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GREENS: A SOUTHERN FAVORITE IN FALL GARDENS

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Last Saturday, I took a stroll through the
Discovery Garden located near the AgriLife
Extension Office in Carbide Park. I experienced
a moment of déjà vu as I approached
a vegetable bed maintained by Master
Gardener Aulvey Campbell. He has nurtured
a bountiful crop of healthy mustard
greens grown in 4×12 foot raised bed.
Can any Southern garden truly be a
Southern garden without greens planted in
the fall garden? If you are from the South,
your Mother and/or Grandmother probably
cooked them up with a bit of smoked meat
or bacon. My parents always had a fall
vegetable garden when I was a young boy
growing up on a farm in Virginia. Greens
were a tasty and very nutritious staple at
our Sunday dinners when I was kid.
In the South, the term “greens” refers
to vegetables whose leaves are eaten
when cooked until tender. During cool
fall weather, mustard, turnip, collards
and other greens flourish in the vegetable
garden. And November is an
excellent time to plant them.
Greens are highly recommended for the
home vegetable garden because they are
easy to grow and very productive. Growing
greens is a great way to keep your vegetable
garden productive through winter.
Mustard and turnips are fast growing
greens, and harvesting can begin as early
as five or six weeks after planting. Harvest
the entire plant, or “crop” the plants by
removing only the lower, larger leaves.
Cropping provides harvest while allowing
the plant to remain and continue to
grow. It also allows you to extend the harvest.
Generally, mustard and turnip can be
cropped until late winter or early spring from
a planting done now if the winter is mild.
Cropping turnips will reduce the size of the
root, so you may want to reserve an area of
your turnips for root production. On those
plants, do not harvest any leaves. The leaves
will produce food through photosynthesis.
This food is transferred to the roots for storage,
and the plants develop nice size turnips
ready to harvest in eight or nine weeks.
Collards can be grown year-round, but the
best quality is obtained during the cool season.
A frost will “sweeten” collards and make
the greens even tastier. Properly spaced
plants are best harvested by cropping the
older, larger leaves. Collards tolerate high
temperatures better that most greens. They
are also very cold hardy and survive temperatures
in the low 20s without damage.
Spinach must have cool weather for
best production, and fall plantings do
especially well. A warm spell can often
cause this vegetable to “bolt,” particularly
when grown in spring. Bolt is a term used
when a leafy vegetable matures and produces
a flower stalk. You can prevent your
spinach from bolting so it will produce
leaves instead of flowers.
Cool weather, adequate water and regular
fertilization with nitrogen will encourage the
spinach to remain in a vegetative growth
cycle. Spinach is slow-growing for the first
few weeks after it comes up. Be patient and
keep the plants well-watered and they will
eventually grow large enough to harvest the
entire plant or begin cropping.
Swiss chard is an excellent substitute
for spinach. It is easier to grow, more
productive and tolerates warm weather
much better than spinach. The leaves of
chard can easily grow 14 to 18 inches tall,
so production is much greater than with
spinach. Chard is available in several white
stemmed types. Red stemmed types such
as Vulcan and a variety called Bright Lights
— which produces stems of white, rose,
red, yellow gold or orange — are ornamental
and even look great in flower beds.
I planted a few transplants of this variety in
my landscape over the weekend.
When cooked, chard is similar in flavor
to spinach, and tender young chard
leaves can be eaten raw. The leaf stems
are delicious when cooked separately and
have a mild, almost asparagus-like flavor.
Space transplants 8 to 10 inches apart.
Harvest chard by cropping.
Kale is a close relative to collards and
has a similar flavor when cooked. Kale
is very cold hardy and can withstand
temperatures in the teens. Space transplants
10 to 12 inches apart.
Cabbage is another leafy vegetable that is
suited to cool weather. Green and red cabbage
varieties are available. The heads are
ready to harvest when they become hard.
Transplants planted now should be ready to
harvest in late winter or early spring.
Although not generally cooked, lettuce is
also often included with the greens, and leaf
and semi-heading varieties of lettuce are
easy to grow. The heading lettuce varieties,
such as Iceberg, are more of a challenge.
Leaf or semi-heading types of lettuce to
try include romaine, buttercrunch, bibb and
oak leaf types, which are sure winners.
These days, lettuces come in an amazing
variety of colors, from deep green to
chartreuse and shades of pink to red to
burgundy. And the leaves may be smooth,
ruffled or fringed. Lettuce cultivars with
red foliage add interest and extra nutrition
to your salads. Red Sails is a variety that
is easy to grow and does not become bitter
until the heat of summer.
Other vegetables can be planted now in
your garden along with greens. Root crops
such as radish, carrot and beet thrive in
cool weather. Shallots, onions and garlic
should also be planted now. Garlic and
onions will need to grow until May in order
to produce bulbs. Of course, green onions
and shallots can be harvested all winter
and into early spring.
William Johnson is a horticulturist
with the Galveston County office of
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Visit his website at aggie-horticulture.
tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm.

INGREDIENTS
6 ounces multigrain rotini pasta,
8 ounces kale, large stems removed and leaves
chopped
2 red and/or green sweet peppers, seeded
1 24 – ounce jar pasta sauce
1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
1/4 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
Fresh basil leaves (optional)
DIRECTIONS
1. In a Dutch oven or large pot, cook pasta according
to package directions,
add kale and sweet peppers for the last 3 minutes of
cooking.
Drain; return to Dutch oven or pot.
2. Stir pasta sauce and snipped basil into pasta and
vegetables; heat through.
3. Sprinkle with feta cheese. If desired, garnish with
basil leaves.

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