8 Delicious Vegetables for Fall Gardening

cabbage garden

As the summer months draw to a close and temperatures start to decline, out natural tendency is to spend more time indoors and less out in the garden. However, this means that we are limiting ourselves from growing some delicious fall crops in our very own backyards! This fall, make the effort to stay outdoors a little longer and cultivate your very own garden of fresh salad ingredients.

There are some wonderful greens and root vegetables that grow happily in the cooler months and even taste better when they come to maturity in colder temperatures. Most fall vegetables are nutrient-dense, which is exactly what your body craves when the cooler months arrive.

The first thing you need to do when fall planting is have a general idea of when your first frost will be, then you can count backwards from there to determine when to plant. Below are some of the best vegetables you can plant for delicious fall eating.


1. Pumpkin

pumpkin

When to plant: Mid summer
When to harvest: 75 to 120 days after planting
Soil type: Any

Pumpkins might be the quintessential fall vegetable. Not only are they a staple of any fall holiday meal, but they are also a significant element of Halloween decor. They do take a lot of effort to grow, though, as they require a whopping 75 to 120 days to mature. Pumpkins thrive off lots of water, lots of space, and a healthy amount of high-nitrogen fertilizer. Pumpkin is packed with Vitamins A, C, E and B-6, stuffed with carotenes, and rich in minerals including calcium and potassium.

Not just for pumpkin pie and jack-o-lanterns, this plant makes delicious soups and can also be baked or steamed. Pumpkin seeds are dense with fiber and iron and some cultures will even eat the greens. There are dozens of varieties with adorable monikers like Cinderella, Baby Bear, Fairytale, and Aladdin, just to name a few. Choose your pumpkin based on what you are going to be using it for–some are better for carving, others are perfect for the fall tradition of baking a casserole or stew in individual little pumpkin bowls.


2. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

When to plant: Mid summer
When to harvest: 90 days after planting
Soil type: Any; Neutral

Healthy and versatile, Brussels sprouts are cropping up in menus across the country with unique and tasty preparations that have made them one of the most popular vegetables on the market. Halved and roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper they are a delicious side dish, or sliced thin and tossed with walnuts, pecorino, olive oil and lemon juice make for an amazing salad.

Brussels sprouts don’t hit peak growth until the weather starts to cool off, so don’t panic if your plants appear dormant. They’ll take off once the weather cools. They need to be planted in full sun but can withstand temperatures down to 20°. Brussels sprouts take 90 days to reach maturity.


3. Cabbage

cabbage

When to plant: Summer (indoors), transplant to outdoors once temperature cools
When to harvest: 70 to 100 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral

Napa, savoy, bok choy, green and red–there are dozens of varieties of cabbages, most of which are ideal for fall gardening and all of which are delicious given the right preparation. With a little bit of extra care, you can maintain your cabbages well into the winter.

Cabbages dislike hot weather and sun, so if you hit a sudden hot spell, be sure to protect them, and keep your soil moist and cool with compost or bark. Most cabbages mature in about 70 days, although some take as many as 100. With this many varieties of cabbage, it would be wise for you to do your research or check your seed packet for more specific estimates.


4. Broccoli

broccoli

When to plant: Mid to late summer
When to harvest: 70 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral to slightly acidic

Nothing beats the taste of fresh, home-grown broccoli from your garden. This versatile health food can be enjoyed raw, steamed, sautéed, roasted, or pureed into soups. Their dense heads soak up flavor and are especially good in a stir-fry.

It takes about 70 days for broccoli to reach maturity, and it’s important to harvest them before the buds start to flower or else they’ll turn bitter. After harvesting the large head, broccoli will continue to produce smaller offshoots, giving you delicious flavor throughout the fall months. Interestingly enough, broccoli is a member of the cabbage family. Use mulch to suffocate weeds and keep temperatures down around the shallow roots.


