Special Varieties

  • 10 Fall Crops

    There's no need to say goodbye to your garden just yet!  You can extend your growing season by putting in a fall garden.  Our summer here in Missouri has been a blessed one with perfect temperatures and much needed rainfall. (Way different than what we got last year, that's for sure!) We hope you're in the midst of a plentiful season too.  Together, let's keep those gardens flourishing and the canner running "full steam ahead"!

    Many vegetables can be planted right now for a fall crop.  Here's our list of ten great varieties we recommend:

    1. Bush BeansPlant these 12 weeks before your first frost.

    Suggested varieties: Contender, Blue Lake Bush, Provider, or Jade. Each of these are heavy producers and make beautiful green beans.

    2. BeetsPlant these 10-12 weeks before your first frost.

    Suggested varieties: Detroit Dark Red, Bull's Blood, or Chioggia. If you prefer a yellow beet, try the Golden Detroit Beet. Don't forget to save those leaves to be used in salads!

    3. Broccoli Plant these seeds 12-14 weeks before your first frost.

    Suggested varieties: Waltham 29 has a 90-day maturity date. If you need a variety that matures a little sooner, consider the Green Sprouting Calabrese which takes 70-80 days to mature. Both love the cooler temperatures and will do well in those fall gardens.

    4. CarrotsPlant these seeds about 12 weeks before last frost.

    Suggested varieties: Scarlet Nantes (my personal favorite) has an earlier maturity date of 65-70 days.  The Imperator 158 is another excellent carrot, great for adding to those soups and stews you'll be making once the weather gets colder. If you plant late and need something with a shorter maturity before the first frost hits, consider the Little Finger baby carrot which matures at 55-65 days.

    5. CauliflowerPlant these seeds 16 weeks before first frost.

    Suggested variety: Snowball Y Improved. A seasoned gardener recommended to us to grow cauliflower only in the fall. They do better as a fall crop and planting them this time of the year eliminates any bug problems.

    6. CucumbersPlant these seeds 12-14 weeks before first frost.

    Suggested varieties: Marketmore 76, Homemade Pickles (if space is limited), or for something different, try the Lemon Cucumber which is a great fresh eater!

    7. PumpkinsPlant 14-15 weeks before first frost.

    Suggested varieties: Connecticut Field (makes great canned pumpkin!), Small Sugar Squash (which is a smaller version of the Connecticut Field), Howden Pumpkin, or the Rouge Vif D'Entampes (Cinderella Squash).

    8. SpinachPlant 8 weeks before the first frost.

    Suggested variety: Bloomsdale Long Standing. With all of the healthy benefits that spinach provides, no garden should be without it.

    9.SquashPlant 12-14 weeks before first frost.

    Suggested Varieties: Butternut-Waltham, Vegetable Spaghetti Squash (did you know you can grow spaghetti in your garden?), or Delicata Winter Squash.

    10. TurnipsPlant 8-10 weeks before first frost.

    Suggested variety: Purple Top White Globe. (Turnips are a staple at all of our Thanksgiving Dinners.)

    Hope these give you some ideas and inspiration to keep the gardens growing. Wishing you a bountiful fall harvest!

  • Cherries – The Tomato Underdog

    Here in the Ozarks, we've been under a heat advisory for weeks now. On top of that, we've had very little rain. Fortunately, however, the tomatoes in our garden are still continuing to shine.

    We've been harvesting some of the largest tomatoes we've ever grown from the Hungarian Heart and Kellogg's Breakfast plants. We've also been enjoying the massive yields from our Roma, Rutgers, and Beefsteak. However, my personal favorites happen to be the underestimated tomatoes of smaller stature – the cherries.

    There's so many benefits to growing cherry tomatoes that I don't know where to begin. While many people like to put their efforts into growing great slicing, paste, and canning tomatoes, there is much to be said about the underdog cherries of the garden.  Not only are they easier to grow and small enough to plant in a container or window box, but they usually mature faster than the rest of your tomatoes. They can be picked and tossed atop a fresh salad in early summer or eaten immediately off the vine, making the perfect snack. They produce heavily all season long without fail, making them a very reliable source in their own right. They may not be used for canning spaghetti sauce or making ketchup, but they'll easily provide you with that “tomato fix”.

