The Hippo


Apr 26, 2019








Late summer plantings
Filling the voids in the veggie garden

By Henry Homeyer

 If you are like me, you have some space in your vegetable garden now. I have pulled all my garlic and my peas. Or maybe you planted a big patch of lettuce early on and it’s been eaten. In any event, you could slow down and just mulch your empty beds, or you could plant more veggies for the fall.

One of my favorite items to plant now is a fall radish called Red Meat. It is also sometimes called the watermelon radish or Beauty Heart radish. It has white skin with green shoulders and a red and white interior. You probably will not find seeds for this radish at your local garden center or hardware store; you will have to order them from a seed company. 
Here is what is special about the watermelon radish: it grows to 4 inches in diameter without getting tough or woody. And you can only plant it in late summer, as it will bolt if you plant it in the spring.
It is fabulous added to a green salad or made into a salad with sweet onions and tomatoes and dressed with a vinaigrette sauce. And like all radishes, it is fast growing. Order now, plant by Labor Day, and enjoy them throughout the fall. I plant them 2 inches apart, then thin to 4 inches apart, eating the small thinnings. Unlike stronger-tasting radishes, you don’t have to be macho to pull and eat this radish straight from the garden.
Lettuce, of course, is a good fall crop. I like to start lettuce seeds in those small plastic six-packs left over from spring. I fill them with a good planting mix and lay seeds right on the soil surface, then cover with just a hint of soil mix or vermiculite. Lettuce, planted too deeply, will not germinate well. It needs light to trigger germination, just like many weeds. But that means you need to water regularly to keep the seeds from drying out.
By planting seeds in six-packs with potting soil, it is easier to separate the seedlings from each other than if you planted directly in the ground. I like to plant lettuce 6 inches apart in the garden so that each plant will develop into a nice head. Or if the roots are too tangled, maybe two or three seedlings can be planted as a clump without problems. Some gardeners like to sow lettuce seeds thickly in the garden, and then cut the leaves when small, particularly if using salad mixes. According to the Johnny’s catalog, which I know is accurate, lettuce germinates poorly in temperature over 75 degrees. So if we have a hot spell, start them in flats in a cool place indoors.
Kohlrabi is another great veggie, one sadly unknown to many gardeners. It is in the Brassica or broccoli family and develops a globe-shaped edible stem above ground with leaves emerging from the edible part. People often say, though I don’t know why, that it looks like a space alien. It comes in purple and green-skinned varieties.
But here’s the great part: certain varieties of kohlrabi reach maturity in as little as 37 days! That said, read the catalog carefully: some storage kohlrabi like Kossak can take 80 days to mature and get to be 8 inches or more in diameter. Most varieties should be eaten between 2 and 4 inches in diameter. Direct seed and thin to 4 inches.
Mostly I eat kohlrabi as a coleslaw. I use the grating blade on my food processor (it’s a flat grater blade up top on an extension, not the regular chopping/cutting blade in the bottom of the bowl). That makes quick work of the grating, which I used to do by hand. I mix it 50-50 with grated carrots and add a vinaigrette sauce, fennel seeds and dried cranberries or raisins. Kohlrabi can also be added to a stir fry or stews.
Daphne, my “killer corgi,” normally keeps the deer away. No, I do not tie her up in the garden at night. Her very presence each day lets deer know that it is not a good idea to intrude, and generally they do not. But one night this summer a deer came in and ate all the leaves off my beets! The nerve! So I will plant some more beets for fall eating.
Beets are fairly frost hardy and mature in about seven weeks from planting. So I should have a nice crop of small to medium sized beets in October if I plant now. A fall planting will most likely get plenty of rain and produce some nice-looking beets. The scab does not harm the beets; I just remove it with a potato peeler.
I haven’t even gotten around to putting up my hammock and might not this year. If you’ve been industrious all summer — weeding, thinning, watering and more — you’ve earned some time off. But I find I always want to push the limits, so I ordered more seeds and planned a few things for late fall.
Henry is a gardening consultant and the author of four gardening books. His website is 

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