Gardening: Time to plant the fall vegetables and herbs
If you planted lettuce early in the season, it’s probably getting ready to bolt and the leaves are beginning to turn bitter. So you'll want to harvest now while it’s still edible. Folks who are fans of arugula will enjoy the flavor of this mature lettuce.
But don’t think the gardening season is over, because now is the perfect time to plant the seeds of fall crops, which include lettuces, Swiss chard, kale and Asian greens. Beets, carrots and radishes can also be part of the mix. And dill, cilantro and basil are also on the list.
You won’t find seedlings at garden centers at this time of year, but many garden centers still have seeds available. The six English Garden centers in the metro Detroit area carry packaged seeds year-round. And you can also get them online. Look for veggies listed as ready to harvest at 60 days from transplant.
The secret to starting seeds outdoors when the temperatures are hot and dry is to deep water the soil and cover it with cardboard, black plastic or burlap, so the seed bed doesn’t get crusty and weeds don’t sprout. When you’re ready to plant, if the soil has dried, water it the day before, plant the seeds and cover the area with a floating row cover. This spun polyester material allows sun and water to penetrate but helps to hold the moisture in the ground, so leave it in place until the seeds germinate. You can water right through it. It’s sold under brand names such as Grass Fast, Harvest Guard and Remay.
When your seedlings emerge in the garden, remove the row covers and store them away for use in fall. If an early frost threatens use them to cover your plants, including your flowers, and they will save the day.
Another easy to grow cool-season vegetable you might want to try is kohlrabi. I like to peel the bulbs and slice them for eating raw with dips. They are mild in flavor, low in calories and you can’t beat the crunch.
Timely tip: If you’re growing Brussel sprouts in the garden, now is the time to trim off the top of the plant. This action stops the plant from using its energy to produce more sprouts, which won’t have time to mature. But it will direct its energy to those that have already developed, and they will grow larger.
Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle