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Thursday, October 07, 2010

October 7 :: Cool Season Crops

Lettuce and Radishes and Swiss Chard! Oh My!

Being a good gardener is all about utilizing your resources. Some would say that as our days shorten and get cooler, our growing season has come to an end. Not so!

There are many cool weather crops that do well in both spring and fall. Many can even tolerate (or are made more tasty by) a frost or two. In my gardens right now i have leaf lettuce, rainbow chard, and radishes which are nearly ready to be eaten, all planted in late August or early September. Coming right along is spinach which has germinated and begun to leaf out. See the photos below!

Johnny's Five-Star Greenhouse Leaf Lettuce Mix

Rainbow (a variety of Swiss) Chard companion planted with Basil

A second batch of rainbow chard, seeded two weeks after the first batch

Radish seedlings, just coming out with their first set of true leaves

Smooth leaf spinach from Johnny's Seeds

Some of you skeptics may be saying 'but you have a greenhouse!'. And you would be right! But i have not turned on the heat in the greenhouse and so it is only marginally warmer than the outside air at this point in the year. You could be growing these plants in field or raised bed, too. Other cool season crops include kale, collards, carrots, and beets. For continuous harvest, these can be seeded mid-summer and then reseeded every two weeks until September.

There are also many inexpesive and energy efficient ways to extend your growing season. One is to start seedlings on a warming mat like the one i have, pictured below before i filled it all the way up with soil blocks containing basil, marjoram, and cucumber seeds.

Click here to learn more and here to shop for warming mats!

Also becoming popular again are cold frames, which everyone and their mother used to use in their Victory gardens during WWII. Cold frames are generally made out of reclaimed (and therefore cheap or free!) building materials like doors and window frames. The idea behind a cold frame is that it traps any sunlight and warms up a small area, in which you can grow lettuce and other veggies nearly year round. Click here to learn more and click here make your own! Utilize those resources!

Enjoy the season and, of course, grow on!

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