October 2013
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

 
  Enjoy a green smoothie made from the greens in your garden.

Drink Your Garden

Gardeners who know it’s good to eat their greens are now sharing company with folks who drink their greens. I was first introduced to a blended green smoothie made of kale, cucumber and ginger a couple of years ago at a farmers market stand in San Diego. Today, I see green smoothies increasingly appear on menus, in cookbooks and as part of nutritional programs. At retail, green smoothies can run about $4-$7 each, but making your own is easy, especially in fall, winter and early spring when the weather is perfect for growing your own greens. Our winter garden is nothing but greens; this year we may even plant a few dandelions to try. We use the mildest flavored greens such as spinach and kale (not mustard greens), along with a little of this and that such as lettuce, mint, parsley and stevia leaves (for sweetness). In the winter, when the collards are sweet, we use those, too. Add apple, kiwi or mango for sweetness and fruity flavor, too. A look at the foods section of a good bookstore or a health food store will introduce you to books containing recipes. Online, try rawfamily.com; they even have an app for easy access at the grocery store.

 
If you are lucky, you might bring in some lacewings when you move plants indoors for the winter. They can help control any aphids or mealybugs that come inside with the plants as well.  

Green Lacewings

The time to bring houseplants indoors is approaching and one thing I often find is that whatever is on my houseplants is likely to come in with the plants. For that reason, inspect your plants carefully to be sure they are free of aphids, mealybugs or mites; three common pests of houseplants. If you’re lucky, your plants may have beneficial lacewings on them; the larvae, also known as ant lions, will eat aphids, mealybugs and mites. One winter we had a few lacewings living on our houseplants indoors, keeping up with whatever aphids or mealybugs were multiplying on them. In the garden, adults are most abundant in the fall, so now is a good time to look for them. The adults are active at night, feeding on nectar, pollen and honeydew excreted by pests such as aphids and mealybugs; we occasionally see one resting on our glass door under the porch light. Since lacewings overwinter as adults in protected areas, you may find some on your houseplants this winter. If you do, consider yourself lucky and make sure to move the plants outdoors in the spring so they can get out and start the next generation.

 
  When your okra pods start getting tough, use them to create a fall arrangement in a tall vase.

Last of the Okra

When your okra pods start getting tough because they grow more slowly in the cooler weather, let them develop and get really big. Then you can cut the stems to use in fall flower and foliage arrangements. We put our cut stems in a tall pottery vase on our front porch last winter and it became a conversation piece. Mature okra pods will dry on their own; all you have to do is cut the stems and keep them out of the rain. Those of you who save seeds already know the drill, but as an alternative to hanging them in your garage, try putting them on your table!

Perennials

Perennials are a good solution for gardeners looking for flowers that come back year after year. Although they don’t bloom as long as annuals, they are helpful to anchor flowerbeds and provide some color you know will always be there. Ideally, you can mix annuals and perennials in a bed so the annuals carry the show while the perennials come in and out of bloom in their season. Folks not familiar with garden terms could be easily confused by the term annual because the name makes it sound like something that comes back annually. However, the term annual refers to the plant’s life-cycle being over in a year - well-known examples are impatiens and pansies. Perennials are plants that die down in their off-season, but come back year after year - well-known examples are iris and daylilies. Today’s market for perennials is full of new and exciting choices. Since fall is the ideal time to plant, now is a good time to buy perennials. They will get a good start because the ground is still warm enough to encourage roots and the weather is mild enough the plants aren’t stressed. Just be sure to water during dry periods until the plants become established.

eBird Weekly Bird Casts

Are you a bird watcher? Do you want to know more about bird migrations in the region, maybe connect to other bird watchers? Check out Cornell University’s ebird.org. Among many other things, they feature a weekly birdcast this fall providing a regional forecast and analysis of bird migration at birdcast.info.

 
Left to right, Swamp sunflowers are just one example of perennials to anchor a flowerbed. Double cropping can save space in your garden. Here fall lettuce is planted at the base of tomato plants that will be ending their season soon.

Making Space in a Small Garden

No matter whether you measure your garden in acres or square feet, double cropping saves space and maybe some work along the way. Consider setting out lettuce transplants at the base of your tomato plants, which will be ending their season in a few weeks. The lettuce, which stays low, will be growing vigorously. By this time tomato plants have often lost many of their lower leaves, but, if not, you can prune them up to let in some light for your lettuce. If we have a hot spell, the little extra shade from the plants might be just enough to keep your lettuce plants from bolting, too. n

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.