The weather is crisp and refreshing, the sun is still brightening our afternoons. It is the time of year gardeners dream about. With little energy our demonstration gardens at the nursery have become rejuvenated with fresh foliage and autumn blossoms. We just finished replanting edibles in our Children’s Garden and there is something so composed and poetic about a cool season vegetable garden. Lettuces, cabbage, broccoli, chard, all have a beautiful color pallet and growth habit. It’s almost too pretty to harvest and eat.
Take advantage of this perfect fall weather and begin your landscape and edible garden projects. While the soil is still warm get trees, shrubs, vegetables and herbs in the ground so their roots can become established before the chill of the winter sets in. Most think of fall as the closure of fruits and vegetables grown in the backyard, but your cool season vegetables provide an abundant harvest with little additional work or water because this season, you have weather on your side.
What to Plant
Fresh oranges and lemons add zest and fragrance to your home. Planting your new citrus now will allow them to become acclimated and store up energy for their fruit production. Citrus are frost tender so give them protection during the nights when there is a frost warning. You can control the size of your citrus trees by pruning them regularly. Look for “dwarf” or “semi-dwarf” varieties which have a slower, more compact growth habit. We have dwarf citrus trees in the center of our vegetable beds to aesthetically add height to the space and cast a little shade for herbs during the summer months.
Kumquats. Bright, cheerful, grape size orange fruit make a welcoming display to potted arrangements, flower beds, and floral bouquets.
Meyer Lemons. These are actually a cross between a regular lemon and Mandarin orange. You can enjoy their fruit winter through spring. The presence of the Mandarin orange in this variety removes some of the tangy quality that most lemons have.
The season of cooking will quickly be upon us. Having a stock of convenient, portion ready staple herbs at your fingertips will complete your culinary creations. I like to make a roll of herb butter with garlic, rosemary, oregano, thyme and sea salt and keep it in my freezer for continual use. I add chunks of it to vegetable dishes, meats and sauces. It’s easy to make and adds depth to your plates.
In the winter months it is best to have some simple potted herb gardens near your back patio for easy access. Keep them under cover to protect from the frost.
My favorite part of cool season gardens is the abundance of sweet, fresh greens to add to your salads. We have a variety of six packs, already sprouted and ready to go in the ground. Don’t skimp on the greens. Plant an assortment of varieties to adorn your dishes throughout the season. You can have a beautiful array of color and flavor profiles available in your garden that you cannot find in the grocery store. Simply harvest your lettuce varieties by trimming off the outer, mature leaves as you need them.
Arugula. This peppery leafy green adds a subtle spice to salad dishes. Delicious as a garnish to red meats or mix with pungent cheeses balanced with berries for a holiday salad.
Swiss Chard. A brilliant display of color in the garden and the kitchen. Bright yellow, red, or purple stems liven up the space.
What to plant now: lettuce, kale, arugula, spinach, endive, chard and cabbage.
Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and broccoli raab round out this category of cool season edibles. The leaf color and texture of these plants add a unique contrast within the landscape. Not to mention their diverse culinary attributes.
Colorful Cauliflower and Broccoli. This year we have a beautiful assortment of unique varieties of cauliflower and broccoli. From the traditional form and color, to shades of yellow and purple, this is an exciting addition to your home.
Brussel sprouts. PR for children have given Brussel sprouts a bad name. But with the right ingredients (bacon for starters), this is a sweet and tasty addition to your holiday table, especially when freshly harvested from your garden. My favorite way to cook them – Slice your Brussel sprouts in half and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Add chopped bacon, rosemary sprigs, almonds, salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast on 450˚ until tender (about 30 minutes). Remove and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. It is decadent, crispy, sweet and savory. Everything you want in these coming winter months.