Even if you are not planning to plant many veggies and herbs this fall, you should definitely invest the time to plant a cover crop in both your garden and raised beds. Cover crops take very little effort. You plant them once, water initially to get them started, and then let Mother Nature take over — assuming we are blessed with another wet winter.
Here in the Bay Area, the primary need is to add nitrogen to our heavy clay soil in order to loosen it up and feed our plants. Excellent nitrogen-fixing crops include vetch, cowpeas, fava beans, and crimson clover. Buckwheat is a great choice if you want a quick fix. It germinates in about five days and is ready to be turned under in about a month. You can feed your soil now, and still get a great fall garden planted.
For information and cool-season crops, don't miss the upcoming Fall Garden Market at Martial Cottle Park's Harvest Festival Oct. 7. The festival celebrates the agricultural heritage of Santa Clara Valley. There will be food, entertainment, activities for the kids, park tours, and more.
You will find seedlings of many Asian and Italian greens such as Chinese broccoli, pak choi, tatsoi, chicory, escarole, and radicchio. There will be dozens of varieties of beets, cabbage, and cauliflower. Try growing a few leafy greens that are great in soups, stews, and stir-fry meals, such as chard, kale, and mustard. They are cut-and-come-again plants that will keep on giving through next spring. And, if like me, you can't live without a fresh salad, you will find a variable salad bar of lettuce, spinach, arugula, cress, and mache to grow; all you'll need for serving them is a little vinaigrette!
And yes, there will be peas, turnips, onions, and even kohlrabi, collards, and artichokes.
Don't miss out on the blooming beauties: Agrostemma, Clarkia, Delphinium, Larkspur, Linaria, Snapdragons, Sweet Peas. Flowers not only add beauty, but bring in the bees and beneficial insects necessary for pollination and fending off the “bad bugs” that can damage your garden.
Whether you are a seasoned-gardener or just starting out, you can pick up lots of tips from the festival's free educational talks — Amazing Succulents, Cool Season Vegetables, Glorious Garlic, and Native Plants.
Growing your own food, whether with your family or by yourself, is not only enjoyable but truly important! You will conserve water, waste less (no one wants to throw away what they have worked to grow), avoid using harmful chemicals, nurture your soil, and help support and feed our native birds, bees, and other insects. And most importantly, you will make a huge, positive impact on your children; kids actually will eat what they grow! So head on out to one of our upcoming Fall Markets, and dig in!
Upcoming Fall Fall Markets
There are three upcoming Santa Clara County Master Gardeners Fall markets The main event will be at San Jose's Martial Cottle Park (5283 Snell Ave.) on Oct. 7, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free, but there is a $6 parking fee.
Other Master Gardener Fall Garden Markets will be presented Sept. 23, 10 a.m.-noon, Palo Alto Demo Garden, 851 Center Dr., Palo Alto; and Oct. 14, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Guglielmo Winery, 1480 E. Main Ave., Morgan Hill.
by UC Master Gardener Rebecca Jepsen
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Jepsen
This article first appeared in the September 17 issue of the San Jose Mercury News.