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Cool Weather Crops are Hot This Fall

Wednesday October 23, 2013


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It might be October, but growing season isn’t over until the first hard frost hits. There are still plenty of plants you can grow, saving you money in the grocery store’s produce aisle.

Fall is a fantastic time for gardening as in Ontario, we tend to get more rain, there is still plenty of sunlight, and certain crops seem to thrive with this climate. Some veggies even just taste a little better when nipped by a little bit of frost. Be forewarned, you just can’t plant a crop in September, and expect it to grow. Most fall crops should be planted in July or August. Planting in these summer months makes sure that crops will have time to mature before the first frost in the fall.  For a kickstart to growth, start with a transplanted plant, rather than a seed, which will make the growing process quicker.

If you’ve kept your garden in good shape all summer, it won’t take much effort to get your crops ready for the autumn harvest. If you’ve neglected your garden near the end of the summer (hey, it gets busy then with vacations and getting the kids back to school) here are just a few simple steps to get your garden into tip-top shape for your garden’s second wind.

Tidy up Your Garden

Remove any spent plants, like lettuce, cucumbers, and peas. They are pretty much done for the season and might draw the attention of pests as they rot. Also, get rid of any weeds before they begin to spread. Throw all of the plants into your compost heap, so you’ll have nice soil for the following year.

Make sure you get rid of any fallen fruits, as rotting fruit can attract wasps and bees. Bees are very active in the fall as it’s their last hurrah before they die off for the season.

Set up the Soil

Freshen up your garden soil by replacing any old mulch from the summer. Straw makes for a good cover as it can easily be scattered. Spiders also like straw, which will help control the insect population within your garden’s very own ecosystem.

Loosen up any compacted soil and fluff it up with a shovel or garden fork. You don’t need to do any major tilling, you just want to move enough soil around so water can get through. Work in some compost if you think your plants need a few extra nutrients.

Pick Your Plants

By using transplants, you’ll save a lot of time as the plants will be a solid six weeks before you plant them. You can even buy transplants that are sold in biodegradable, and environmentally-friendly pots.

Here are some top crops for fall planting:

    • Top bunch collards – This fall bounty yields a lot of produce that is rich in vitamins. They grow best with full sun exposure and taste sweeter after they’ve been kissed by the sun. Space transplants 36 inches apart.
    • Spinach – Spinach is actually related to beets, and it’s full of lots of amazing nutrients. Spinach thrives in cool weather, where it will produce a lot of leaves. It’s best to grow spinach in full sun, but if it’s in a partial shade, you’ll still get a decent amount of produce.
    • Winterbor kale – Kale is getting a lot of press lately, as it packs a whole lot of nutritious punch. Winterbor Kale loves the cool weather, which is beneficial, as you can keep yourself healthy into the winter months with kale salads, kale chips and kale smoothies. When harvesting Kale, you want to cut away the outer leaves, so the center can grow continuously.
    • Early dividend broccoli – If your green thumb isn’t really up to par, try growing Early dividend broccoli, which is easy to grow. Broccoli is also high in fiber and calcium and tastes great raw, steamed, and especially covered in cheese.
    • Mustard greens – Mustard greens give you spicy hot leaves that add a bunch of flavour to any salad. This plant grows fast is is very nutritious. If it’s a little too spicy for you, try it after the first frost, where it will be a little milder and sweeter.
    • Bonnie hybrid cabbage – You’ve probably seen this cabbage in the grocery store but were always afraid to buy it. Bonnie hybrid cabbage is large, round and of a blue-green colour.  It’s very nutritious, being high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, K, and fiber.  You can ferment this cabbage too, and make some sauerkraut, just in time for Oktoberfest!

If fall has passed, or it’s a few months away, perhaps we’ve planted a little thought bubble to get your rolling on planting and maintaining a fall garden.  You have to remember, Thanksgiving was always in place to celebrate the fall bounty and as such, your gardening duties don’t end once Labour day strikes.

The Woolcott Team

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