Thanks to the Fall Garden

This year’s fall garden has been better than ever.
    The August plantings of Contender and Crocket green beans each provided at least three pickings of the most tender and flavorful green beans we have ever enjoyed.
    The broccoli has been out of this world. Ball-head cabbage is ready for making sauerkraut. The kohlrabi is crisp and sweet and great shredded in salads. The cauliflower is just reaching its peak for harvesting, along with the savoy cabbage. The beets are just about ready to be pulled, and the greens have been a joy to eat with a little balsamic vinegar.
    The late July planting of peas had generated four pickings by early November, and I expect to harvest more before a black frost finally kills them.
    The lettuce is still producing tender and juicy leaves. Carrots are getting sweeter with every cold night.
    Now that the kale has been frosted, it is ready to eat. For the past couple of years, I have been planting Siberian kale because its leaves are very tender and it keeps producing nearly all winter long.
    After a couple more frosts, we will start eating collard greens. The more frosts they are exposed to the sweeter they become.
    We will be eating Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving this year, no earlier. This spring I was not able to purchase the Churchill variety that is generally ready to eat in early November. Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables, especially when they are coated with olive oil and roasted in the oven. You eat a plateful of those and you will think you are already in heaven.
    However, there is no better root vegetable than spring-dug parsnips. The parsnips have been growing in the garden all summer, but they will not reach their peak until mid- to late-February. Either stir-fried in butter or made into parsnip patties, they are well worth waiting for.
    I hope you, too, have taken advantage of our cool fall gardening season. As the daylight hours grow shorter and both day and night temperatures become cooler, vegetables that grow best under such conditions maximize their production capacity.
    Lettuce plants are slower to bolt and form seed heads, peas continue to flower and set pods until the plants are eventually killed by the black frost and both broccoli and cauliflower produce larger heads and remain tender through the harvest and are not attacked by spider mites. The cooler weather also minimizes the need to spray to control cabbage looper with BT. The need to irrigate is considerably reduced because cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours reduce water loss by evaporation and transpiration.
    Growing these same crops in the spring generally results in a limited harvest that demands more irrigation and more frequent spraying over a longer period. Our spring temperatures rise quickly which is contrary to the growing needs of these crops.
    Thanks to our fall garden, we’re eating well and will be into spring.