Original Image from this article:
The purpose of this posting is pretty simple. There are times when folks need a cool season garden or a garden that can grow in a short period of time. There are plants that have evolved in cool / cold places or at high latitudes and can grow in a very short growing season.
IMHO, the world is in a long term (10,000 year scale) slide into a cold period. Inside that time scale, we have a couple of “few hundred year” cycles as well as a 60 year PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation and similar AMO / AO cycles) that means where I live it is colder than for the last 30 years and will be getting colder than that for the next 20 years at least. For that reason, I’m shifting to more of a ‘cold tolerant’ garden style.
That has been a particular challenge for me. My Dad taught me how to garden, and he was from Iowa. You don’t grow a winter garden in Iowa… So all my experience was based on planting and growing things during the middle of the summer heat; as though we could have a -20 F Blizzard in October and had to have the harvest in. This being California, many things grow much better in the cool and wet of late fall and early spring; while some even prefer the dead of winter. In many cases my repeated failures were a direct result of trying to grow a cool loving plant in the middle of summer (as that is when there is no snow in Iowa…)
Sidebar on Historical Cool
My first college room mate had grown up in Silly Con Valley before it was known as Silicon Valley. His car, when we became Freshman Room Mates at UCD was a Ford Capri. It had NO air conditioning. This was in 1971. That was the era of the New Ice Age scare. (Brought to you, in many cases, by the same folks bringing the Global Warming Scare today).
Now, I grew up in a place where it was “110 F in the shade, and there aint no shade”…so I was very much not in line with this whole “no A/C” idea. So we talked. And I visited his home turf. And you did not need A/C in a car.
So now I live about 10 miles from where he grew up and went to High School. I’ve needed A/C in my car from about 1984 to 2004 or so. “No Way”, I’m thinking, was my old College Roomy right. But… 2 small things…
1) I remember coming here in 1972 and not needing A/C.
2) A/C in my car broke about 2 years ago. I’ve not fixed it. I have not needed it.
So the “history” lesson is that there is a cyclical nature to warmth here and we’ve returned to the pattern of 40 years or so ago (about 1970).
It is now May (in prior years I’ve needed the A/C) and I’m still not seeing the reason to spend $1 K to fix it. I have june, July, and August ahead of me; but I’m still not seeing the need. “We’ll See”.. but at present, I’m of the opinion that my Old College Roomy was right. You just don’t need A/C in a car down here… during 1/2 of the PDO…
To The Garden
OK, it’s warm and dry here in the summer vs cold and wet in the winter; where I live. A “mediterranean” climate. I can live with that (especially given that it means we have near zero bugs compared to hot humid places). So what can be grown here in the cool? The same things you can grown in Iowa in an early spring garden. Things with a low “degree days” needed and with a large “cool growth rate” to the basic product parts.
What kind of things meet that “spec”?
Plants that grow well in the cool
There are many plants in this group. They share a common cross shaped flower (and often share genes: Some of these are crosses and hybrids between the others, sometimes with different chromosome counts!)
Radish (Some types, like Black Spanish, especially so)
Daikon (a very mild Asian radish; leaves used in Pakistan too)
Turnip (some varieties under 40 days)
“Choy” of various sorts – Pak Choy, Bok Choy
Tatsoi (that can be harvested from under snow)
Napa Cabbage or Chinese Cabbage
Peas (Sugar, Snap, and Edible Pod or “Snow” Peas)
Misc Roots and Chards
Beets (which includes the “leaf beats” and chard)
Other Leafy Things
Mache or “Corn Salad”
Mesclun (very fast – 25 days)
Celery and Celery Root (both like cool weather)
Asparagus (if you have the patience…)
I found a very nice detailed page on cool season gardening. It has the different plant types sorted by season length and includes suggestions as to varieties and ways to extend the season. Rather than re-create many of the same descriptions, here is the link:
It is a 4 part article that is rather well done. Parts 2, 3 and 4 are:
Sidebar on Edible Parts:
I’ve been reading up on Famine Foods and generally discovering that a whole lot more of the world around us is “edible” than you might think. Part of this came from discovering that the Germans tend to eat the stalks of Chard while the French eat the leaf portion. Part came from discovering that folks in Africa make a “pot herb” out of the leaves of the common bean. For many plants, far more of it is “edible” (even if not preferable) than we commonly think. The cabbage head is just a very large bud. Those other giant leaves on the cabbage are edible too (even if a bit tough). Similarly the leaves of Brussels Sprouts and most of the cruciferous family. Beet leaves and root can both be “lunch” and while some radish leaves are a bit “rough”, this last week I noticed that the leaves on some which were running to seed (“Watermellon” radishes) were not. The flowers in the bud stage also look a bit like Rapini… so a taste test followed. Very edible. A bit of a “radish spice” flavor, but I’d be happy to cook up a pot.
If you are growing a cool season garden and find that you have just “run out of time”, it is likely that what has grown is still usable. For years my Mom had me cut off and toss out the leafy ends of celery (she only liked the stems – even in cooking). One day I decided to try the leaves. They are fine. Now when cooking, I just start chopping it up, leaves and all. I find the flavor even nicer. For a very few plants, some parts are not edible. Potato leaves and rhubarb leaves are both mildly toxic, for example; but don’t let that stop you from being just a tiny bit “exploratory” with what parts of your garden are “edible”. That “Famine Foods” page is a good place to get ideas and a “web search” on a given plant with “edible” or “toxic” as the second term will tend to find any “issues”.
You can even eat many common “decorative” plants. Some folks go so far as to make their whole landscape “edible”:
A google search on “edible landscaping” returned 178,000 hits many of them looking very interesting.
Many of these plants are perennial, so by definition survive and grow in cool conditions. So, for example, grape vines not only make grapes in warm weather, but the leaves are edible and availalbe even in the cool times.
Even things like Bachelor Button can be eaten
Where you have always had chrysanthemums, plant bachelor’s buttons—you can eat them
Though I have to note that even the chrysanthemums they are saying to replace can be edible:
and there are whole books written on using flowers in the kitchen… While it may look strange, I’ve come to appreciate the occasional nibble on a rose or the occasional camelia flower. (The plant used to make English Tea or oriental Green Tea is a variety of camelia, and while the tea I made from my “ornamental” camelia was not as good as the selected varieties, I found the flowers quite nice. Bunnies just love to eat them. It’s amazing what you can learn from a bunny…)
These folks have a nice list of edible flowers, as well as a pointer to a list of poisonous plants:
As flowers come early in the season, you can get a ‘fast crop’ if your crop is the flowers!
And for some ideas on cooking with edible flowers:
Now if you start to think outside that “squash and tomatoes” box, there are a lot of things that are flowering, making leaves, and ready to eat early in a short season and during cool times of the year.
It would be interesting to try making a similar dish with Scarlet Runner Bean flowers, that are also edible… and early in the garden… and like cool weather.
I hope this gives some ideas on ways to have a garden, or edible landscaping, that is ready and availalbe to munch during cool times or when the growing season is short.
Also, don’t forget that you can grow some things in “window boxes” and have those potted plants around the home be both decorative and edible. Sometimes I’ve even just sprouted some mung beans in a Mason Jar with a cheesecloth cover as a mid-winter mini-garden experience.
There is no reason to confine your gardening to June, July, and August. Even in Iowa ;-)