Fall plant orders due this Saturday
Here's your friendly reminder to send in your fall transplant orders by this Saturday! This year I'm offering 25 varieties of arugula, broccoli, cabbage, chervil, cilantro, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, spinach, Swiss chard and totsoi (pictured right). Be sure to view more images of these varieties here.
Fall gardens: perfect for beginners
Novice gardeners often choose tomatoes for their first garden. I can certainly understand why: there's nothing like the taste of a juicy, homegrown heirloom tomato, warm from the vine, reviving memories of childhood summers with the grandparents. Alongside friends, we turn Romas into beautiful sauce and salsa, canning them for winter eating and gifts. The challenge of trying to outdo last year's harvest can be quite fulfilling.
But there's the rub: tomatoes can indeed be a challenge. In my opinion, they are some of the most finicky crops (although maybe not quite as difficult as celery and cauliflower). Between trellising, suckering, the blight, blossom end rot, and extreme yearly variability due to the weather, they can make a beginner gardener's head spin. They need just the right amount of light, heat and moisture—not too much and not too little—to thrive. Finding the best varieties for your area's weather conditions takes time.
I fully encourage gardeners to continue trying, as a good tomato year is very rewarding. But I also hope you experiment with some cool weather crops as they are a bit more dependable and can boost your confidence. I don't want beginner gardeners to give up, assuming all gardening is the same as tomato growing.
While almost every vegetable is nearly fool proof with healthy soil, with the correct timing, lettuce is especially so. The only issues I typically have with lettuce are slugs and aphids, but they are rarely so damaging that I need to use organic pest control products. I just give them a triple wash before eating. Parsley is another very reliable, undemanding crop. Most of the brassicas (such as kale, broccoli, collards) perform well as long as they are covered with a row cover and perhaps treated with DiPel (Bacillus thuringiensis or "Bt") for severe cabbage worm infestations and/or pyrethrin for harlequin bug breakouts. In the fall, cabbage worms are less of a nuisance than in spring and early summer, however harlequin bugs can be a problem if not attended to.
Another benefit of the fall garden is the length of the season. With some season extension techniques (a row cover will do in mild winters) and/or succession planting, you can harvest through late winter. Fall greens are cut multiple times, especially chard, kale and collards. Little storage or processing is needed—root crops such as carrots, beets and turnips stay edible in the ground in freezing temperatures. They just need several inches of mulch to keep them warm.
Last but not least—the nutritional value of fall vegetables is outstanding. If you peruse health magazines' and nutrition websites' "top ten nutritious foods," leafy greens and broccoli make pretty much every list. (Not to dismiss the benefits of tomatoes, which is said to have cancer-fighting properties.)
The tricky part of the fall garden is timing, i.e. finding the right window to plant when it's not so hot that the plants wilt or bolt, but they'll have enough time in the growing season to mature. Read the rest of the article on my website.
A beginner gardener's learning curve is steep, but with a garden coach as your Sherpa, the tough parts of the journey will feel a little less daunting. A garden is an investment, and you want to make sure the money you spent on plants, soil amendments and pest control goes to good use. So you might as well increase the likelihood of success by hiring a garden coach. She can also provide the companionship and moral support as you undertake your new endeavor—ensuring the experience is more fun than frustrating.
I recommend all beginner gardeners choose one of my packages that includes hands-on garden training. Now that your summer crops are in the ground, you also may be interested in my "Phone Call Away" service. This package is for those who have established garden beds, but still need instruction on caring for the plants throughout the year. I am available to answer questions via email and phone for these clients. This package includes at least one visit at the client's property.
Coaching and design fees vary depending on the needs of the client and size of the property. I am currently offering a special for a $20 initial consultation and site visit, which usually takes about an hour. That consultation fee is waived if you commit to a package that day. I offer a sliding scale for my services to encourage all community members to try edible landscaping regardless of their resources. Feel free to call or email me to discuss your needs before you commit to the initial site visit.
Late spring recipe: Moroccan braised collards
I love it when I invite people over to cook and they leave excellent recipes behind. In this mild late spring while greens are still tender, I've enjoyed this collard recipe, originally from Highland Lake Inn in Flat Rock. I substitute raisins for currants and agave for sorghum if that's what I have in my cupboard.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup currants
1 cinnamon stick (or a few dashes of cinnamon)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili flakes or crushed red peppers
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 quart chicken stock
2 large bunches of collards
1 teaspoon salt
sorghum or molasses to taste
Place olive oil, onion and garlic in a large pot on medium heat. Sweat onions until translucent, then add currants, cinnamon stick, cumin and chili flakes and toast slightly. Add apple cider vinegar, chicken stock and collards to the pot. Add salt and stir collards periodically. Continue to braise until greens are wilted and braising liquid is reduced. Add sorghum to taste and adjust salt as needed. Serve with basamati rice or chickpeas.
Contact Megan at M R Gardens
Earn a free plant for every one of your referrals who purchases a plant from M R Gardens. Just tell your friend to let Megan know they heard about M R Gardens from you!
to read about my diverse background in horticulture, sustainable agriculture and experiential education.
M R Gardens business values
Pick the kinds of culinary and medicinal herbs you need in whatever amounts you want at an affordable price. The following are currently available: lavender, thyme, oregano, rosemary, chives, chamomile, tulsi tea, feverfew and catmint. Basil should be ready for harvest in a couple weeks and parsley will be available in the fall.
and pick up your bouquet on site at M R Gardens in Oakley.