Just sunny, dry with low humidity.  Great weather for enjoying the outdoors, but watering is needed for the edibles.

I fertilized at the beginning of the month with an organic fertilizer from Espoma.  With natural fertilizers you don’t have to worry about “burning” your plants as they slowly release into the ground.   This may be the last time I fertilize this season. You should fertilize about once a month through the growing season.  You don’t want to shoot too much nitrogen to your fruit producers as you can end up with all leaves and no veggie fruits.  

 The veggies that love the spring weather also thrive in fall.  It is important to get all your winter and overwintering veggies and greens up to full size prior to early November.  The days are so short come November that there will be minimal growth from November to mid January.  The fall edible garden

This year was decent for peppers and tomatoes.  Peppers were late getting started but have produced well.  I trimmed back the tomato plants as they were getting very leggy.  They are growing new leaves and flowering again.  I planted a second round of tomato plants that have many baby tomatoes on them.  One  beefsteak has 10 tomatoes on it.  Peppers and tomatoes will continue producing up until a hard freeze. 

I have started growing 2 tomato crops, one early and one started in June.  This way when some of the tomato plants die back, the new ones are kicking in.  Out of the 14 plants I started with, 4 have died.  I already have enough frozen tomatoes in the freezer to last until next year's harvest.  I'll make sauce and can it with the frozen tomatoes left from 2022.  I always do that when it starts cooling off.  

My pepper plants are still producing.  The plants grew quite large this year in the pots. The Pimento Elite and Ancho grown in the ground were much smaller.  The sweet red snacking pepper, Anaheim and Chipetin pepper plants have both green and ripening fruits on it.  I have been freezing extras off the sweet pepper plants and drying the Anaheim peppers for chili powder for about a month now.  They'll produce until a freeze.  The cayenne plant I overwintered indoors last 2 years died; not sure why.  I have plenty of cayennes frozen but will grow either a cayenne or jalapeño to make more hot sauce next year.  The potted Chipetin pepper plant that has overwintered indoors for a few years now is still going strong.  Peppers love September

I grew three types of pole snap beans this year and Christmas Speckles lima beans.  I planted 1500 Year Old bean vine that can be either harvested tender or left on the vine for dried beans; I'm using it for snap beans.  I did my standby Blauhilde purple Romano type bean.  I planted a Japanese early winged bean that has beautiful blue flowers.  The pole beans are putting on a second flush of beans after fertilizing the pots.  The winged bean takes a while to get going and just started producing beans.  The Christmas Speckles lima bean is on its third round of pod production.  They will all produce up to a hard freeze.
Basil in front, okra to left, cock's comb on right, zinnias in background
I started by bush cucumber 3 times in a pot again this year.  The last time I finally got a vine growing.  I have only gotten about 6 cukes on the vine this year.  I do have some more flowers and new leaves so hopefully I will get more fruits.  I've made 3 quarts of pickles and had 3 left from last year.  This is probably enough to get us to next season.   Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix

My potted eggplant did not do well this year.  I think it is because I let the volunteer morning glory vines go a little too wild across the plants.  Eggplant loves hot weather and lots of sun.  Next year, I will keep the vines away from my eggplant.

The Trombetta summer squash is doing well.  I am getting a few fruits every week so enough for us to eat and give 1 to friends or family each week.  If I have many extras, I will make into zoodles.  This zucchini is one I will grow every year as it is the most disease and pest resistant I have found, it doesn't over produce, and it tastes great.

My raspberry plants are producing fruits again.  I usually have figs, too, but the super warm to freezing cold snap we had in late winter killed my fig tree.  I got one apple off my columnar apple tree this week.  We removed the wire mesh from around it and the deer came and snacked.  I never get many apples off the tree so it was not a big loss.  The goji (or wolf berry) berry bush is producing many fruits.  My kumquat tree is covered in small, green fruits.

