It’s almost September and true confessions: I’m exhausted.
I know I’m not alone.
We’ve been cultivating beauty and abundance for months, with so much on our minds and hearts, amid the bustle of our everyday lives and cultural chaos. Behind each of those gorgeous photos on social media we know there is a weary gardener, often wishing someone would make her dinner from all the glorious food she’s surrounded by.
Last year, Dandy saved us: Last September, while we were busy harvesting seed and picking up irrigation, she sowed seeds. Greens and herbs that fed our bodies and souls until snowfall and many that even survived the winter, re-growing the most tender and sweet leaves of the season as spring arrived. Taking that extra moment to sow a few seeds this September may be one of the best decisions you make this season. Certainly, one of the most delicious
Interplanting maximizes every inch of your garden space; especially when you plan to put hoops with row cover over your greens to protect them from light frosts.
Whether you have a greenhouse, high tunnel, raised bed or a few feet of empty garden space, there are a surprising number of seeds you can sow this September to surround yourself with abundance for months to come. We have the hoops and row cover to extend your season with ease, as well.
By far, the most important part of the equation is cold-hardy, well-adapted seeds to thrive in our climate…
…and indeed, it is cultivating and saving seed of these cold-hardy greens that make us jump out of bed each day.
Fall kale, like this Rainbow Lacinato, is the sweetest, most tender kale.
Spinach is one of my favorite greens, mineral-rich and oh, so succulent. And fall is when spinach shines. She loathes to be sown in the heat of summer, when she barely germinates. If she does, she quickly bolts, sending up a stalk to make seed in the heat. But in fall, she germinates quickly and easily. The cooler temperatures resist her temptation to bolt, so she produces leaf after leaf of sweet, tender greens until the snows finally cover the ground. Our spinach is exceptionally cold-hardy and readily survives the winter even uncovered in the garden, re-growing profusely in spring once the snows melt. Our Butterflay is the classic green leaf, Beaujolais has a glorious burgundy stem and serrated leaves while Asian Spinach has sweetly spoon-shaped leaves that thrive in the winter cold as well as the summer heat.
Spinach is easiest to grow in the coolness of fall, often overwintering uncovered to re-grow abundantly in spring.
Arugula grows impressively fast, as most brassicas do. We enjoy them as microgreens, baby greens and as full-size leaves we blend into our pesto. Arugula may be grown in any season, though certainly fall is its prime. Cool and flea beetle-free, arugula grown in fall has the cleanest flavor with the least heat, the least interest in bolting and the sweetest, most tender re-growth. Arugula planted in fall will often overwinter, springing back to life once the snows melt for an additional six weeks of harvest or more. A touch of row cover will increase your harvests all the more.
Arugula is easiest to grow in the fall and often overwinters. We love arugula in salads, pizza, pesto and, well, everything.
Radish & Salad Turnips
September in the Finger Lakes, in Zone 5, is the ideal season to grow radish and salad turnips. They’re quick (you’ll enjoy them three to four weeks after harvest) and they’re easy, vigorously growing even in average soils. Now that the flea beetles have largely disappeared, already slumbering until spring, they’ll grow even faster with greens that much sweeter and solid. Sora and D’Avignon, our French Breakfast selection with Stone Barns, are ideal radishes for September. It is, alas, a few weeks too late to harvest full-size watermelon radishes, but feel free to sow them knowing they’ll likely grow no larger than a tennis ball, depending on the relative warmth of the fall. Tokyo Market is a sweet, creamy turnip, by turnip standards, quick-growing and luscious in a salad, slaw, roasted or on the grill.
Radish and turnip can take several light frosts, though hard frost will greatly reduce their quality, so we tend to harvest them all before the serious frosts come.
Kale & Chard
Though we start our first kale and chard in early spring to enjoy all season, we love to sow more in fall to savor their tender, sweet baby greens that thrive in the cooler temperatures. Our beautiful (yet harsh) Zone 5 winters are too much for chard to survive, so we enjoy it as baby greens through Thanksgiving. Most kales will often survive the winter, even uncovered, so we harvest young salad greens in the fall and then again in the spring. Even a light row cover will allow for several more weeks of harvest in both fall and spring.
Chard is not quite as cold-hardy as kale. We sow both for baby greens to enjoy throughout the fall.
When I first saw cilantro thaw from beneath snow, perfect and utterly scrumptious, I felt I had been gifted with one of the greatest, most ironic secrets on the planet.
Indeed, cilantro loves to grow in the cold. It doesn’t bolt, even as we harvest baby leaves three and four times. Cilantro often overwinters even uncovered for early spring harvests. Early September is the most perfect time to sow cilantro in the entire year, here in Zone 5.
Lettuce, Endive & Other Splendid Leaves
Now that it’s September, sowing cold-hardy greens is essential. Harvested as young salad greens, you’ll likely harvest them three times or more before the snows of winter cover them til spring. Here’s the short list (trust me!) of my go-to varieties;
– Winter Density lettuce (its name is not an exaggeration)
– Flashy Trout Back lettuce (romaine types have surprising tolerance to cold)
– Winter Green Mesclun Mix (pictured below, a diverse mix of greens selected to re-grow quickly in the cold)
– Mache or Corn Salad (nutty and succulent)
– Tres Fine Frisee endive (I cannot imagine life without its incredible texture and bittersweet flavor)
– Shanghai Green pac choi (darling and quick-growing, easy to grow a ton in a small space)
What are the most cold-hardy greens of all?
We pay close attention to that question, as well!
In our fields, Red Russian kale, spinach (especially butterflay), mache and cilantro are the most impressively cold-hardy, easily surviving without row cover each season.
Each September, when I’m debating whether or not to sow more seeds, I remember the incredible gift Dandy gave us by planting just a few packets, surrounding us with months of beautiful abundance. I hesitate no longer.
May the same be true for you!
Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,
& the whole Fruition crew
I am constantly sowing our Salad in Provence mix, which thrives in fall, as well.