Shorter, cooler days are on the horizon, and gardens are looking tired. As you pull plants and free up garden space, consider planting salad and braising greens.
If you haven’t had a garden or are an apartment dweller, another option is growing in containers. For personal guidance, Extension Agent Paige Patterson is offering a hands-on fall vegetable gardening class, Monday August 31st from 5:30-7:00. Call Paige at 828-264-3061 to register. Attendees will make a fall lettuce planter that they can reuse from season to season.
If you can’t make the class, just fill a planter with a general purpose potting mix and follow seed planting instructions. The plants will need 6 to 8 hours of sun per day. After 3 weeks, your vegetables may benefit from a topping of nitrogen containing fertilizer.Planting kale, lettuce, mustard greens or radish seeds now will provide you with fresh produce before our expected frost date of October 10th. Other cold tolerant plants, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and spinach should be planted as seedlings, as they take longer to mature. Some seedlings are available at area farmers’ markets.
To continue a garden past the frost date, row cover fabric is a simple way to extend the growing season. You can build a structure for the row cover out of plastic pipes. Row covers enhance plant growth by raising day temperatures around the plants and insulating plants at night by trapping heat around them.
Your soil needs to be prepared for planting by tilling or spading to a depth of at least 6 inches. The pH of the soil should be 6.0 to 6.7, and if you have successfully grown other vegetables, it may be at that level. Fall is a good time to take a soil test, then apply some slow release amendments as needed for spring crops. Soil test boxes are available at NC Cooperative Extension, and the test is free until November.
Fortunately, tomatoes are coming in strong right now. Sally Thiel of Zydeco Moon Farm specializes in heirloom tomatoes and shares this recipe:
2 pounds ripe tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chiffonade fresh basil
1/2 cup blue cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Make or buy a pie crust. Roll out the pie crust on a lightly floured surface to fit a deep 9 or 10-inch pie pan. Place the pastry in the pie pan and crimp edges decoratively. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, then line with aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges. Remove foil and pie weights, and return to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool. Crack the egg in a small bowl, reserving yolk for the filling, separately. Lightly beat the egg white with a fork, then brush the surface of pie crust with a light coating of egg white and allow to cool.
Slice the tomatoes, discarding the stem and root ends, into 1/4-inch slices and lightly season with the salt and pepper.
Sprinkle about 1/3 of the bread crumbs in the bottom of the pie crust. In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise with the reserved egg yolk and stir until smooth. Place a layer of tomatoes in the bottom of the piecrust over the breadcrumbs, using about half of the tomatoes. Drizzle with half of the mayonnaise mixture, half of the thyme and basil, half of the blue cheese and half of the mozzarella cheeses. Top with half of the remaining breadcrumbs then top with the remaining tomato slices, blue cheese, mozzarella, mayonnaise mixture, and remaining thyme and basil. Top with the remaining bread crumbs and drizzle with the olive oil. Cover with the Parmesan cheese. Place in the oven and bake until bubbly hot and golden brown, about 1 hour.