End of summer doesn’t mean end of garden
By Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University, Master Gardener
Labor Day is often viewed as the end of summer. Actually, we still have about three weeks of the summer season, and summer weather may remain even longer.
However, we will see earlier sunsets and temperatures will be cooling. That is good news for fall crops. The warm soil of summer gets them off to a quick start, but maturing in the cooler autumn weather results in longer-lasting vegetables with sweeter flavor.
One of my favorite fall vegetables is the daikon Japanese radish. They germinate quickly, and it only takes about three weeks before you can start harvesting.
In that way, they are much like the radishes with which most of us are familiar. However, there is no need to be in a hurry about harvest. Even though the radishes may grow as big as softballs, they do not become pithy like French radishes.
Your harvest may continue even after frost. I have had fresh radishes with my New Year’s Day cabbage. They are also more versatile than other radishes. They may be eaten raw but are also a good addition to stir-fry mixes.
Oriental greens also are excellent as fall crops. If you want them as salad greens, you can continue to plant small patches of oriental greens up until Halloween or even later. They germinate quickly, and one may start to harvest the micro-greens when they get their first true leaves. This is a good way to thin the crop, leaving a few plants spaced about a foot apart to mature into the stalks usually associated with bok choy, pak choy and Chinese cabbage.
When mature, the stalks may be kept in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for months. Use them as you would celery. The flavor is different, but they are a versatile vegetable, raw or cooked.
Of course, what fall veggie plot would be complete without turnips? Like the oriental greens, they germinate quickly and may be harvested for the green tops in only about three weeks.
The greens may be used in salads or cooked. Some people like them wilted with bacon grease. Others prefer boiling them before frying them in a light oil such as olive oil or sesame seed oil. Most people agree that a spritz of vinegar brings out the best flavor.
Of course, one may continue to harvest the turnips until the ground freezes. I have even used leaves or bales of straw to cover patches and continue the harvest well into winter.
Most people think of boiling or frying turnips, but they may also be used in other ways. In recent years, it has become popular to mix them with carrots, parsnips and other root crops and roast them.
People of German heritage know that turnips may also be used for making slaw and kraut. I think turnip kraut stays crisper than cabbage kraut.
Even if you do not eat one turnip, planting them is well worth the price of the seed and the little time involved. They fix nitrogen in the soil; the roots break up the soil structure and the decaying organic matter will enrich the soil for the future. Some may over-winter and provide greens in the spring and then produce seed that one may harvest for planting next year.
It may be near the end of summer, but it is certainly not the end of the gardening year. Go sow some seeds.