Tag Archives: container gardening

Fall Veggie Gardening

Today, I have a special treat for you. Our lovely Cooking Coach and Gardening Guru, Meredith has a great post about how to keep your garden going into cooler weather. (If you haven’t already, check out our introduction to Meredith and her great work with the Family Nutrition Program.)

Are you ready for fall weather? I know I'm ready for fall veggies!

Are you ready for fall weather? I know I’m ready for fall veggies!

Kids are off to school, apples are coming in to the farmers markets….the signs are all there! It’s time to start planning your fall vegetable garden. There are many types of vegetables that thrive even through mild frosts. If you start planting now you can still be harvesting what you sow as late as early December! Don’t forget that you can buy seeds and seedlings for vegetables using your SNAP benefits. You may see seedlings at your local farmers market, but if you don’t you can always ask your favorite farmer to bring you some the next week!

So what grows best when planted in the fall? Favorites like broccoli, collard greens, kale, radishes, spinach, cabbage and even carrots and lettuce.

The Fall Factor

The secret to successful fall gardening is to plan for something called “the fall factor”. All that really means is that you have to remember that the plants will grow more slowly due to cooler weather and less sunlight as the days get shorter. The best way to deal with this is to sprout your seeds indoors and then transplant them to your garden.

Sprout Your Seeds

To sprout your seeds simply wet a paper towel (not dripping wet, you can wring it out) and fold it in half. Spread your seeds on half of the towel and fold the other half over them, so the seeds are covered. You can fold the towel and seeds up one more time, and then place the whole thing in a plastic sandwich bag. Be sure to label each bag so you know what you are growing! Leave the bags in a warm place, and check them in a week. They should be growing white “tails” of roots.

Plant Your Seeds

Once your seeds have sprouted to about an inch in length you can plant them in your garden the way you would plant a normal seed. (You do not need to make sure the “tail” is above the soil.) If you are finding it difficult to get them off of the paper towel simply rip up the paper towel around them and plant the seeds and towel together. There are a lot of great videos on Youtube if you want see how to sprout seeds for planting. I like this one.

It is best to plant your seeds in the garden when the soil is a bit moist, like after a light rain or you can water the soil the day before you plan to plant. If it is still hot in your area, cover the seeds with soil twice as deeply as you would in the spring. Make sure to keep the soil moist until the plants break the surface of the soil. A layer of mulch can also help to keep your seeds moist, but should not be too thickly applied so that the seeds still get some sunlight. Loose straw or pine needles are great options for this.

Beyond the Frost

Most of the vegetables I mentioned above can withstand some cold and light frost. As the season progresses and frosts start they can still be harvested and will even have their flavor enhanced by a touch of frost. Kale, carrots, spinach, and lettuce can even survive most of the winter if you mulch them deeply (about 8 inches deep). What a bargain for a $1 packet of seeds! Don’t be afraid to try fall gardening in containers either! Containers will freeze more quickly than plants in a garden, so they probably won’t grow throughout the whole winter, but they will last through a few frosts.

For a more in-depth review of fall vegetable gardening, check out this helpful publication from Virginia’s Cooperative Extension. You can also call your local extension office to ask specific questions. Good luck!

Gardening for Health and Wealth

Last week, we talked about seasonal foods. This week, I wanted to tell you about the best source of affordable, nutritious, local, seasonal foods: a garden! For the price of a pound of tomatoes, you can use your SNAP benefits to buy a tomato plant. That plant will produce many pounds of tomatoes over its lifetime for your family to enjoy. Not to mention how much tastier many people, including me, find a sun-ripened tomato to be compared to grocery store varieties.

Growing your own produce will help you and your family eat more fruits and veggies. Even picky eaters are more likely to eat food they helped to plant, nurture and harvest themselves. Eating more produce is good for your health by helping control your weight, protecting your eyesight, and reducing the risk of certain diseases, like cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Before you dismiss starting a garden as too much work or impossible to fit in your yard (or you may not even have a yard), pause and think outside the box…or actually, inside the pot! Just because you think of a huge garden with rows and rows of tomatoes, peppers, corn and other veggies your grandparents may have grown, doesn’t mean you can’t fit growing your own produce into your lifestyle.

Your garden doesn’t have to be huge. It is actually better to start small and add a bit more each year, especially if you are a beginner. A few herbs in a pot will add tons of flavor to your meals without a big investment or time commitment. Just remember to water them!

Speaking of pots, container gardens are a great alternative for people who don’t have an ideal spot for an in-ground garden. If your yard is too small, too shady or your yard is actually just a windowsill, you can still grow fresh, tasty produce for your family. Certain fruits and veggies work better in pots, so use this chart to help you decide what to grow.

Plants for Containers

Virginia Cooperative Extension can provide you with more detailed information on container gardening here, including how to choose a pot and soil, as well as caring for your plants.

I have wanted to start a garden for a long time, but I always seem to have to move in the middle of summer. So this year, I will be doing some container gardening with 2 tomato plants, some beets, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and kale, as well as basil, chives and parsley. By planting my garden in containers, I can take them with me when I move (which I will be doing next month). I chose these plants because:

  1. They grow well in containers.
  2. I eat a lot of salads, so having a continuous supply of leafy greens will save money. Did you know you can eat beet and radish greens?
  3. Those are my favorite herbs and they work well in many different recipes.
  4. I am very picky about tomatoes and only like homegrown ones, as you can tell by how many times I have said this in just 2 short posts! You have no idea how much I look forward to the first tomato sandwich of the summer.

How many of you like to grow fruits and veggies? What is in your garden this year?