The chives, tarragon, thyme, oregano, celery, and sage are all doing quite well.  The Egyptian walking onions are thriving.  All will do well through the fall and into the winter.  I already took a good cutting of all my herbs and have been drying in an upstairs closet for about a month now.  I'll make my herb mix that I use in just about everything once they are fully dry.  Use your own herbs for your Thanksgiving dinner

Basil does not survive a frost so I will harvest all of the plants when the forecast is calling for frost and make pesto that I freeze.  I have a variety called African nunum that does great indoors all winter that I can always have fresh basil when I need it.  It smells wonderful, too.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

I just got my lettuce seeds started this week.  The temperatures are perfect for germinating and growing lettuce right now.  When the seedlings get to a good size, I will transplant them into their winter home in my self watering Earthboxes.  So far, the Tom Thumb, Red Romaine and Landis Winter varieties have sprouted. 

I had let the greens in the Earthbox reseed themselves over the summer and there are new sweet mustard greens, celery, chard, cultivated dandelions, sprouting broccoli, amaranth, and Ruby Streaks mustard growing.  I will cover the Earthboxes with a portable green house later this fall so we can have salads throughout the winter.  Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter

I have had a huge number of volunteer Red Malabar spinach vines from seed from last year's vines.  Will need to do more pulling of the volunteers next year!  Had many volunteers of cock's comb, too.  When they get a decent size, I move them around to pots and in the garden bed.  I love their bright colors.

Make sure you save the seeds from your best and longest producers to plant in your garden next spring.  I also save seeds from organic produce I get from the store that is really good.  Some of my favorite tomato plants have come from seed saved from store bought tomatoes.  Look for heirlooms as they will come back like their parent from seed.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

Tomato, horseradish, marigolds, morning glory and zinnias in the south facing garden
This fall, we will have mustard greens, lettuce, chard, Red Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, garden sorrel, cultivated dandelion, purslane, cress, celery, chives, and sprouting broccoli for salads.  Peppers, snap beans, squash, eggplant and tomatoes will produce until the first freeze.  The Egyptian onions will produce all through winter. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Quick tip-lettuce varieties I started for fall/winter

"Well used" self watering pot I started my lettuce seeds in
Wednesday, September 13, 2023

I started a variety of lettuce types yesterday for harvesting all fall and winter.  With a portable greenhouse, you can keep the Midwest lettuce salads going all the way to next spring.

The challenge to starting lettuce from seed this time of year is that it can be so hot.  The seeds will not germinate well in ground temps above 70 degrees F.  There are a couple of options for summer time seeding.  You can grow in shade, cover with a shade cloth or start your seedlings indoors move outdoors after they have sprouted.  Right now, it is cool with the highs in the upper 70's and lows in the mid 60's so perfect temperatures for lettuce germination.  Outdoor seed starting tips
I like to start in rectangular, self watering pots on our covered patio, close to the watering can on the east side of the house. The seedlings will be up in 7 days if kept well watered.  I let them grow until they have the first set of true leaves and are about 2” tall.  I then transplant them into their permanent home, keeping them well watered for another couple of weeks.  The trick this time of year to planting is getting the plants close to full size by November when daylight hours are too short to support growing.

I planted one container with 8 different varieties of cold hardy lettuces.  Be sure to label your seeds:
-Winter Density-a romaine type that is full size in 54 days
-Tango-a leaf lettuce that is frilly and light green, full size in 45 days
Landis Winter-a butterhead lettuce that reaches full size in 50 days
North Pole-another butterhead lettuce that is full size in 50 days
Tom Thumb-a small romaine type that is full size in 50 days
Winter Crop-a headed lettuce so approximately 50-60 days
Winterwunder-a loose leaf that is full size in 60 days
Red Romaine-a romaine that is full size in 40 days

All of these will have leaves that are harvestable in about half the number of days to get to full size.  On the flip side, it generally takes longer for fall crops to get to full size than the packet says as the temperatures are getting cooler and the daylight shorter going into fall than in spring time.  A rule of thumb is 2 weeks longer to full size.

I like self watering pots because you can fill the reservoir without directly watering the soil surface.  With lettuce the seeds take light to germinate so they are very close to the surface.  Watering the soil itself can dislodge the seeds and move them all around the pot.  This isn't a catastrophe if you have all the same type planted in a pot, but since I have 8 varieties in the same pot, I don't want them moving around so I can see what germinates and how well they do through the season.  

