"My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant's point of view."
~ H. Fred Ale
Summer vegetable gardening enthusiasts seem to out-number those that grow vegetables in the fall by quite a bit. We're not really sure why.
Fall vegetable gardening has a lot of things going for it.
The temperatures are not as hot, so the garden does not require as much water as it did in the summer; it's also much more pleasant to garden in the cooler weather.
There are not as many pests and generally the weed growth is not quite as rampant.
Of course, the variety of vegetables you will be growing in the fall will be different.
While summer is all about plants that bear delicious fruits (think tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, etc.), fall vegetables shift the focus to leaves, stems, roots, flower buds and pods.
Leafy vegetables include lettuce, chard, spinach, collards, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard, endive and chicory.
In the lettuce category, you can grow either leaf lettuce or head lettuce and there are enough varieties to keep your gardening endlessly interesting.
Until recently a rarely-grown vegetable, healthy kale seems to be enjoying a cult-like following of late, with many recipes available for a variety of dishes, from modernized steamed dishes to kale chips.
Leeks could also be put in this category, as the edible part of the plant is actually the bundle of leaf sheaths near the soil surface.
Leaf crops like ample water, so be sure to keep the soil evenly moist.
A well-known vegetable grown for its stems is celery.
Try celery only if you have some experience with gardening.
It is slow growing and requires a long, cool growing season of 120-140 days to produce a crop, so be sure your climate can provide for its needs before planting.
Another, less well-known stem-type vegetable is kohlrabi; give it a try if you're feeling adventurous!
In the root vegetable line-up we have beets, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips and celery root.
With flavors that range from slightly bitter to pleasantly sweet, these vegetables will contribute some interesting additions to your fall and winter menus.
Useful in salads, they also provide a hearty addition to soups and stews and many are great roasted.
Broccoli and cauliflower are the contenders in the flower bud category.
These plants will form heads best when the nighttime temperatures average 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit.
With broccoli, once the large main head is harvested, the plant will form side shoots which also can be used.
Garden peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas make up the pod section.
Garden peas are the traditional pea which must be shelled before eating; snow peas have a translucent, thin pod and are never shelled; sugar snap peas are a cross between garden peas and snow peas, with a thicker edible pod than a snow pea.
All varieties are available in climbing and bush varieties.
Regular water is the name of the game for peas, with a slight drying-out period between applications.
When selecting the area for your garden, choose a spot that will receive at least six hours of sun per day (more is even better).
Cultivate the soil (either by hand, if the area is small or with a rototiller for larger plots), mixing in a good amount of organic soil amendment and some pre-planting fertilizer.
An efficient way of planting is to plant the vegetables right in the water ditch; this way the water is immediately available to the roots of the plants.
Think about starting a garden journal to detail your successes and failures.
Keep track of varieties used (save the seed packages or variety labels that came with the plants) and problems encountered.
This will help you decide which vegetables to plant in next year's fall garden! Bon appetit!
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One of the great things about the fall season is that it presents the opportunity to enjoy the vivid color of chrysanthemums, helping gardeners to achieve four-season interest in their gardens. Chrysanthemum flowers are also a favorite of florists for arrangements, due to the longevity of their blooms.
Chrysanthemums were cultivated in China as a flowering herb as far back as the 15th century BC. The flower was introduced into Japan in the 8th century AD, and the Emperor adopted the flower as his official seal. Today there is still a "Festival of Happiness"
in Japan celebrating the flower. Mums were brought to Europe in the 17th century and the rest of the world has enjoyed them ever since.
Modern chrysanthemums are much more showy than their wild relatives. The flowers occur in many flower forms, and can be daisy-like, decorative, pompons or buttons. Chrysanthemums come in a wide variety of colors, including white, off-white, yellow, gold, bronze, red, burgundy, pink, lavender and purple.
Chrysanthemum plants can grow to be 2-3 feet high, depending on the cultivar and growing conditions. There are "hardy mums" and "florist mums." Hardy mums put out stolons. Florist mums put out few or no stolons, which makes them less likely to over-winter in cold regions.
Mums look best planted in a mass--but for good health don't overcrowd them, since good air circulation reduces the chance of disease.
Plant chrysanthemum flowers in full sun and well-drained soil, enriched with a soil conditioner. Chrysanthemums are "photoperiodic," meaning they bloom in response to the shorter days and longer nights experienced in fall.
Therefore, do not plant chrysanthemum flowers near street lights or night lights: the artificial lighting may wreak havoc with the chrysanthemums' cycle.
We invite you to visit us and take some hardy mums home for your garden to brighten up your autumn garden. Chrysanthemums also make great housewarming gifts--and your friends will thank you for thinking about them. So remember, mum's the word!
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One of fall's most important and exciting jobs is to start buying and
planting spring-flowering bulbs. Bulbs are easy plants to grow. They
have a mystique bordering on the miraculous, but growing them here in
Southern California is different from growing them in the East or
Many bulbs need to undergo a cold winter in order to bloom; here in
California, we can give them the chill they need by placing these
types in the vegetable drawer for a period of about 6-8 weeks prior
These bulbs should generally not be left in the ground
when the foliage has died down after they bloom. They should be
lifted and stored in a cool, well-aired area (keeping them in a brown
paper bag is a good idea), then re-refrigerated once again 6-8 weeks
prior to planting the following spring.
There are several types of bulbs that can be naturalized (left in the
ground) and will bloom reliably each spring without any winter chill
at all. Many of these are drought resistant, and are unbelievably
easy to grow.
