By Michael Leach
If you want fresh vegetables for Thanksgiving and perhaps New Year’s Day, start planting.
Most of the vegetables typically planted in spring are equally adept at producing in fall and sometimes into winter, if weather is mild. They prefer cool growing conditions, not the tropical, summer warmth that prompts tomatoes and peppers to flourish. (I’ve found peas are more prolific in fall because temps keep ebbing rather than rising.)
Don’t forget, growing your own food is trendy. Cold weather harvests will keep you stylishly ahead of the mere zucchini growers on the block.
Besides being nutritious, the bodacious foliage of kale, collards and chard play well with asters, mums and other fall flowers. ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard even sports colorful stems.
For best chances of success in having fresh veggies in the Thanksgiving cornucopia, keep the following in mind:
* Look at seed packets for the maturity date (time from sowing to harvest) and subtract from the first frost date, usually about mid-October in central Ohio. The longer the time to maturity, the sooner you need to sow for best chances of success. You may want to add a week or two to that maturity date to allow for slower growth due to lower temps and shorter days.
* Don’t worry about frosts or even some freezing for cold-tolerant kale, collards and Brussels sprouts. The flavor improves after a few frosts.
* Check garden centers for small broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants. Direct sowing seeds of these plants probably won’t beat the clock.
* Prep the soil before planting. Spread an inch or two of compost or other organic amendments. Scatter organic or other fertilizer at package-given rates. Till all this into the top two or three inches of soil.
* Use floating row cover after sowing seeds. This lightweight agricultural fabric keeps bugs off plants, yet it’s so lightweight, seedlings easily push it up as they grow.
I leave it on all winter for wind protection. Despite the infamous polar vortex, I harvested a few greens for bragging rights on St. Patrick’s Day. In mild winters, some greens can be picked almost every week.
* Plant only what you like to eat and enough to meet your family’s needs. If there is excess, donate it to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank or a local soup kitchen.