FINALLY I can open the windows now that we are back into double digits… and temperatures are lowering quickly big time here. Ok, so I’m a freeze baby anymore and 75 is chilly in the shade to me. LOL In most areas you can plant your fall garden if you haven’t already but I’m just getting started and can grow well into January and some even all winter. Thank goodness because summer really does a number on any greens growing. One day I’m picking nice tender greens and two days later they’ve bolted and are bitter. Ugggg… can’t wait to get back East. But that’s another post. (Or will be MANY as you will soon see about my journey to be a Homesteader back East again.) Anyways….
While raising my 5 children, we had huge gardens (50×100 feet), and honestly, I could not have afforded to feed them if we didn’t. We even grew peanuts and I made fresh peanut butter! LOL BUT… it was also because I’ve always had the attitude and desire for living a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. Growing here in the desert has sure had it’s challenges and some years I just wanted to give up. I have a completely filled yard of nothing but rock and sand… and even though I tried buying and adding soil, the sun was not my friend. This past year I worked my butt off on what I had hoped to be the perfect spot in the yard.It was small of course, only 10×8 foot, but I knew how to Square Foot garden and planned on getting all I could out of it! It was also shaded by a tree from the HOT SCORCHING late day sun and I HAND sifted all the rock out. It became my Kitchen Garden. Took me over 2 weeks spending about 6 hours a day out there. But I did it!
What is a Kitchen Garden you might ask? Well, to me it is one I can access easily while cooking for fresh herbs and vegetables. This was actually the first year I got tomatoes to grow long enough before the scorching summer sun roached them to harvest them. 🙂 It’s also called a Potager’s Garden. This is usually a little more fancy than the back yard vegetable garden. I had one of just edible and medicinal herbs also when the kids were young. It was 50×50 foot and was very decorative to look at but very accessible also from the house for cooking. No matter the size, I want mine to hold what I use most and be pretty and accessible easily while cooking.
Here was a photo of my little kitchen garden last Spring when I first finished it. Besides 2 bags of compost, it cost me nothing to make, just time.
Back to fall planting….
I need to get garlic in for next year’s harvest and plant all my cool growing crops. Some things I plan on growing this fall include lettuces, spinach, mustard greens and arugula. It doesn’t take much space and my backyard Kitchen Garden is just the right size for this.
Most greens will grow in full sun to partial shade. I grow in partial shade here as our sun is brutal and my plants would bolt before I could even harvest them. Need to keep the soil evenly moist especially during seed sprouting, but after also. When I made my little Kitchen Garden, I was sure to tap into the main sprinkler line on the back wall and added several drip lines into the garden. Here in the desert, you need to water at least twice a day for something like this. My yard is set up in zones and have programed the sprinklers durations also. I also hand water occasionally in early mornings when we are above 115 in mid summer. It did help everything survive this past record heat summer.
What do you do first? Decide on what greens you like to use and how you use them. Salad greens, cooking, grilling etc.
For salads I would plant a good mix of lettuces and my fav Romaine lettuce. All good for a salad, but also sandwiches, wraps, grilling too in some cases. To add to this list, Endive and Escarole are good choices as I can add those to soups too.
Arugula is great in a salad for a light peppery flavor but it also makes a great pizza topping! Just don’t tell the kiddos what it is, chop it up good and you can get some extra veggies in them. 😉 Spinach is good for a pizza topper too. Of course I have TONS of Basil from the summer I can add too. I let last year’s go to seed and didn’t have to buy any seeds or plants this year. Just had to spend a little time transplanting them into MY chosen spot, not their’s. LOL
If you are big on making soups, then Chard is your first choice. These can get big in a garden, so allow some space. Chard is also good for sautéing and braising and if you harvest young you can add to salads.
Spinach is good in just about anything in my kitchen! Salads, pasta, soups, quiche, smoothies… see, sneaking in those veggies still! And I LOVE spinach, basil and feta cheese pizza topped with some greek olives and fresh tomatoes! I also use it on top on my Italian chicken with some mozzarella cheese and tomato.
Kale is another good all around green to grow and it’s full of nutrition. Picked young is good in salads, but mix into just about anything from casseroles to smoothies. Also a good sautéing green.
I think Mustard Greens fall in the use anywhere category also except the smoothies. Peppery flavor and a variety of colors. Pick them younger for a milder spicy flavor. Takes frost very well also.
Into Asian cooking? Make Bok Choy a choice to grow. Tastes a little like spinach but has crunchy stems. Pick young at about 2″ stem height or wait until 3-4 inches long to pick to add to soups and stir fry.
Then there is Beets. Yes, most people think of beets for the root crop, but you can eat the greens too. Very high in nutrition. You can grow for the root and take only a few outer leaves from each so the roots still grow. Then when you harvest the beets, use those greens in your soups and such.
With almost all greens you can cut and come again. Meaning, they will continue to grow as you use them! Sweet! Just don’t let them go to seed, unless of course you want seeds for your spring plantings. Most will go bitter when they start to seed. All their delicious goodness goes into the seed production.
And don’t forget, if you have surplus you can freeze many of these or share with your family and neighbors. Most of these will be ready to start harvesting anywhere from 30 to 60 days depending on where you live.
Need some seeds? Here are some links to help from my own Amazon Fall crop list. But go to this link on Amazon and on the left side you can also check your climate zone to make it easier.
Like Micro salads (young and tender greens), My Top choice is the Spicy Micro Salad Mix.
I normally use left over garlic for my fall planting, but we all have to start somewhere if you don’t have any and want to be sure it’s right for your area. Some you buy in the grocery store can be used, but not all. Example, if you live in a very cold climate, you will want to use Hard Neck Garlic as apposed to soft neck varieties. Again, click your zone on the left for what’s best for your area. Garlic choices. I prefer the soft neck variety for here.
So get out there! Get your hands dirty and enjoy the cooler temps of the fall, bond with Mother Nature a bit and be a little more sustainable in your life. Don’t have a garden? Use pots. OR better yet, plan one for next year. Note how your yard is now, where the sun is. What can you do now to plan. Start a compost or even just a pile of kitchen scraps mixed into the soil to start it. We can all do our little part to live a better lifestyle and take some responsibility of our own food and diet. If you’ve never gardened, that’s ok. Start small with a 4×4 foot area. We all have to start somewhere. 😉
Want to know more? Pinterest is my GO TO place to find info on just about anything anymore. Follow me! I pin everything from recipes to Advanced framing building. LOL But here is my Gardening and Outdoor project board if you want to browse. Be warned, I’m planning a Mini Farm for the new Homestead so there is a lot of info there. Even if you only have 1 tomato plant, 1 basil plant and a handful of greens, I guarantee you, once you have fresh, you will balk at the grocery store brands. AND, BONUS?! You can make it all organic and use no chemicals. I hope to expand on this and share what I have learned over my life on how to have a sustainable lifestyle and use no outside chemicals for growing or pests. But anyone can start today easily just by adding coffee grounds, banana peels and ground up eggshells to a prospective garden spot.