BUY BULBS NOW TO PLANT LATER
Bulb season is short and garden centers generally order a finite
amount of stock, so begin purchasing spring-flowering bulbs as soon
as possible. They soon get picked over and sometimes get put back in
the wrong bins.
Do your research on the more exotic bulbs; some are
not suited to our temperate climate. Choose the largest and fattest
bulbs (because they produce the biggest blooms) and make sure the
bulb is firm and not spongy. Make sure you label each bag with the
type of bulb, its color and its recommended planting depth and
Bulbs to naturalize
Among the best bulbs to naturalize in California are daffodils
(Narcissus), Dutch iris, grape hyacinth (Muscari), Freesia, Sparaxis,
Ixia, Watsonia, Lycoris and Crocosmia. Included in the Narcissus
family are the popular paperwhites; they will be the first to bloom
in this group and are prized for their heady fragrance.
Dutch iris and Freesia make wonderful cut flowers. Daffodils can also
be used for bouquets, but if you plan to use them in a mixed
arrangement with other flowers, their stems must be seared with an
open flame after cutting - the sap in the plant will cause the other
flowers to wilt quickly.
If you have a gopher problem however,
daffodils are a great choice; because they are poisonous, gophers
will not eat them (unlike tulips, which they love).
When planting these types of bulbs, it is best not to be too precise
in their placement - this will give a much more natural, much less
contrived look to the planting area.
A good method for placement is
to take a handful of bulbs and gently toss them - where they land is
where they will be planted.
Eventually (usually in about 3-4 years), the bulbs will become
overcrowded and their blooms will decline. When this happens, it is
time to divide the clump and replant the bulbs; you will probably
have quite a few to share with family and friends!
Bulbs that require pre-chilling and lifting
Tulips and hyacinths require much more winter chill than we receive in California.
For this reason, they must be chilled in
the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator before planting. What will happen if you skip this step? If they bloom at all,
the flowers will be borne on very short stems - not very attractive, especially for a tulip.
After the foliage has all turned brown (never cut off green foliage
on a bulb - it is through the foliage that it gets the necessary
nutrients to bloom the following year), the bulbs must then be dug up
and stored as detailed above.
While they may sprout and bloom the
following year if left in the ground, they will not be as vigorous or
as floriferous and eventually they will decline completely. They also
may rot due to overwatering during their dormant state, when they
have no means to use water; this is a particular problem in beds with
other plants that must be watered over the summer.
Bulbs that can be planted without pre-chilling,
but won't naturalize well
Ranunculus and anemones do not need pre-chilling, but it is best if
they are lifted (after the foliage has withered and died), stored in
a well-aired place and replanted each spring. Like tulips and hyacinths, they tend to decline each year when left in the ground.
They should not be eliminated from the bulb garden because of this,
though. They put on such a beautiful display that, even if you
treated them as an annual, it would be worth it. Both ranunculus and
anemones make great cut flowers.
Buy early, wait a bit to plant
Even though it will be tempting to plant your little beauties as soon
as you return from the garden center, we strongly advise you wait a
little longer before planting them. They will perform much better if
you plant them in mid- to late October, when the daytime temperatures
have cooled down and the nights are crisp and fresh.
For the time
being, keep them in brown paper bags in the garage; you can
congratulate yourself on the fact that you "beat the crowd"
to the garden center and were able to select all the colors and types
you really wanted!
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My orchid's roots are bulging out of the holes in my container. Do I need to re-pot it?
Probably. Although orchids like to be somewhat crowded in their container homes, most orchids need to be repotted once every 1 to 2 years. The bark or moss that the orchids are grown in gradually deteriorates.
If repotting is not done, the bark or moss becomes decomposed and packed down. When this happens, the roots don't get properly aerated and drainage can become blocked, leading to root rot.
Ideally, orchids should be repotted immediately after flowering. For best results, orchids should be grown either in sphagnum moss or a fine-medium orchid bark mix. You can also combine the two.
Orchids do not grow well in soil, because that is not how they grow normally. Most are found in the tree canopy high above the jungle floor. Make sure your new orchid pots have good drainage.
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Finding gluten-free--and tasty--desserts can be a challenge. Here is a no-bake chocolate almond cheesecake that is yummy and decadent (but safe for celiac disease sufferers).
- 2 cups finely ground almonds
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 packages (24 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice flour (or other gluten-free flour)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 8 squares baking chocolate, melted
Step by Step:
- On a baking sheet, toast almonds at 325 degrees F for 3 minutes (or until golden brown). Remove from pan and cool completely and grind into a fine powder.
- Combine ground almonds, dark brown sugar, melted butter
and cinnamon, mixing well.
- Press mixture into a parchment lined 13x9 inch pan (you may also line pan in foil if desired). Coat parchment or foil with nonstick spray.
- Bake crust at 325 degrees F for 14-18 minutes (or until pale golden color). Cool completely.
- In a mixing bowl beat softened cream cheese, sugar, rice flour, vanilla and almond extracts until smooth.
- Add slightly cooled, melted baking chocolate and fold into smooth cheesecake filling.
- Carefully spoon cream cheese into cooled almond crust.
- Refrigerate at least 3 hours, until set.
- Before serving, sprinkle with slivered almonds and chocolate curls.
Yield: 4 servings.
Recipe courtesy of "Cooking for Pleasure" by Jeanine Harsen.