My garden is still full of crops that were planted in late summer, and we have been enjoying them bit by bit. The most abundant plant group in my fall/winter garden this year is the chicory group; these crops include escarole, frisée (an endive), and radicchio.
Other crops still coming in, bit by bit, are the carrots, radishes, lettuce, parsley, and winter onions (harvested as slender, green onions). I am still waiting for a beet to be large enough to bring in. The beet patch contains a few that are getting close.
The “bit by bit” style of harvest is partly because the crops are all heirlooms, which means they weren’t bred for uniform speed of growth. They all were chosen for flavor, not uniformity, which means my garden has a kind of wild look. We are really, though, enjoying the good food.
In the garden
Crops in the garden right now are growing well in our recent cool weather. When we had those few much-colder days, back in mid-November, down into the low twenties fahrenheit, I covered most of my garden to keep the plants a little warmer.
The wire supports that I set into the garden to support the spun row covers through those cold days are still in place. When the next hard freeze comes, I am ready.
Until then, my only work in the garden — besides harvesting good food — is pulling out a bit of chickweed and henbit, two common winter weeds that I snack on as I pull them and also bring inside to share with my pet rabbits.
These are some of the crops in my garden today:
Leaves from the trees are filtering down through the plants, and the plan is for those leaves to remain in the garden. All those old leaves will add a little insulation for the plants and soil in the next hard freeze.
Why so many chicories?
Chicories are my current major crop-group for a couple of reasons.
One is that, when I have been in Italy, eating at restaurants, one commonly served side dish has been cooked greens. At first, I thought these were all spinach, but a lot of the time they were actually chicory/escarole (I found out by asking).
In addition, the little local grocery store in Montepulciano, where we stayed, sells several kinds of radicchios and escaroles all summer long. Growing so many kinds of chicories keeps memories of some great meals in my mind, and it also brings an Italian flavor to more of our meals at home.
Another reason for growing chicories is that they are not very bothered by pests and diseases. At least, so far they have been trouble-free.
Growing chicories in fall versus in spring
I have grown some kinds of chicories before now, but those were planted as spring crops, not as fall/winter crops. The different results of growing in these different seasons has been interesting.
One main difference that I have seen is that the heading-types, like the red radicchio Palla rossa, are slower to form those tight, central heads when grown as a fall crop.
However, the fall-grown plants are larger than I’ve seen in my spring-grown crops.
I obviously have not been keeping up a weekly writing schedule on my website these past couple of months.
One reason is that we have had many visitors this fall — two sisters-in-law, then a brother, then another sister-in-law, then my youngest son and his partner. Being able to spend time with so many family members has been glorious! In a little more than a week, our oldest son will visit from Colorado, which will also be glorious. Then, our only guests for awhile will be pets of friends who are traveling for the winter holiday.
The other main reason for the lack of writing on this website is that I was writing something else — a new book!
More about the Garden Planner and Notebook next week.