In the Garden:
Cold frames can be made from PVC plastic tubing.
The heat and humidity of August can make us forget that chilly weather is not far away. And so can the abundance of the garden, overflowing with tomatoes, corn, green beans, and peppers. If the garden isn't burned up with the heat and the pace of summer, I often am by now. Yet I always try to inspire myself to plan and plant veggies for the fall and winter.
Preparing the Soil
Wherever there's a free space in the garden, I till or dig up the soil, replenish it with some organic matter and fertilizer, and plant seeds or transplants from mid-August until mid-September. I keep the area watered and, if possible, provide some shade with lathe or shade cloth.
Using Cold Frames
One of my favorite aspects of gardening is experimenting with different methods of cold-weather protection so that I can extend the season. I've tried all manner of homemade and purchased cold frames, as well as row covers and wire support hoops. My favorite so far is a 5x6-foot tentlike frame made out of PVC pipe and covered with plastic that is attached with Velcro. With this cold frame I can squeeze a few more weeks out of the growing season and still be harvesting greens in December.
Kale: My Favorite Fall Crop
Kale is one of my all-time favorite vegetables, and it thrives in cool weather. Often, it overwinters, yielding fresh leaves early the next spring. Kale is also one of the most nutritious vegetables, filled with cancer-fighting phytochemicals, lutein for eye health, and anti-oxidant carotenoids and vitamins C and E.
Usually, I plant traditional curled varieties, such as 'Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch' and 'Winterbor'. This year I'm also trying 'Red Russian', a smooth-leaved variety with a touch of red. When young, it is great mixed in with other lettuces for mesclun. At any stage it is delicious stir-fried with a bit of olive or sesame oil, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame seeds.
What Else to Grow
Other cold-tolerant vegetables include collards, radish, arugula, turnip, and broccoli raab. 'Vitamin Green', a new discovery for me, is a chard-like green with smooth, deep green leaves and white stems. Speaking of greens, Asian greens are easy to grow and can be eaten fresh or cooked. For starters, try the purple-stemmed 'Hon Tsai Tai', mizuna, pak choi, or tatsoi. The easiest way to have salad greens in the fall is to plant one or more of the salad mixtures offered by seed companies.
To round out my fall garden, I plant a number of herbs that thrive in cool weather. Cilantro, chervil, parsley, green onions, chives, and garlic chives all do well in the fall garden. Scallions and bunching onions like 'Evergreen Hardy White' as well as the red-stemmed varieties are very hardy and take up little garden space.
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