It's Not Too Late to Plant Your Fall Greens. Here's How!

Keep delicious edibles on your plate post-summer with cool weather gardening.

Red Russian Kale is an Ornamental Edible Green

Red Russian Kale is an Ornamental Edible Green

Photo by: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Vegetable Gardening , 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

'Red Russian' kale is a great cool weather garden crop.

Even though the nights are beginning to cool off (in my neck of the woods, Atlanta) and the remnants of my cherry and Roma tomatoes have petered out (like other gardeners I spoke to this year, it was not a very productive summer for tomatoes) that doesn’t mean I have to give up on growing edibles.  Fall is the ideal time to get some cool weather crops in the ground and keep your salad bowl and stir fry plate full. Cool weather veggies are a gardening bonus round.

Growing: It’s Not Just for Summer Anymore could be their motto.

Edible Cabbage and White Pumpkin in Container

Edible Cabbage and White Pumpkin in Container

There's no reason why edibles can't be beautiful, as with this 'Red Acre' cabbage in a pretty black container and ornamented for fall with a mini pumpkin.

One of my favorite garden products in recent years has been a raised bed from CedarCraft that sits on my deck right outside my kitchen door: the perfect place to keep salad greens and herbs recipe-ready. Edibles work best, I’ve found, when they’re accessible for weeding, watering and harvesting. Plus, it just makes me happy to look out my kitchen window when I am doing something mundane like washing dishes, and see those green and purple leaves set against my leafless backyard trees. There is no denying both the health benefits and emotional sustenance of growing.

I started by yanking and composting any remnants of my ‘Peppermint Stick’ celery (big summer success story), cherry tomatoes and peppers. I took out the nutrient-depleted soil in the raised bed and filled in with rich, fresh potting soil and mixed in some gorgeous, chocolately compost to give my plants the fertile start they need.

Heuchera planted in heirloom pumpkin in container garden.

Heuchera planted in heirloom pumpkin in container garden.

Make your edible garden beautiful with flourishes like 'Obsidian' heuchera planted in an heirloom pumpkin in a raised bed.

Next I filled the bed with a color-coordinated mix of ‘Red Oak Leaf’ lettuce, ‘Red Russian’ kale,  ‘Red Acre’ cabbage and, for a purely decorative touch in the bed, a pale green heirloom pumpkin hollowed and filled with a gothic-cool ‘Obsidian’ heuchera just right for Halloween in the same eggplanty/mauve shades. I have a “thing” for glossy black pots which work especially well with purple-tinged plants like the gorgeous ‘Red Acre’ cabbage. Freshly planted, things are looking a bit scrawny and sad, but with time they will be lush and abundant and just dying to be harvested.

And don’t forget, after they are in the ground, to give your pretty new edibles a good watering to establish them, and keep it up, especially when planting in containers. I’ll also add mulch soon to keep these babies cool and help them retain water.

I prefer to plant seedlings: seeds will be cheaper and you’ll have greater variety to choose from than you will find at your local garden store, but the wait time until you can harvest those crops is greater, and I for one, am impatient. 

Romaine Lettuce in Windowbox

Romaine Lettuce in Windowbox

Fall season crops like romaine lettuce can make great container garden features.

But I will give some seeds a try this fall thanks to a great new company I recently learned about  Grow Journey: Seeds of the Month Club, a monthly seed subscription service that will send you 5 packets of organic seeds each month tailored to your area. For September, I'm trying mache, mustard greens, arugula, chervil and turnip seeds from Grow Journey.

Planting a Fall Garden: A Guide

Planting a Fall Garden 04:41

Here are the basics of planting and combining plants for a fall garden.

I like to treat edibles like ornamentals, and choose pots and color combinations that play nicely together. Why not make your edibles look good too?

In fact, I’ve given my whole deck over to edibles this fall, tucking romaine and ‘Red Oak Leaf’ lettuce and more cabbage into window boxes and containers. Compact radishes and lettuces are great in containers, so no matter how small your space, there’s no reason not to also embrace cool-weather edibles.  Some to try:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Swiss chard
  • Kohlrabi
  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Bok Choy
  • Cabbage
  • Collards

Read more about great fall edibles on HGTVGardens to find more delicious things to grow.

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