Horticulture wisdom says that gardening isn't a logical science. Then again, neither is life of any kind.
I was prepared to forswear my own efforts when my berries wilted, my Portofino squash decided to self destruct and weird, off-colored spots plagued my otherwise virile cucumber vine. As I had given them each forenames — Salieri the strawberry, Sigmund the squash and Cornelius the cuke — I felt as if I had massacred my own green offspring.
The flavor of kale is improved when frost appears on the leaves. The chill brought on by ice crystals disrupts an enzyme that's responsible for the bitter aftertaste.
But after some trial-and-error that included many trips to my favorite local nursery, online research and consulting the gardening scriptures known as Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro Houston, an in-depth treatise written by Bob Randall, I was able to muster enough chutzpah to pick myself up, dust myself off and do it over again.
Now that temperatures are starting to ever so gently descend, time is ripe to prepare the sandy loam for autumn crops. With the advice of sages at Urban Harvest, below are five species to plant in September.
There's such a lovely array of heirloom varieties available, each with its own characteristic look and taste. Some can be consumed as either snap peas, shell beans or dry beans, offering gardeners a choice of when to harvest. The fruit may be ready to pick in as little 50 days, in time for a homegrown Thanksgiving side dish to wow your guests.
Sprouting bush beans from seed is one of the easiests — and most inexpensive — things you'll ever do. Keep them moist until they germinate, a process that can be as fast as a couple of days.
We tend to think of the herb as a warm weather flavoring agent, though it actually doesn't agree with Houston's intense summer heat. Transplants are already available at local nurseries, though it isn't difficult to grow cilantro direct from seed. Cilantro is hardy, but it will bolt and set seed when temperatures rise in the spring. Not to worry, though. Stalks should rise from the ashes again in the fall.
Do allow cilantro to flower. The blossoms attract many beneficial organisms and pollinators.
The nutritional superhero of all leafy greens loves cooler weather. Transplants in a potpourri of varieties abound at neighborhood nurseries right now. Be sure to plant kale 18 inches apart as the crop needs air to circulate between the leaves to avoid problems caused by the excessive accumulation of moisture.
I have a love affair with Tuscano kale. It tastes great and, according to Randall, has more antioxidants than other types.
Tip from the garden masters: The flavor of kale is improved when frost appears on the leaves. The chill brought on by ice crystals disrupts an enzyme that's responsible for the bitter aftertaste associated with this green.
It's best to find a transplant for this crop, not to be confused with broccoli rabe or Chinese broccoli. Although the cabbage cousin occupies a bit of real estate in the garden, it can be replanted after a December harvest for another yield in spring.
If you have spring or summer crops that are still growing strong, you can always plant more broccoli in a small space and transplant when room frees up from seasonal vegetables ending their journey.
Don't discard the leaves. They are edibly delicious.
Surprisingly, growing garlic is effortless. Considering the many health advantages of the cloves and the endless applications in the kitchen, garlic is one lovely vegetable to have on hand.
Urban Harvest suggests having garlic fringing the edges of the garden beds, clearing space for other crops that may need more elbow room to thrive.