October in the garden – chard, kale, and beets

October in the garden – chard, kale, and beets

This weekend I transplanted my seedlings of kale. The chard and beets were planted last week, they were doing famously until Sunday morning when my neighbor’s dog had a romp across the garden. He’s still a puppy and thought it was great fun to leap over and into the rows of new veggies. Unfortunately he is a BIG puppy with BIG feet. I righted the chard and hope it will re-root itself. Think I will run out and check on them…whew! Looking ok so far, maybe the damage won’t be permanent. I had removed the wire baskets because the plants were getting bigger but have now covered them back up.

Did you know you could successfully plant beets from transplants? I’m trying it this year for the first time and will let you know how it turns out. The baby seedlings are so vulnerable to pests of all kinds. Starting them on my deck allows me keep an eye on them.

Chard, some leaves trampled by the romping dog

Chard, some leaves trampled by the romping dog

Young kale plants

Young kale plants

Chard and beets are members of the Goosefoot family. Open up a leaf and it does resemble the tracks left in the dirt by a goose’s foot. Another interesting fact about chard and beets is their lumpy seeds are several seeds stuck together; as many as three plants may grow from each one. Once the seedlings are transplanted and established in the garden, I thin them to the strongest plant. The trimmings are wonderful added to a salad.

To get back to the kale…it’s a member of the cabbage family along with broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, arugula, radishes and watercress (plus many more). I was surprised to see arugula and watercress in there! I planted a couple of kinds of kale, Delaway and Lacinato. Delaway is an Irish heirloom, it’s has long flat leaves resembling collards. It’s a first for me, planted in honor of one of my first blog readers in Ireland. Isn’t it wonderful how our words can be shared all over the world? Lucinato is also call Tuscan Black or cavolo nero. It’s an Italian heirloom, which has heavily crimped leaves. It’s a favorite of one of my gardening buddies, the young man who lives across the street. He likes it baked as kale chips.

Laurie O'Neill

Old wire shelves from an Ikea dresser initially cover the transplants. It’s not fancy but effectively keeps the birds, deer, and monster cat from pulling out the plants before they have a chance to root deeply. They also deter romping dogs.

All those trimmings of chard, beet, and kale leaves are wonderful tossed into a fall salad. I’ve also been enjoying the first lettuce from the garden. In the summer I don’t bother with lettuce as they bolt too quickly in the heat. It’s a treasure hunt to discover what can be added to the salad bowl to create a tasty mix.

Cook's Garden Alfresco Mix

Cook’s Garden Alfresco Mix

Perennial arugula, nasturtiums, fava beans

Perennial arugula, nasturtiums, fava bean

Salad pickings from the garden

You need a great basic vinaigrette with this salad. Don’t overwhelm the leaves. Sometimes I just use a squeeze of lemon, splash of olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss with your clean hands.

October gardening chores

Garden Journal – end of September and October 2014 

Fall is my favorite season. I love the shift to stronger flavored heartier foods, braises, and roasted vegetables. The bright colors of autumn, the crisp days, and colder nights that call for thick quilts and duvets make me happy. This year I will love the rain, every drop of it. In Northern California we have Indian summer and the first week of October often has the warmest weather of the year. This year was no exception with temperatures into the high 80’s. Nevertheless, I feel and smell fall in the air.

It is time to plant my fall garden, but some of my summer veggies are still hanging in there and taking up garden space.

This past week I pulled out the cucumbers, pole beans and half the tomato plants to make way for my cauliflower, broccoli, chard and beet transplants (seeded on August 7). The raised bed intended for peas is still producing tomatoes; they have been so delicious this year that I can’t bear to tear out the plants. I’ll need to figure out what to do with the remaining green ones but maybe some of the Sungold cherries will ripen in time. I think I can wait another week or two and besides, my green bins for the city street side composting are full. The cucumbers and summer squash had powdery mildew and couldn’t go into my own household compost bins. The tomatoes went into the green bin as well. Composting tomatoes is not recommended. Both the plants and fruit are prone to carry disease, which can get into your soil and infect next year’s plants. (This is also why it is not recommended to plant tomatoes in the same place consecutive years.) Lastly the seeds are quite resistant to even a hot compost bin and can remain viable for years. I’ve spent a lot of time picking tomato seedlings out of the garden.

General garden chores in October:

  • Pull out any diseased or finished plants and vegetables
  • Refresh garden beds with aged compost and manure
  • Mulch paths in the garden in preparation for winter wet weather and mud
  • Seed winter and spring vegetables:
    • Peas, all kinds including those intended for ornamental flowers
    • Carrots
    • Radishes
    • Lettuce
    • Arugula
    • Cilantro
  • Put out transplants of:
    • Cauliflower
    • Broccoli
    • Chard
    •  Kale
    •  Beets
    •  Parsley