In The Winter Harvest Handbook, Eliot Coleman sings his praises of winter gardens, in Maine even. I am inching my way toward a fall garden in central New Jersey. Baby steps. Above is a photo from August 22 of the vegetable garden in full summer production. Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beans, arugula, summer squash, eggplant, chard, kale, fennel, lettuce. Garlic, leeks, and onions are either dried and stored in brown paper bags in the basement (garlic and onions) or frozen in Mason jars in the freezer (leeks). Now, in between harvesting and preserving the summer crops, I am attempting to get a fall garden started. The covered beds in the photo above are the beginning.
One problem about fall gardens is the August heat–now September heat. We are in the middle of our second heat wave of the summer. Also in drought conditions. Only an inch and a quarter of rain in August with no rain predicted in the foreseeable future in September. This August was the third warmest August on record for our region.
So, back to the fall garden. The trick is that seeds have to germinate in warm temps in order to have time enough to grow before cool weather and short days limit their growth. Bed covers are one method of reducing heat and conserving moisture. As can be seen in the above photo, bed covers are being used. I am also misting the beds each morning in an attempt to get germination started.
I’m also experimenting a bit with the fall garden. On one side, Johnny’s Selected Seeds vegetables are planted. That’s mostly what can be seen above. On the other side, where the onions have been harvested, I’m planting Seeds of Change vegetables. The race is on.
In previous posts, I have been a staunch consumer of Johnny’s products. I’m still a fan of theirs for sure. It’s just that as I’m paying more attention to varieties, I’m curious about other seed providers. I still remember ordering seeds helter-skelter and not keeping track of them. If I’m remiss now in identifying varieties in the vegetable garden, you should have seen me back then. That was no fun. But now, to order seeds from 2 companies and work to keep their identities intact. That’s my goal. Controlled experiments, as opposed to randomly throwing seed about.
Here is a photo of the vegetable garden on September 3. Today. The Seeds of Change fall garden is under the bed covers on the left. Johnny’s on the right. Let’s see if I can do a rundown of each.
Starting at the farthest back at right, Johnny’s side, all under bed covers, there’s Emperor spinach in one bed, Adriana lettuce in one bed, Crispino lettuce, transplanted from another bed, and arugula in one bed. Break for the pole beans.
Next, without a bed cover, some left-over Helvius lettuce and more Crispino. The bed cover was left off because the pole beans are shading the lettuce nicely. Seems to be working. This bed of lettuce can be seen in the photo above. Some Crispino plants have been transplanted and are looking scraggly just now, but I’m hoping they establish themselves.
Bolero carrots are in the next covered bed. Coming closer, beets, Red Ace and Early Wonder Tall Tops, are in the next covered bed. Fordhook giant chard is in the corner raised bed. Toscano kale in the covered bed closest.
That’s it for the Johnny’s fall garden.
The left side is the Seeds of Change side, except that the farthest covered bed is kale from the summer, which is still producing nicely. Above is an August 1 photo of the kale. Red Russian kale on the left and Toscano kale on the right. The bed is kept covered to keep the cabbage white butterflies out. Otherwise, they are responsible for cabbage loopers on the kale, which pretty much makes it inedible as far as I’m concerned. So far this summer, the kale from this bed has been cabbage looper free. Thank heaven and the bed covers.
In front of a bed of arugula that just keeps on producing incredible leaves for salads–both wild arugula and Wasabi arugula–are, finally, the Seeds of Change covered beds. Scarlet Nantes carrots in the farthest bed. Then Renegade spinach in the next closest bed. Then an All Lettuce mix–leaf lettuce, not heads. It’s an experiment. And Cherry radishes mixed in with the lettuce.
So, if misting the covered beds every morning, plus covering them with bed covers, can make a fall garden, we will have lettuce, radishes, spinach, chard, kale, carrots, arugula, and beets into the fall. Will they germinate. Will they be a complete failure. If not, how long will they grow and produce.