“The only difference between a green thumb and a brown thumb is experimentation and persistence”.We have learned a lot about growing a fall garden in the South this year. Six weeks into our garden (our season starts in October), we are feeling pretty confident that our list of 16 things to grow in the fall we made for you will have you container planting or digging holes before you get to the end of this post!
Tomatoes have not done well for us in the past since we planted them in July, but we think we know that we just planted them too early and they simply could not take the heat. What did grow good for us was okra. Dean’s good friend Jay’s Dad (who had an amazing vegetable garden) always said that okra was the only plant that could survive the heat and humidity of a Tennessee garden! Turns out that holds true for Central Florida. Like brussels sprouts, I never cared for okra UNTIL we started growing them ourselves and cooking them how we like. I was never a fan of the brussels sprout’s aroma drifting through the house as they boiled in a pot of hot water (some of you remember when everything was boiled) and the okra’s insides were too slimy for me to stomach.
But now it is totally different! At our house, we cut the brussels sprouts in half, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, add pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and roast them for about 40 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Yum! It is the best side dish to accompany any entree.
With the okra, we just cut them in bite size pieces, coat them with a little cornmeal and saute them in our cast iron skillet until they brown or maybe just a little burnt. Crunchy on the outside soft in the middle. Sounds like a candy bar. Dean has also pickled a few jars of okra too.
This year we decided to tackle the tomatoes again but this time in the fall. Dean had designed and built a raised soil bed to grow our own vegetables at the bottom of our backyard slope. You may have seen the rainwater harvesting system he designed so that we can collect rainwater and water our plants and garden for FREE. It has worked just as he designed, perfectly. Although, we haven’t had much rain we are still running enough water through the system.
Today, we wanted to show you 16 things to grow in the fall. We will be showing you when we first started planting our garden and how it has progressed approximately 6 weeks later. We hope that this will help you when you plan to grow your own garden in the fall. As many salads as we eat, we can’t wait to make our first homegrown salad!
We had fun picking out the different vegetables and fruit (yes, tomatoes are a fruit) to grow. If you stop by your local nursery at just the right time, there will be more than enough to choose from.
Here is the list of the 16 things to grow in the fall:
1.) Romaine Lettuce
3.) Bibb Lettuce
6.) Brussels Sprouts
10.) Solar Fire Tomatoes
12.) String Beans
Lettuce is more of a cool temperature crop and while sun is healthy for growth, it should do well in partial shade. Now, what we should have done is planted all the lettuce at weekly intervals so that it isn’t all ready at the same time. Dean eats a salad every single night for dinner, so I don’t think it will be a problem in our household.
You can see that a lot of leaves gather in this area. Leaves are fine, it’s like mulch which will eventually break down into the soil. The purpose of mulch is to basically moderate the soil temperature and keep the weeds down!
The garden was planted October 29th. The above photo is the Bibb lettuce when we first planted and below 6 weeks later. Leaf lettuce is different than iceberg lettuce and doesn’t form a head. You can simply cut the leaves when they are ready instead of pulling directly from the ground. We plan to use the Bibb lettuce for lettuce wraps and in our salads. You know, Dean, carb-free!
You can cut it when it is about 4 inches long so this crop is ready. You want to be careful to not cut down too far (the crown) or the plant may die. Tip: Lettuce can be stored in a plastic gallon bag or sealed container refrigerated for 1-2 weeks.
Below is a photo of the Broccoli just planted into the ground then 6 weeks later. For planting all the vegetables, we simply planted them according to the directions on the tag. Broccoli is usually ready to be picked in 65-70 days. You are supposed to pick the broccoli when the heads are 3-6 inches round and cut it about 6 inches below the head.
In the first part of the garden we planted Romaine lettuce, Bibb Lettuce, the tomatoes and tomatillos. There are string beans at the far end next to the DIY vertical trellis made from the netting and rods of an old baseball pitching net. The photo below is the day we planted everything.
Marigolds were interspersed throughout the garden to repel plant eating aphids. So far, they have worked. Other plants and flowers that repel insects are mint, basil, lemongrass, lavender, rosemary and chrysanthemums to name a few.
Photo above is 6 weeks later
We used tomato cages for the tomatillos and tomatoes to help support the leggy vines.
