We’re at that point in the year where it’s time to start thinking about fall frosts. Not because it’s likely we’ll get one anytime soon (typical for this area would be the end of October), but because there aren’t that many days left in the growing season. For anything that was just planted, or that has been up for awhile, but still isn’t close to full size, it’s starting to feel like a countdown. Will I be able to harvest much of anything from this plant before the frost comes? That’s where I’ve been with my Malabar spinach plants this year, which got off to a very slow start.
Malabar spinach is a heat-loving vine that is a different species than spinach, but with leaves that look and taste similar when eaten raw. I grew it last year, and it was amazingly prolific, taking over a whole corner of my garden. I was hoping for similar results this year, but so far have not had great success.
The first planting I did failed to come up at all. I did a second, later planting, which took almost two months to be big enough to need the trellis. (It’s supposed to be 70 days to harvest, so maybe that’s not unusually slow, but I’m not very patient.) Now, as we’re getting to the end of the summer, the plants are finally starting to take off, and I’m hoping I might actually get a decent harvest between now and our first frost. So come on Malabar spinach, you can do it!
If I had one plant that grew especially well this year, it was Malabar spinach. Here’s a photo of the plant growing.
And below is a photo of a typical harvest. The leaves are the only part of the plant you eat– and they look and taste quite a bit like regular spinach. (Although some people I know are not fans of the texture. I’ve even heard the word “slimy” used to describe it. Whatever. I think it’s great.)
This summer and fall, I’ve harvested huge number of leaves from the plant, and that’s barely kept it in check. Which is great! I’m glad it’s grown so well. But it is remarkable how far the vines have spread from a single plant. Here are a few photos of this plant taking over my garden.
By the way, for anyone following the Garden Connect project, this was my only successful crop from that garden bed this year (apparently it’s resistant to flooding!) I planted it as a substitution for regular spinach.
I’ve been out of town for a couple of weeks, leaving the garden in the care of a friend who kindly offered to water while I was gone. As strange as it feels to walk away from a garden during the growing season, it’s exciting to come back and see how much everything has grown. And not just the weeds! Here are a few photos of the highlights.
So as I may have mentioned before, some of the crops in the garden connect bed can be planted twice a year. Lettuce and spinach grow well when it’s cool, so it’s easy to do one crop in the spring, and another in the fall. My spinach doesn’t seem to have taken, but the lettuce (above) in the garden connect bed is doing well.
You can also do multiple plantings of carrots and beets per year, so I replanted those in the garden connect beds, as well. Here’s a shot of the carrots. I did switch up the variety this time. The garden connect plan called for purple carrots– which is great because they’re supposed to be especially nutritious. But around here we have heavy clay soil, and the carrots I planted earlier in the year didn’t do terribly well. (They can’t seem to get deep enough into the ground.) For a second crop, I chose the much rounder (almost turnip-shaped) ‘Paris Market’ variety of carrots I’ve planted elsewhere in the garden, and have had much better luck with.
In non-garden connect news, I’m also growing some turnips. This garden bed is interesting because it’s a mix of turnips and bok choy: I didn’t really intend to plant it all mixed in together, but apparently I planted those rows too close together, or managed to mix the seeds together at some point. Anyway, the turnips are a sweet white Japanese turnip. Haven’t harvested any yet, but it’s about that time!
We might still get a few hot days this year, but based on the plants that are growing, it’s officially fall in my garden. Goodbye summer squash and cucumbers, hello salad greens!
Unfortunately, that means that everything new in the garden right now (lettuce, spinach, peas, kale, radishes, turnips, beets and carrots) isn’t too exciting to look at yet, because they’re all still seedlings, and they look a lot alike at this stage. But who cares? Let’s look at a few photos anyway!
These are peas.
Those are radishes.
And here we have turnips.
I’ve also replanted the Garden Connect bed, so here’s what that looks like right now. Tomatoes, a pepper, and parsnips are still standing. Lettuce, beets, carrots and spinach have all been replanted. Can you see the green specks in the dirt? Those are them.
Posted in My Garden
Tagged beets, carrots, gardenconnect, greens, lettuce, peas, radishes, root vegetables, salad greens, seedlings, spinach
If I’m looking for leafy green vegetables right now, there are just two in the garden that have made it this far into the summer: the kale and the collards. The spinach, arugula and mizuna went to seed early on. The lettuce and mustard greens held out a little longer, but are gone now.
So, let’s hear it for these two heat resistant leafy greens! The collards (above) are a variety called ‘Vates,’ and the Kale (below) is ‘Toscano.’
I planted most of my fall crops a few weeks ago (beets, carrots, turnips, chard and leeks), but I’ve been putting off sowing the last of the greens. Why? Because it’s hot, and I haven’t felt like doing any digging to prepare the soil for planting.
Then today, it occurred to me that I could plant without doing any additional digging. I’ve generally tried to keep my vegetables in neat, rectangular garden beds, but there’s no particular reason it has to be that way. And because most greens (lettuce, spinach, etc.) don’t take that much growing room, it’s pretty easy to just squeeze them in here and there.
So today I planted a lot of greens on the edges of other garden beds. The spinach is right in next to the turnips, and the lettuce is taking up space where a row of carrots didn’t germinate. With the collard greens it was easy. I planted them in the space shown below, which I originally left open for another row of green beans that I never got around to planting.
It’s not very orderly looking, but I did get in the last of my fall crops with minimal sweating. So, success!
These creatures are certainly finding a lot to eat in my garden. The caterpillars worked their way through the collard greens, and there are now a bunch of cabbage white butterflies hanging around. They seem to be enjoying the nectar from the mustard plants.
Speaking of mustard greens, I have a lot of those right now, and have been making lots of mustard green chips. I started with this recipe from The Refined Chef, but keep tinkering with it.