In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
October, 2001
Regional Report

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Succulent young mustard greens seeded themselves for the fall garden.

Planting Now for Spring Gardens

I recently recalled a conversation I had with my gardening friend Nick last spring when I commented on his beautiful spinach. We always talk and argue about all sorts of garden things, but the best part of this conversation was a casual comment about planting spinach. I love spinach and plant it every spring, but it always seems to bolt before I get a chance to harvest all I want.

Fall Seeding

Well, Nick plants his spinach in the fall. The seeds germinate and begin to grow while the weather is cool, then the plant goes dormant as the weather gets cold. Spinach is tough enough to survive the winter and in very early spring, begins producing greens again. He doesn't even mulch it over the winter.

I've had good luck seeding endive and escarole in fall, and this year had some lettuce survive the winter under a cold frame. Early spring greens are so appealing, and this is a way to get them even earlier. I vowed to start spinach this fall.

Getting a Jump on Spring

I began to survey everything I plant in the garden, and I'm becoming inspired to take things a step further. There are a number of things I could probably plant now for early plants next spring. Not to mention how this would ease the spring workload.

I always have potato plants that sprout from the occasional one I miss harvesting, so the light bulb just went on. Why don't I actually plant those tiny ones from this year that are too small to bother cooking? If I plant them now and pull mulch over them, perhaps I'll get extra early potatoes next spring.

Since I let my mustard greens bolt to blossoms this year, they naturally spread some seed for me. Right now I have succulent young mustard plants growing beautifully for harvest later in fall. I also always have some mustard plants come up on their own in spring, so why not intentionally plant seeds now to grow where I want them?

My mind is reeling from the possibilities. Even tomatoes always send up volunteers, so why not actually plant seeds now? I rely on cilantro, tomatillos and dill to reseed, so why not put them where I want them now? I plant my garlic every fall, so why not onions also?

I'm not sure I'm ready to give over the whole garden to an experiment such as this, but I can certainly sacrifice a portion of the area for trials. Just in case, I'm sure I'll plant in the traditional manner next spring as well, but this could be a whole new way to garden for me!

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