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Beacon Senior News

Brassicas now! Extend your harvest with fall crops

Jul 05, 2017 03:12PM ● By Paige Slaughter

We are blessed with a long growing season, which means we can play in the garden through fall.

Brassicas, which include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and other hearty vegetables, will thrive as temperatures begin to cool. Starting them from seed this month will allow you to plant fresh starts in August. Fall’s cool nights will sweeten these mild veggies and encourage tighter flower heads (the part of the plant that we see in produce aisles, stripped of dense leaves).

This is the perfect time to start brassicas, as many pesky pests like flea beetles and cabbage worm are less of a threat this late in the season.

Pests aren’t eating your plants, but you’ll want to. Sliced into strips and simmered in salt water, brassica leaves soften. With a bit of olive oil and complimentary flavorings like garlic or mustard, the greens become a cozy fall dish. It’s shocking that these parts are so often thrown away.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It’s still hot outside!

Starting brassicas from seed

These loveable, cool-season crops germinate best in temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees, so consider starting your seedlings indoors rather than outside in this midsummer heat. Fill a 50-cell tray with soil and press your finger down into each cell to make a hole for the seed. Drop a seed into each hole and cover with soil.

Keep the tray moist until your seeds sprout, then water gently but thoroughly to encourage root growth. After a month or so, your plant starts will be ready for action. When you lift a start out of its cell, its roots should bring the soil up with it.

July is a special time in the garden. We are seeding and gathering, planting and harvesting. Planting brassicas now is symbolic of the flow of nature.

July is also a great time to start direct seeding root vegetables: turnips, radishes, rutabagas, carrots and beets. Our fairly mild winters allow us to use our garden beds as root cellars to store these veggies until we’re ready to eat them. Just cover the shoulders with loose soil, leaving their green leaves uncovered, and harvest as needed until the ground freezes.

Seed brassicas now, imagining braised cabbage and roasted Brussels sprouts warming your stomach on a cool fall night.

Garden checklist

  • Continue to trellis tall plants like peppers and tomatoes, pinching off suckers from indeterminate plants.
  • Reseed tender herbs, as well as lettuce and green onions, for a tasty harvest.
  • Harvest summer squash and cucumbers before they get too big.
  • Water plants in the cool mornings, especially if using overhead watering systems.
  • Direct sow root vegetables, bush beans, lettuce, spinach kale and chard.
  • Deadhead annual flowers and spring-blooming perennials.
  • Water perennials and your lawn deeply, not daily, to encourage healthier growth.