    One beautiful variety that we tried for the first time this year is the very prolific, Red Cherry-Large. Being an indeterminate, it spreads quickly and does require some support. Its beautiful blooms and bountiful clusters of 1 – 2” red cherries nearly hide the leaves and stem.  Every visit to the garden reveals even more ready to pick!

    Probably the smallest tomato I've ever grown is the Tess's Land Race Currant. It was from this tiny plant that we harvested our first tomato of the season this year! Very early and extremely productive, these tiny red cherries make the perfect salad topper, adding just the right amount of zippy flavor. They're also ideal for kids, as they are uniquely fun and perfect for popping in your mouth for a snack!

    If you'd prefer different colors or characteristics, don't feel like you must settle for a red cherry. There are many varieties to play with.

    Another cherry we're growing this year is the Blondkopfchen ( Little Blonde Girl ). These 1” cherry tomatoes are golden/yellow and grow in clusters on indeterminate plants. I've never seen so many blooms on one plant before, it's unbelievable! They're also one of the sweeter cherries I've tasted. They'll produce up until the first fall frost and hardly ever crack. This tomato is truly as endearing as its name!

    Some other wonderful Open-Pollinated varieties worth considering would be Fox Cherry, Yellow Pear, Tiny Tim, Violet Jasper, Small Fruited, Red Pear, Sprite, Isis Candy, Green Grape, Black Cherry, Snow White, and Ivory.

    Cherries bring a lot of uniqueness and fun to the garden. No matter which one you grow, they'll reward you happily for your time and care. They keep right up with the stout tomatoes triple their size, bringing benefits and helpful insects to the garden like the rest of them. Grow one of these underdogs yourself next time and you'll see why they're essential to any tomato lover's garden!

  • Gardening With Garlic

    During this time of year, if I stand in the very center of our garden, my head spins. To my left, there are prize tomatoes ripening to perfection and bell peppers fighting for the spotlight. To my right, the ever-prolific cucumbers, which need pickling, are grabbing my attention as the cantaloupes and watermelon continue to sweeten on the vine. It's true that our gardens need a lot of love right now, but we must not overlook the smaller, stand-alone crops while our heads are “in the tassels”.

    One such crop that should never be underestimated is garlic. A strong member of the onion family (Allium sativum), garlic has proven itself in the garden as a great companion plant and defender against harmful insects. It yields bountifully within a limited amount of space, making it very valuable for family gardeners and commercial growers alike. Since biblical times, this beneficial plant has been favored and was referenced in the ancient writings of the Hebrews, Greeks, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Romans. It is considered to be one of the most valuable foods on earth.

    The hardy perennial is usually grown as an annual for its underground head of cloves and grass-like shoots, which can be used like chives. Since it prefers cooler weather to get started, the best time of year to plant would be in late August to mid-October. After it sets over the winter, the garlic will be ready for warmer weather and will begin forming bulbs. Be sure to supply the plants with fertile, loose soil in an area that offers full sun.

    Generally, 2 lb. of cloves (which would be about 150 cloves to the pound) are recommended for each 50 ft. row you plant. Plant the individual cloves in the soil with their points facing up about 2 – 3 inches deep and 3 inches apart in a wide row. Either leave the points sticking out of the ground or just barely cover them. One planted clove is expected to produce an average head of 15 cloves.

    Stop watering the garlic once the leaves get about a foot high. Then, once the leaves die and fall over, which usually happens around August, you can begin harvesting the bulbs. Wash them well and let them sit in the sun to dry for about a week until they turn completely white. That's all there is to it!

    To truly appreciate, however, all of the benefits of garlic, you must understand how it improves our lives beyond the garden or even the kitchen table. No discussion on garlic is complete without the mention of its healing properties.

    Garlic is believed to be good for virtually any disease or infection, aiding in the treatment of arthritis, asthma, cancer, insomnia, liver disease, hearing disorders, circulatory problems, colds and flu. It contains antioxidant nutrients like vitamins A and C and protects against infection by enhancing the immune function. In fact, during World War 1, due to its antibiotic properties, garlic was used to treat wounds and infections and to prevent gangrene. It truly is a help to the heart, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of blood clots – which aids in preventing heart attacks – and keeping blood vessels healthy. It also offers serious protection against DNA damage as well as sunlight and radiation damage.

