Everything old is new again. Only a few generations ago, most people, not only gardeners, would have taken advantage of the entire growing season to maximize their yield for winter storage. It was a way of life.
Extending the season by understanding which vegetables are more cold tolerant and their days to maturity (from seed to fully grown) was common practice. For reasons of necessity, supply or economics — growing your own meant a controlled supply of fresh food.
After years of depending on the supermarket for instant gratification many people today are again embracing this wisdom and learning how simple it is. One of the keys is to embrace eating in-season and understanding how to eat and store your own local bounty. Whether fresh, frozen, preserved or pickled your own is always better!
We have recently been enjoying lettuce, cilantro, baby kale, Swiss chard and peas shoots, as these are the first plants that we seeded and/or transplanted early in the season. These are also among the varieties that are considered cold tolerant. Now, however, the cornucopia of vegetables and fruits begins. The harvest of the spring planting for most vegetables begins intensely in July, and ripens into August, as we anxiously await those varieties needing a longer growing season.
Sow What NOW?
We’ll tell you what! It is time to plant or replant many lettuces and other vegetables with a shorter growing season (30-50 days). Lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, radish, winter radish and carrots are a few examples of what to sow now and into the fall.
As we enjoy our first crop of bush beans, we are sowing for the next crop. This way we don’t overload on too many beans and can enjoy them fresh through the whole summer season and into fall. Our favourite is the Heirloom French Filet Bean or Haricot Vert, a crispy, thin, stringless, delicious bean that cooks quickly. Beans freeze beautifully either raw or blanched.
Easy Recipe for Haricots Verts (Green Beans):
Blanch beans in a pan of salted boiling water for 3 minutes.
Immerse beans in a bowl of iced water to cool, then drain and freeze.
If eating immediately (or to prepare frozen beans after thawing):
sauté briefly in butter with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
Sowing a second carrot crop has given us beautiful, sweet carrots until winter stops us from digging in the garden (a little frost makes carrots and parsnips sweeter). Perhaps we sacrifice somewhat in size for a second crop, but we also don’t complain about a fresh, sweet, baby carrot in November. The colourful blend of yellow, red, white, orange and purple carrots are a favourite. You can pick or pull them randomly for variety, but often they ‘head’ out of the ground and you can identify the colour.
Following one crop with another is referred to as succession planting. It is a great way to plan for your supply and you will find it surprising how long our season can provide for us. Succession planting offers a great way to balance the harvest and extend the season. A late planting of beets can provide a crop of beet micro-greens or baby greens instead of the beet root— delicious in salads or sautéed.
Find out what will grow at different times in the season, and decide what you want to grow — and you will be on your way to self-sufficiency.
Sow, get planting!
Rick Weingarden and Allan Watts own Anything Grows SEED Co. They can be found at the Western Fair Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market on Saturdays, and at various gardening events around the region.