Friday, 20 August 2010

Sowing leaves in August and September to enjoy through the autumn and into winter

By the end of July you've harvested a lot of spring-sown crops, and can see that (maybe) your tomatoes will ripen. There's a sort of 'what now' feeling as it all starts to go over and feel a bit tired in your growing space.  Fear not!  There is lots to sow now to ensure satisfying growing and healthy eating through the autumn and winter.  See this link and pdf table on the Master Gardener website for a range of salads and other veg, crops to sow August onwards.
Here, I'll focus on chard and kale - specifically cavolo nero - which are super easy and will give you cut and come again crops through autumn and into the winter.  They withstand frost and, though they obviously won't grow very fast in the cold and short days, they may well come through into spring and give you an early burst of fresh leaves.  At a certain point you'll put the plants on the compost heap, but by then you'll have spring seedlings to put out. Here (right, top left) are some April pictures of seedlings earlier this year.
The cavolo nero grew up, partnered by pot marigold 'Porcupine', left, and a yellow-stemmed chard is pictured in a basket above with broad beans, spinach, fennel and nigella flowers from early June.
These are nice-looking plants year round. Cavolo nero and curly kale look very pretty in the frost.  Chard stems can be white, yellow, lime green, orange or red.  You can be minimalist and go for white stems only, but varieties like 'Bright Lights' give you a whole range of colours which are very vibrant, particularly when the winter sun is low in the sky. I like the bluey wrinkled leaves of cavolo nero and chose to contrast that with the orange marigolds, and later orange zinnias (which turned out to be pink). Chard is always pleasingly glossy.You can shred either and stir in with pasta to wilt, or stir-fry, or add to soups. People always talk about the earthy taste of chard which is maybe a bit off-putting, but it's just lovely.  Kale is a little bit bitter - I like that - but you cook it with tomatoes, carrots, other sweet root veg, so that taste is complemented. 
Lastly, both are full of folate, essential for good health.  Maybe someone out there can comment with info on the nutrients. Would love to hear from you!

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