October is slipping away. Despite the chill in the air there are still lots of things going on in the fall garden. Even here in NH, where we’ve had several soft frosts, it’s not quite time to put away the spade and hoe. There are many vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard that will handle a light frost. The real cold weather stars are beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, collards, green onions, kale, parsnips, peas, and radishes, all which will tolerate temperature down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit! I’ve seen kale growing, without a care, through several inches of snow and parsnips and sprouts are definitely far superior when they’ve weathered a good freeze…
Needless to say, with moving and packing and our current crazy schedule, I pretty much abandoned the fall garden, allowing it to transform, in its entirety, to Pan’s Acre. Pan’s Acre is usually a section of garden (small – not really an acre!) that I leave in a wild state, allowing nature to decide what will thrive there. I allow the wildlife to nibble there with impunity. It’s simply a nod to nature, and a reminder that gardening is a superficial attempt, at best, to control the living world.
The other day, I went down to harvest some of the overgrown broccolini and New Zealand spinach for the pigs. To my surprise, the fall garden was actually thriving, despite my neglect. It seems that the frost tolerant plants are coming along rather nicely, in some cases completely out-competing the weeds. There’s an amazing batch of radishes, crisp spheres of red fire. The early scarlet globes, my favorite variety, are making perfect Ping-Pong ball sized orbs in two tidy rows. They are probably one of the better batches I’ve seen in a long time.
The loose leaf lettuce is making a definite showing. Salad is a spring and fall only kind of thing at our house – we can’t justify buying it at the store out of season. Funny how one can gorge themselves greedily on leaves and be so satisfied!
The Black Palm kale (Nero Di Toscana) is, of course, in its element. It looks a little silly, a bit like a miniature palm tree, since we’ve harvested most of the lower leaves, showing about two feet of bare stalk before sprouting its long bumpy foliage. There’s still plenty of time to preserve the kale – we’ll both dry and freeze it for use in winter soups, stews and casseroles.
The Red Rock cabbages were not really exciting this year. However, there are a handful of small heads that I’ll harvest in another week or two. They’ll be a perfect size for our meals of two. The rainbow chard was another dud this year, which is pretty surprising; usually chard is something that grows ridiculously well no matter the weather. This is the second crop I put in and the sprouts are barely 3 inches tall. I’m beginning to wonder if it is the seeds.
I put in some mini carrots as well as some Bulls Blood Beets in late August. Both are looking promising and there should be a nice harvest before the ground freezes. If we weren’t moving, I would have merely tried covering them over with hay and digging them all winter long. There is also a healthy crop of scallions, little green soldiers in two tight rows. Glenn will keep busy dehydrating them for winter use as well, as we use a lot of them.
The surprise crop is my Ching Chang Bok Choy which looks delightful. A “baby” bok choy, I’ll start harvesting it next week when it is about 5 inches tall. It was a heavy producer so I’ll probably go with this variety again. It can also be dehydrated for winter use – we might need to look into a second dehydrator!
Many people think of pumpkins, squashes, potatoes and root vegetables in the fall, but in my book autumn is the last hurrah for fresh greens, sprouts and the like. Put down that butternut squash, it’ll keep for weeks! Instead find a local farmer near you and put the last of the fresh veggies on your plate!