Winter Kale--an easy to grow fall and winter vegetable
As a Midwestern transplant from a state famous for its long, long winters, I grew up thinking that gardening was something you did from mid May to late September. No one I knew planted second or third crops; everything went into the dirt in late spring and we called it quits in early autumn.
Things are different here in the Ozarks and south and mid south generally. It isn't too late to plant another hill of beans, or to stock up leafy green vegetable seeds like spinach and lettuce for planting in mid to late August. Community Gardeners at the First Christian Church Berryville are doing just that, and laying in those seeds, along with starter pots of broccoli, winter-hardy cabbage, and trays of baby carrots for later planting. These plants and starts will hit the garden dirt beginning in late august and through October.
Other cool weather loving plants are collards, Swiss chard, mustard and kale, and root crops such as beets, onions and radishes. Brassicas, such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, will form medium sized heads and are delicious. Peas, especially targeted for stir fry chefs, will grow and flourish. All these cool loving vegetables have better flavor and texture than those grown during the heat of spring or summer.
The first steps in preparing your autumn and winter beds is to follow the spring-time drill: get the weeds out of the soil, add fertilizer--I use alpaca manure from Dan and Carola White at Arrowpoint Farm--and watch out for slugs and cankerworms. You'll use less water because of autumn's cooler temperatures, and weed growth will slow down. Best of all, there's no sweat: enjoy the fall foliage and have fresh garden veggies all the way to Christmas!