Some start fall plantings from seed the last week of July. Now to mid August is great time too! Varieties make all the difference! Planting from seed gives you so many more choices!
Beets are so beautiful! Tops and roots are both nutritious! In salad as chopped greens, shredded roots. Root soup! Steamed slices. Cold cubes with a dash of Balsamic! There are numerous colors, a combo seed pack may be perfect for you. Plant them on the sunny side, just barely under, larger plants like broccoli or kale, at the base of peas. Plant a beet patch alternated with pretty little red bunch onions!
Brassicas & Bagradas If you have Bagrada bugs this July/August, wait to plant your Brassicas until October when it cools and the bugs are gone. Plant from transplants then. Brassicas are our broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, arugula, mustard greens, Mizuna, radish.
With all the large Brassicas, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, I highly recommend succession, staggered plantings, even of the same type plant. Several of us at the Community Garden planted around the same time. The plants thrived, but months later had never produced fruits! It was the weather. We just planted at the ‘wrong’ time. Plant some, then 3 weeks to a month later plant some more. And that’s not a bad idea if you can’t eat all those big broc and cauli heads at once! If you have a small garden, plant three of a six pack, give three away. Plant three more later on. Cabbages can be ‘stored’ in the field, but fresher is more tender.
- Broccoli! My personal favorite variety is All Season F1 even though it doesn’t come in purple! It is a short variety about a foot and a half tall, produces a big main head followed by large 3″ diameter side heads, and later on a plentiful supply of smaller ones! It continues to grow side branches, so the plant needs room to expand. The most radically different than that variety I ever grew was 5′ tall with trillions of little 1″ side shoots that I got really tired cutting. These days I cut side shoots off down the stem several leaves below, to the second to lowest producing junction, which slows things down so I have time to eat what I got before the next harvest.
Research has shown there are less aphids when you plant different varieties of brocs together! Buy mixed 6 packs of brocs when they are available if you like the varieties in it, or plant a mix of seeds of varieties you like. At least plant two different kinds, one of each on one place, then in other places. This keeps diseases and pests from spreading one plant to another. UC study explains
If you like the scent, winter, early spring are good times for cilantro. It doesn’t bolt so fast. Summer it bolts, winters it will freeze, so replants go with the territory. Cilantro makes brocs grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!
Broccoli vitamins and nutrients typically are more concentrated in the flower buds than in leaves. That makes broccoli and cauliflower better sources of vitamins and nutrients than Cole crops in which only the leaves are eaten, like kale, collards or Brussels sprouts. The anti-cancer properties of these vegetables are so well established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of broccoli and other Cole crops. Broc is high in bioavailable Calcium too.
- Brussels Sprouts are iffy in our 1 mile-from-the-coast climate. They like colder. If you don’t mind small 1″ fruits, go for it. They certainly are tasty, like mini cabbages! Buy local varieties recommended by your neighbors or nursery.
- Cabbages grow huge, an easy 2′ footprint, but slowly. If you love cabbage but can’t eat a huge head, select varieties that mature sooner, harvest when smaller or grow minis! Mini Pixie Baby is a white; Red Acre Express is a red, both tasty! Plant any variety cabbage you like, though red and savoy types, resist frost better!It is said lettuces repel cabbage moths. Put a few of them between the cabbages. Plant lettuces from transplants because dying parts of Brassicas put out a poison that prevents some seeds, like tiny lettuce seeds, from growing. Red cabbage shreds are pretty in winter salads. If you are making probiotic sauerkraut, let the heads get very firm so your sauerkraut is good and crunchy!
- Cauliflower comes in traditional white, also yellow, green and purple! It comes in the traditional head shapes, and also the castle green spiral variant, Romanesco! It’s a visual choice! The colors do have varying antioxidant qualities if that is a factor for you. Once that main head is cut, unlike broccoli, cauliflower doesn’t make side shoots. Unless you eat the greens, your plant is done. It’s compost time.
- Kale, the Queen of Nutrition! Kale’s attractive greenery packs over ten times the vitamin A as the same amount of iceberg lettuce, has more vitamin C per weight than orange juice! kale’s calcium content is in the most bioavailable form – we absorb almost twice as much calcium from kale than we do from milk! Also, kale is one of the foods that lowers blood pressure naturally.
There are several varieties! Dense curly leaf, a looser curly leaf, Lacinato – Elephant/Dinosaur long curved bumpy leaf, Red Russian flat leaf, Red Bor a medium curly leaf, and Red Chidori, an edible ornamental kale! And there are more amazing choices! Plants with more blue green leaves are more cold hardy and drought tolerant!
Aphids and white fly love Kale, so you might want to choose varieties without those dense convolutions the insects can’t be gotten out of. But for the footprint per return, curly leaf kale can’t be beat. Keep watch. Spray those little devils away. Remove yellowing leaves immediately. White flies are attracted to yellow. Take a look at this Mother Earth page for some good practical thinking and doing!
Chard has two main varieties, regular colorful size, and huge super prolific white Fordhook Giant size! Colorful chard is better than flowers ~ it especially brightens the winter garden! It has super nutrition, is low calorie. It produces like crazy, the most if it has loose, well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter. If you need nutrition per square foot, the Giant is the way to go! Fordhooks are a phenomena!
Peas and Carrots, no onions, onion family, within several feet. Onions stunt peas. Carrots grow down, peas grow up, perfect! The frilly carrot foliage is lovely living mulch. Be sure your soil is soft for carrot growth, but not manured or they get hairy and sometimes fork. Peas make their own Nitrogen, and carrots get hairy if overfed. Peas need water, but over watering causes carrots to split.
Peas come in two plant size varieties, bush and pole. Bush varieties produce sooner all at once; pole takes longer but produces continuously. A lot of gardeners plant both for an earlier and longer pea-loving harvest!
Peas come in three main kinds!
- SNAP! Those are eaten off the plant, pod and all, tummy beans! Many never make it into the kitchen! You can cook them, but why?! They are a quintessential snack, delightful bits in a fresh salad!
- English are the originals, but are grown for the pea, not the pod! These are also called shelling peas since the peas need to be removed from the pod. These can come in splendid varieties 8″ long, full of tasty peas!
- Chinese peas are the flat ones you get with those Oriental dishes, although many of them never get to the kitchen either!
The last thing to know about peas is they can be Stringless! Look for that on the seed package or transplant tag. Strings can be tough, get tangled in your teeth. Take time to remove the strings before using. It’s a simple thing, but stringless peas take less time, makes a difference to your enjoyment.
You can go happily quite crazy picking veggie varieties! If you can’t make up your mind, if one is an All America Selection, AAS, go for it! They are generally superb. You may have a dilemma whether to go with heirlooms only or some hybrids too. Nature hybridizes plants all the time, so I feel good with both. GMOs are another story. Personally I am not in favor of them. Safe Seeds sellers list by state and country. Companies known to use GMO sources. Some may surprise you.
Get used to thinking in combinations! Happy plant communities help each other thrive! And speaking of communities, Brassicas don’t partner up with soil community forming mycorrhizal fungi. Other winter veggies do, so if you are buying compost, get the ones with the most mycorrhizal fungi, and sprinkle the roots of non-Brassica transplants with mycorrhizal fungi when you are planting!
May you and your garden enjoy each other’s company!