Plant now for cool weather delight

Reaping Cool-Weather Rewards
Mississippi,  along with the rest of the South, is blessed with a long growing
season, and now is the time to plant a fall garden so that you can enjoy  fresh,
leafy organic vegetables often until Christmas.
Good  fall plants include mustard greens, spinach, turnips, beets, broccoli,
cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, kale, various lettuces, radishes  and
onions.
You  don’t have to overdo it. Even a small “Jim’s Plot,” only 4 feet by 8
feet, can provide lots and lots of salads. (In fact, you might consider
building a few of them for elderly family members or friends so that  they can
harvest some fresh food, too.)
It’s  hot now, but as temperatures cool, these greens will take off. Some
thrive in colder weather. Many swear that collards taste better after a  frost,
for example; the purplish hue that the leaves take on is a mark  of distinction.
Some  plants—such as radicchio—survive when temperatures drop into the teens,
along with some beets. Their leaves grow back and are delicious as  greens.
If  you already have a Jim’s Plot, just turn under the existing vegetation  for
“green manure,” allowing the plants to decompose in the soil. Add  compost to
return fertility to the soil lost from harvesting crops. You  can also apply
liquid fertilizers in spots to the started plants to give  them a boost. (Use
organic fertilizers only; synthetic fertilizers can  kill earthworms and
microorganisms in the soil.)
If  you are just starting out, you can buy topsoil at some of the local  yard
and garden stores in bulk. Better yet, find a tree-covered spot  behind a garage
or next to a fence where leaves have fallen and  decomposed over the years
leaving the soil nice and loamy. Then find a  sunny spot with southern exposure.
Put down newspapers or cardboard to  keep weeds out of your garden, and cover
with the soil. Start a compost  pile with vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and
eggshells—no meat! Use  the compost to keep your soil fertile.
How  late can you plant? For a general guideline, count backward from first
frost. Here in central Mississippi, we usually have first frost around  Nov. 1,
and the first killing frost Dec. 1. So, you can expect 60 to 90  days of growing
if you plant now.
That’s  not a hard-and-fast rule. Frost can come early. I remember one October
when the weather turned bitterly cold. Or, like last year, we could have  a warm
winter where the problem was keeping the plants from bolting  (going to seed)
rather than dying from frost.
Plant  now to have wholesome, organic produce later. There’s nothing better on
a cold winter day than steaming cooked greens with cheese, onions,  garlic and
hot sauce.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s