If you aren’t familiar with tomatillos, let me introduce you. Some say they are related to the tomato family and other information says they are related to the Cape gooseberry. They originated in Mexico and have a light papery husk that should be removed before eating. Because they are native to hotter climates, they do not like a lot of wet soil and they love the sunshine. The above photo is 6 weeks after planting. You can see that the papery husk has formed, but right now it is hollow. The time to pick is when the husk hardens. The inside is white and meatier than a tomato. Dean makes a mean salsa verde with roasted tomatillas.
The below photo shows the string beans first day planted. We did add cucumber in between the string beans a couple days later. If you are wondering what they are growing in, it is called a woolly pocket. Woolly pockets are indoor/outdoor living wall planters. they are great and we love incorporating them into the garden. You can also use them for vertical gardening. They are available with multi-pockets as well, Garden vertical multi- planters.
Here we are 6 weeks later with the string beans and cucumbers.
We have some green beans planted in the ground near our diy trellis since they typically are a growing vine plant. We will compare how they do in the woolly pocket opposed to the ground. The cucumber is growing in the middle of the string beans and look pretty hearty at this point.
We have yellow onions and red onions growing. I just planted the bulbs about three quarters in the soil with just the tip sticking out. They are doing great so far. We had plenty of onion bulbs left over to plant later on. We add an onion and garlic to just about every dinner meal we prepare. Onions make a great plant to also grow in a container.
We planted out brussels sprouts about 2 weeks later than the rest of the garden. I am looking forward to when they are ready. Have you ever been to a Trader Joe’s and seen them with the full stalks in the produce section? They are one of the most naturally beautiful vegetables ever grown. They take a little longer to produce the knobs of tiny cabbage-like heads but when they are ready just cut them off the main stem. Remember, they are delicious roasted with a little salt, pepper and olive oil.
Both Arugula and Romaine lettuces grow well in the cooler temperatures. Arugula is a favorite of chefs and can be on the expensive side in the grocery store. It has more of a peppery and pungent taste. Romaine lettuce is what we make most of our our salads from. Romaine will grow more vertical and the arugula grows closer to the ground.
Full of fiber, beta carotene and Vitamin C, collard greens are well know in the south. They grow rather large so they should be spaced at least 18 inches apart. Maturity is around 60-75 days but as soon as you see leaves that look edible they can be picked. We usually saute collard greens with olive oil, salt and pepper and onions. Sometimes, we will throw some canned tomatoes in along with some cannelloni beans. Dean just got back from a trip from Los Angeles and has been raving about a burger wrapped in Collards from the restaurant BareBurger. Sounds like something we will try to make at home.
Peppermint and Cilantro
Peppermint grows well in a container or the soil. It tends to spread easily and is recommended to change the location of the plant every 3-4 years. The main reason we planted mint in our woolly pocket was to keep away aphids and insects. Peppermint has been known to be used a lot in home remedies aiding with digestion, colds and flu, lowering blood glucose and blood pressure. Always check with your doctor before trying this at home.
We use a lot of cilantro in our Mexican dishes we prepare. Cilantro seeds are actually the coriander spice that you may have in your spice rack. When growing cilantro, it definitely does not take well to heat, so be sure to plant in partial shade. We planted the peppermint in the middle of the two cilantro plants as the photo shows below.
Spinach is such a healthy source of Vitamin A and we use it in our salads and side dishes. I like to make cream cheese and spinach jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon and baked in the oven or grilled. Yum!
Here are the lettuce leaves that we have discussed so that you can get a good idea of the shape of each plants leaves.
Now, we just need to add a few tomatoes, cucumbers and onions and we have our very own homegrown salad.
Black Cherry Tomatoes
This is at 6 weeks and we see our first tomatoes.
Solar Fire Tomato Plant
There is a lot of buzz on how to properly grow tomatoes and especially in the heat of the south. We learned our lesson that tomatoes do not like the direct heat and we have heard others say they have better luck growing the smaller tomatoes like black cherry and grape tomatoes. We thought with our fall crop we would try the three variations above. It’s nice to see that we already have a few Black Cherry Tomatoes. The Solar Fire family is a heat tolerant plant so we will see how it does along with the Heirloom tomatoes.
The Heirloom tomato is one of my favorites. There are a lot of varieties, but people are typically interested in the heirloom more than others because they are supposed to have been open pollinated propagated for 50 years. What does that actually mean? It means for 50 years that particular variety of tomato self-pollinated from the true original variety seed. Pretty cool, huh?
We hope you have enjoyed our garden tour and feel confident about choosing these 16 things to grow in the fall.
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