    Builders of the pyramids supposedly kept garlic in their daily diet because they believed it to increase their strength and endurance. Is it any wonder we're encouraged to take garlic on a regular basis ourselves? The benefits from garlic are certainly indispensable for the self-sufficient gardener!

    Homemade Garlic Spray for your Garden -

    For a quick, simple remedy to problems with insects and plant blight, try blending several garlic cloves together with some water and 1 T. cooking oil or soap emulsion. Then just dilute to 1 qt. and spray on. Use as frequently as needed to help you win the battle!

  • Growing Tasty Greens

    We've had uncommonly cool weather for the past month here in Missouri. Rainclouds have been battling consistently against the sunshine for weeks. Valleys have been flooded, flowers stunted, and people's moods affected, but one thing has continued to thrive under the elements – our garden greens.

    We always grow various lettuces and spinach for our backyard salads, but this was our first season growing oriental and other greens. It didn't take long for them to win us over.

    The Pak Choy quickly proved to be the front runner, growing rapidly in its designated raised bed. This striking vegetable is a member of the Cabbage Family and is considered a must for stir fries with it's complimentary mild flavor. It's usually grown in the cooler temperatures of early spring or late fall, but it's capable of withstanding a bit of heat also if grown in part shade.

    Just a few feet away from the Pak Choy is our Georgia Southern Collard Greens. This loose-leafed type is of the Cultivar Group named Acephala, which means “without a head” in Greek. It does not produce the usual close-knit “cabbage head”, but instead is grown for its large, dark-green, edible leaves. The plant, with an upright stalk that can grow up to two feet tall, is very similar to kale.  It's widely accepted as a healthy source of vitamin C and other nutrients and is grown in the southern U.S. as a staple vegetable. Collards can be added to various dishes, meats, and soups. According to tradition, it was commonly eaten on New Year's Day to ensure wealthy success in the coming year, as the leaves bear a resemblance to folded money.

    Have you ever grown Mizuna? We're growing it for the first time this year. It seems to   have adapted well to our soil and is quite ornamental with its serrated, dark green leaves and thin white stalks. It's considered a mild mustard variety, with a slightly spicy, peppery flavor. It can be used in soups or stir fries; steamed or boiled; or even tossed in a salad with other greens.

    Another classic mustard is the Southern Giant Curled. Hailed as one of the fastest growing heirloom mustards – yet one of the slowest to bolt – these green, heavily-frilled leaves are worth the effort to grow. The large, upright plant is certainly eye-catching and always contains the pungent, spicy flavor expected in any real mustard greens. They're also high in Vitamin A, B, and C.

    One last one, a new favorite of mine, is the Arugula greens. A simple variety to grow at home, Arugula is an aromatic, salad green that contains just the right amount of spicy flavor. In Roman times, it was grown for its leaves as well as seed, which was used to flavor oils. It grows wild in many parts of Asia and the Mediterranean. High in vitamins A and C, this low calorie plant offers a “Pick and Come Again” succession crop over a couple months. The leaves can be sauteed or cooked in many different ways, but are used mostly for salads.

    As you can see, garden greens truly do color up the landscape and the dinner table. They're favored for their quick germination as well as maturity dates, which range anywhere from as early as three weeks up to 65 days for most types. They'll grow happily beside most of your other garden staples, including corn, pumpkins, and carrots; however, a few exceptions to this rule are tomatoes, beans, and strawberries.

    One common pest that can cause problems among greens is the Flea Beetle. The tiny black, brown, or bronze beetles have large hind legs and jump like fleas. They'll eat small holes in stems and leaves and lay eggs in the soil near your plants. Since the beetle prefer hot sun, more damage occurs in dry weather, so keep all greens well watered. You might also consider using a garlic spray, planting sage nearby, or even floating row covers to help prevent and fight the beetles.

    Most fresh greens will last for a few days in the refrigerator, but it is always good to have a recipe ready in order to keep any of it from ever “growing to waste”. I found a delicious recipe on the food blog, Simply Recipes, for Collard Greens with Bacon. I hope you'll enjoy it!

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