You can start your seeds in any container you prefer.  If you do a coir or peat pot, you can just plant the entire thing in the garden bed after the seedling is up and going strong.


For this round, I'm trying a combo of seed starting mix and potting soil to see if it helps get the seedlings going faster.  I filled the bottom of the pot with potting soil and then a 1" layer of seed starting mix on top of that to finish filling the pot.  I watered the soil well, then planted the seeds, labelling each mini row.  I will continue misting the top to keep the soil moist and filling the reservoir from the bottom.  You don't want the soil to dry out before the seeds have germinated.

After the seedlings are up, I'll wait until they have a few leaves and are about 2" or so tall before transplanting into larger pots for the winter.  I cover all my larger self watering pots later in the season with a portable greenhouse to keep the greens going all winter.  How to extend the garden season

If you want to direct seed in your mulched flower bed, dig a shallow trench about a quarter inch deep, fill with potting soil, seed, pat down, then cover lightly with more potting soil.  Water well with a gentle stream of water so you don’t wash the seed away.  I use a rain head on my watering can.  Even better is to get the soil moist, then scatter the seeds, cover lightly with potting soil and pat gently.  Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

Sunday, September 10, 2023

What to plant in the September edible garden

Fall seedlings in an Italian garden
Sunday, September 10, 2023 

September is a great time to continue planting for fall and winter harvests.  Get the most out of your edible garden by using all the seasons for fresh, homegrown goodness.  With fall gardening, you don't have to worry about pest and disease pressures plus the temperatures are enjoyable for outdoor activity.
What is a four season garden?
You can garden year round in small space
Planning for a four season garden

This month plant more greens and root vegetables.  September is my favorite month for getting winter lettuce and greens going.  I keep pots just for year round greens.  The spring/summer greens have already bolted and gone to seed.  I cleared them out when the seeds are dispersed and the stalks turn brown.  I have volunteer celery, amaranth greens, and sweet mustard greens that has sprouted in some of them.  Plus the Red Malabar spinach is still going strong along with sprouting broccoli and summer greens I started in July.  I need to start my lettuce seeds this week.  I'll group them together so that I can cover them with a portable greenhouse to keep the harvest going all fall and winter.

September is also a great month for starting perennial veggies, fruits, and herbs as well as flowers, trees and shrubs.  There are 2 great things about perennials.  1) You only have to plant them once and they come back year after year.  2)  Perennial greens are the first things up in late winter, early spring.   Midwest Perennial Vegetable Garden

The hardest part is finding a spot to start the cool season crops with so many summer veggies going strong.  I like to start them in pots and then move them out when it gets cooler and more room is opened up.  

Here are the crops you can start in the September Midwest edible garden:

Austrian winter peas
Broccoli transplants
Brussel sprouts transplants
Cabbage transplants
Cauliflower transplants
Corn salad
Fava beans
Italian dandelion
Mustard and Mustard Greens
Winter and Perennial Onions
Snow peas

November edible garden
Look for cold hardy varieties when planting for fall and winter harvests.  You will be surprised to harvest all through the winter months things like greens, onions, Austrian peas, carrots, and cabbage without any cover.  You can also extend the harvest by looking for the same crop with different days to harvest timing so that they mature at different times.  

Finally, you can use cover to extend the harvest all the way to next spring.

When planting when temperatures can get hot, be sure to keep the soil moist until the plants are well established.  Summer and fall planted crops take longer to come to harvest than they do in the spring.  Rule of thumb is to add 2 weeks.  It's because the days are getting shorter in fall rather than longer like in spring.  

A great and easy way to start your fall garden is to sow the seeds in a pot on a covered deck or patio.  This makes it easy to keep an eye on the seedlings and protects them from the harsh hot summer sun.  After they have a couple of sets of their true leaves, you can transplant into the garden bed.  Harden them off first by moving the pot to full sun before transplanting.  "Hardening off" seedlings  After transplanting into the garden, keep them watered regularly during hot, dry weather until well established.

For more summer seed starting tips Outdoor seed starting tips