- Author: Pamela M. Geisel
We have just gone through a couple of weeks of over 100F in northern California on top of being inundated by smoke from all of the wildfires in the mountains surrounding the Sacramento Valley. Nonetheless it really is time to think about that fall vegetable garden. We call this the cool season garden because the plants tolerate colder temperatures...not that they need cold temperatures to grow. Getting your cool season vegetables in this time of year ensures that they grow to an adequate size before the soil temperatures cool to the point that they stop growing until spring. Your plants will be large by the time they come into the harvest period in early to late spring. Some of the things that I intend on planting in the next few weeks include kale, fennel, spinach, Swiss chard, beets, carrots, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces and turnips. Notice I did not include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or cabbage. The reason is that I have become so frustrated with the pest problems associated with them. The cabbage aphids, and cabbage loppers make these crops a pain....both pests are persistent little buggers and to try and be an organic gardener and manage them -well it isn't worth it to me. Besides that, they are usually so cheap to buy in the market at any time of the year. The rest of the crops tend to be more pest free and they are generally more expensive to purchase in the market and, most importantly, I love these crops.
Of the varieties that I recommend, for kale, I love the “Winterbor” curled varieties. You do have to watch the curled types carefully though for any aphids. Once they get inside the curly leaves, it is really tough to get them under control. I also love the smooth Georgia-type hybrid with savoyed leaf called “Top Bunch”.
Of the spinach varieties, while each seed company might each have their own name, I think the best for the Northern California area is a slow bolting savoy type. Johnnies Selected Seeds has several but “Tyee” is the one that I buy. I am going to plant extra of this because one of my friends husband has cancer. He feels that spinach greens with their high level of antioxidant helps to support his immune system and fights the cancer in his body.
Of the chards, “Rainbow” is just beautiful both in the garden and on the table. The color will generally cook out of them but while in the garden they are just lovely.
I have the best luck with mixed lettuces harvested as baby leaves rather than head lettuce. All types do well if harvested often. I also like to plant some radicchio because it is so darn expensive to buy and is great to use in salads for color and taste.
I am going to plant a variety of carrot good for overwintering in the ground called “Napoli”. The beet variety for me is “Merlin” (a dark red) and a Chioggia type that has the beautiful interior striping.
So, if you want a low work garden this winter into spring-start now! Remember, you don’t need an official vegetable “garden” to grow edibles. You can incorporate many of these crops into your annual flower beds, a garden box on the balcony, or in a sunny spot off of the patio. For more ideas on growing vegetables visit with your local Master Gardener Volunteers. To find the Master Gardeners in your county go to: http://camastergardeners.ucdavis.edu/
And for more vegetable growing information go to the California Garden Web