Of all the fruits I grow in my garden I think the grape vines are the most reliable and versatile. Being vines they are perfect to block views I don’t want, decorate arbors and cover plain fences. In the summer they become laden with heavy clusters of tasty round fruits that are juicy and refreshing in the heat of summer. This is one plant that seems to produce enough food for my needs, the wildlife and even all the neighbors.
In fact, most years I end up piling them up on neighbor’s doorsteps, ringing the bell and running away since I have so many. Another good home for excess crops is the food bank. A drop off at the senior center always brings smiles, too.
Although I am fortunate to live in Southern California where I have a wide range of excellent grape varieties to grow for eating or for making wine, there are varieties that are adapted to climates of all different types. So you can probably enjoy growing these useful and beautiful vines in your garden, too, no matter where you live.
There are elaborate pruning techniques that are important for commercially grown plants or vines that need to be properly trained. Good pruning in the winter will assure healthier, better producing and attractive vines. But grapes are quite forgiving and you can have lovely, productive plants without fussing too much. I find you can get away with simply pruning back severely at the end of the autumn even if you don’t carefully count the nodes. Even unpruned vines often produce well enough, although the size of the grape and some of the quality may be lost over time. Growing grapes for the home garden need not be an exact science for enjoying the grape harvest.
I don’t know about you, but I love growing – and eating – grapes. Mine are clean and organic, and they are tastier, healthier and much cheaper than the ones I can buy at the supermarket. So off I go again today to fill my bags with more goodies from the garden to eat and to share. Grapes are fun.
As the warm weather of summer glides into autumn, areas of the country with mild winters can start their second season of gardening. It’s time for the late season harvest. And it’s the time to start a brand new garden. Late summer through autumn is the ideal time to seed cool season crops while warm temperatures persist enough to germinate those seeds.
So, what plants qualify as “cool season crops”? Here’s a list that can get you started:
Annual and biennial seeds (plants you will crop during the first year of growth)
- Asparagus peas
- Brussels sprouts
- Chinese greens and mustards
- Fava beans
Root vegetables (most grow well year round) and bulbs
Perennials (that come back year after year)
Like most edibles, cool season vegetables will perform best in rich, friable soil with plenty of compost. Most vegetable plants prefer soil a little on the sweet side rather than acid, but usually aren’t too fussy. Clear the planting area of weeds and make sure soil is moist to a depth of at least six inches. Then plant your seeds according to the instructions on the packet. Larger seeds usually grow into bigger plants and should be spaced wider, but that is not always the case. Sometimes small seeds can birth remarkably large plants.
If you get ample rainfall to keep newly planted seeds moist, you won’t have to add extra irrigation. But if you go through a dry spell or live where the rainy season has not yet begun, you will need to make sure seeds stay moist. If they dry out, they will die before germination. If they germinate and lack water before they have grown a well developed root system, you will also lose them. So make sure your cool weather crops get a good strong start. Healthy seedlings are the first step to getting big, tasty vegetables.
Seeds can be started indoors but most cool weather crops do just fine when planted where they will grow (in situ). Plants like peas, cabbage and leeks have no problem being transplanted if you do want to start them indoors. Gardens that are bothered by heavy seed-eaters like mice and rats may do better with transplanted indoor seedlings. Most pests seem to leave chard, garlic and onions alone in my garden. But different critters sometimes have different tastes in different locations.
Cool weather gardening can be comfortable for both gardeners and vegetables. Grow your edibles from seed or already started plants you can buy or germinate yourself. Take advantage of a second gardening season if you live where winters bring no more than light frosts. Cool season gardening can offer exercise, fun and tasty rewards.
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