Timing is critical for fall planting. Starting the first week of September is about the right time for the mid Atlanta area. As you can see in the photographs, my fall crop is up despite my timing. My gardening consultant, Robert (Bunk) Knopp, the managing owner of Knopp Farms, has recommended and has gifted me six collard greens’ starter plants. Unfortunately, all have died; the cause remains a mystery. Bunk Knopp thinks the usually wet weather might be partly the reason.
Also, collards prefer full sun, and my garden has had precious little this September. This vegetable likes an ample supply of water too, but the lack of sun has played a part in my starter plants dying. It is all a balancing act mother nature conducts. Replacing starter plants this late in the season is futile. Many local nurseries have sold out by the first week in September. So, next year I will start earlier, or I will consider growing my own starter plants in a makeshift hothouse for fall planting.
Normally, collards are ready to pick in about 60 days after transplanting starter plants to the garden. The seeds planted near the end of September, a desperate attempt to have collard greens, are about two inches tall, and are more likely to produce next spring. Still, I hope for a few greens this season to cook.
Aside from collards, I have planted flat leaf kale–another dark leafy vegetable that enjoys full sun. Kale, like its cousin collards, likes the shade in hot climates, and thrives in cool-season weather. The flavor of kale and collard greens improves after a frost. Kale is a fast grower, and so I am hopeful this green will grace my table by Thanksgiving.
Planting the “Tokyo Cross”–a turnip green variety–has proved to be a wise decision. It is another fast growing leafy green maturing in six to seven weeks. I have planted “Tokyo Cross” primarily for the turnip, which has a sweet with a nutty taste. The leaves I will pick while thinning, and eat like spring greens. Thinning will allow the remaining plants to mature into sweet tasting turnips in about ten weeks. So, I have another backup alternative for the collards.
Another cold weather green is “arugula” (other names rocket, rucola and roquette). It is a mustard tasting vegetable and is often mixed with other salad greens. This second planting of arugula shares space with the lettuce plants. This location has worked well for the arugula with the lettuce partially shading it. Like lettuce, the more you pick, the more will grow. Arugula is a hardy plant and provides an interesting mix to my salad greens.
A quick note: Tat soi is in my late fall garden as I have promised in my Spring Harvest I blog. I am curious so see its rosette growth which differs from its spring growth. I will photograph this vegetable to compare the difference in the shape of its growth.
Also, the spinach seeds I have planted about the same time as the collards have not done well. I am relying on my “New Zealand Spinach,” which “is not related to true spinach,” states Victory Seeds, “but the leaves taste similar to, and some think better than spinach.” New Zealand Spinach has survived the hot days and is my saver as this plant continues to produce and thrive in my garden. It is another leafy vegetable added to my salads greens.
Peas are another cold weather plant, and the plants are beginning to grow onto the “pea stocks” I have pushed into the ground to give peas support as they grow. This planting is an experiment because peas usually need three months before it is time to harvest them. The good thing about pea shoots, however, is that you can add them to your salad, or lightly cooked in stir-fries. So, I anticipate this delightful vegetable.
To round out my fall garden, I have planted garlic, but there are differing opinions when best to plant this legendary health giving vegetable. Garlic needs about nine months before the planted cloves grow its own new bulb. So, if all goes well, I can anticipate these plants will be ready late spring or early summer 2012.
Finally, zucchini is not in my garden, but Betsy Blose, a fellow gardener, has grown and has given me a four-foot long tromboncino–a cousin of zucchini. Finding ways to cook this vegetable has been a lot easier than storing it. Although you can store this plant in the refrigerator up to two weeks if you have the room. I have cut this vegetable into smaller sections, storing them in vegetable bags in the refrigerator.
Tromboncino has a rich flavor. You can cook it as you would zucchini. I have made my traditional squash casserole, and zucchini bread. However, the squash stew is the winner for me. I found inspiration for this recipe in an old cookbook Mrs Cladwells’ Cookbook (a gift from a friend) first published about 1925. I have updated with a few handy ingredients from my garden and a few other items. I first had it as a stew and then have pureed the stew to make a delicious soup.
- 2 Tbs butter (smart balance is an option)
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 8 Trombocino, chopped
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- 4 Tbs chopped fresh dill weed
- 1. In a large frying pan, melt butter; add onion and saute until translucent. Add diced sweet potato, zucchini, thyme, rosemary, basil, cumin and white pepper, and cook for 5 minutes.
- 2. In a large-sized cooking pot, add broth and bring to boil. Add zucchini, tomatoes, sweet potato mixture; reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes to an hour.
- 3. When cooked, puree in food processor or blender in batches. Return to cooking pot, add sour cream and bring just to boil, but do not boil. Add soy sauce and stir well. Adjust seasonings to taste. Garnish with dill weed. Soup may be served hot or chilled.
Yes, I have extended the productive life of my garden for a few more weeks. It is my plan to harvest many of the vegetables mentioned here in time for Thanksgiving. Then I will and then to prepare for December’s frosts. If I am lucky I will eat collards maybe Christmas day.