The first seeds in the ground for my fall garden are two kinds of carrots and a winter radish. I also planted one last round of basil, so there will be more pesto in my freezer to use in wintertime meals.
This year’s carrots: ‘Bolero’ and ‘Short Stuff’
The two varieties, ‘Bolero’ and ‘Short Stuff’, are shorter carrots that will do well in the clay soil of my in-ground garden.
‘Short stuff’ is also recommended as a good choice for container plantings. The fully-mature carrots will be only about 4-inches long, but wide at the top.
‘Bolero’ will be longer, closer to 6-inches at harvest, but slender all the way down.
I amended the soil by adding a nearly-full bucket (5-gallon size) of yard compost to the garden bed before planting. This addition will loosen the soil and improve the odds that the carrots will grow as they should.
The seedlings have not yet come up, but when they do, they will get a dose of the kind of fish emulsion fertilizer that promotes root growth (higher phosphorus than nitrogen).
You may be wondering why I already planted seeds for carrots, in mid-August. The reason is that crops mature more slowly in fall than in spring. If I want to harvest carrots before mid-December, they need to be in the ground, in my garden, now. (For more details, read my book.)
The first winter radishes
‘Watermelon’ winter radish seeds also are in the garden. The current packet says they take 60 days to reach maturity, but older packets from other seed companies have claimed 70-days, which is closer to the speed they grew in my garden. I decided to use 70-days as my working number to determine the planting date, as a result.
Most of the winter radishes will only make good bulbs in fall, in the time of shortening day length. I don’t know why. Some plants are just like that.
That means, though, that this is a crop that can ONLY be had from a fall garden. If anyone in your family loves radishes (a rare thing, I know), plant these soon!
Heat sink surprise
When I was in Chicago last week, I noticed that many vegetable gardens already contained plenty of cool-season seedlings. Considering how much further north Chicago is from here, it made sense that fall gardening would already be well-underway.
However, when I looked up its hardiness zone, I was surprised. Chicago is in plant hardiness zone 6a, according to the newer USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The plant hardiness zone where I live, north of Atlanta, is 7b. That difference in hardiness zones, between Chicago and north-metro-Atlanta, is less than I expected.
Most of area around Chicago (all the northern half of Illinois) is in plant hardiness zone 5, according to the USDA map. That seems more reasonable than 6a. Chicago, which is a large city containing a lot of concrete, must be the same kind of heat-sink that Atlanta is (most of Atlanta is in zone 8a). That could account for part of the difference. Lake Michigan could account for the rest, since enormous bodies of water also help keep nearby air temperatures more moderate.
Update on the ‘Astia’ zucchini
The ‘Astia’ zucchini that is growing in my half-barrel planter is still alive. There are no signs yet of leaf-mildew-diseases, which is good news. The other good news is that, even though the seedlings have only been up for a couple of weeks, I can see the buds of flowers forming on the plants.
These flower buds will keep growing, until the flower buds open. Some flowers will be “girls”, which are the ones that make the zucchini that we eat. Some flowers will be ‘boys’. After the boys have done their job of pollinating the girls, I plan to harvest those boy flowers to use in cooking.
While in Italy over the summer, Joe and I enjoyed fried squash blossoms at the Sax Wine Bar in Montepulciano. We are going to make those ourselves, since the good ladies at Sax Wine Bar are in Italy and we are not.