5. Beets

beet

When to plant: Beginning to mid summer
When to harvest: 50 to 70 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral

Beets are known for their distinctive purple-red color but also come in golden yellow and pink varieties. Try them with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar for a wonderful combination of flavors. The dense flesh also holds up well to canning, freezing or pickling. These qualities make beets a sturdy plant to work with, which is great for beginners.

Beet greens have a higher nutrition value than the bulb and are delicious in a salad or cooked like kale and chard. They prefer neutral soil but need a high phosphorous level to germinate. Beets can tolerate temperatures as low as 30° F and mature in 50 to 70 days, depending on the variety.


6. Kale

When to plant: Early to mid summer
When to harvest: 60 days after planting
Soil type: Loamy; Neutral to slightly Alkaline

Kale is yet another vegetable that has developed a cult following over the last few years, and with good reason. Kale is a wonderful leafy green that is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It’s perfect for marinated salads, where its firm structure stands up to the marinade without wilting, and it’s delicious stirred into soups in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Kale also works well in smoothies and can even be misted with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and baked until crispy for a delicious and healthy snack.

Kale reaches maturity in about 60 days, and requires neutral or slightly Alkaline soil.


7. Spinach

spinach

When to plant: Late summer to early fall
When to harvest: 45 days after planting
Soil type: Loamy; Neutral

Spinach, which is known for being high in iron, is easy to cook and is also delicious raw. It is higher in nutrition than most garden greens, rich in Vitamins A, B and C and high in iron and calcium.

Spinach takes about 45 days to reach maturity, but large leaves can be bitter, so pinch off tender young leaves as soon as they ready, letting the inner leaves continue to mature. Be sure to plant your spinach seeds when your soil temperature is below 70° or they won’t germinate. Spinach can overwinter for a delightful spring crop.


8. Radishes

Radishes

When to plant: Early to mid fall
When to harvest: 25 to 50 days after planting
Soil type: Any; lots of moisture

Last but not least, consider planting a radish crop. Radishes are ready to be harvested in only 25 to 50 days.

Radishes come in several varieties and add a distinctive, peppery zing to salads. If you’ve only eaten spicy, woody radishes, growing your own will allow you to harvest them early when they are still fresh, crisp and peppery. They need plenty of moisture in well-drained soil, but are extremely tolerant to different types of soil.


Whatever you choose to grow, fall gardening is a delicious and fun way to enjoy the bounty of your hard work through the autumn months. Be sure to start your planning now in order to allow your plants enough time to grow to be enjoyed this fall.

8 Tips for Planning the Perfect Garden

Perfect Garden Planning

Whether you have just bought your first home or are excited to spend your retirement developing a green thumb, designing a garden can be an exciting but intimidating prospect. If you’re looking to infuse new life into your existing landscaping, you’ll have to decide what elements you want to alter and replace and how to plan around those that you wish to keep. If you’re starting with a clean slate, you are blessed with the freedom to do almost anything. However, that blank space can leave you paralyzed with indecision and fear of getting it wrong. These 8 tips can help you create the perfect efficient garden you didn’t even know you were dreaming of.

1. Consider Your Space

The first thing you must do is understand the potential of the land you are working with. Take a look at the area your garden will occupy. Using grid paper or a drafting program, you can create a blueprint of the space. Make copies so you can sketch in several different ideas.

When deciding what features you want to include in your perfect garden, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much space do you have to work with?
  • Are there existing features you’d like to highlight, downplay or remove altogether?
  • How will the layout influence your design?

Consider the elevation at various points–it will influence how the landscape looks, but also which plants will thrive, as some need more or less drainage and shade. Think about the view from your windows, both upstairs and down, and from your porch and other locations where you might sit and view the garden. Choose eye-catching trees, bushes or flowers for the most visible locations, then build around those anchor pieces.

2. Understand Your Climate

Do your research or visit your local garden center to learn which plants thrive in your climate, which ones will require some work, and which ones will simply not survive. If you already have certain species in mind, ask about their hardiness rating and how much sunshine and moisture they require. If you are open to suggestions, the staff can make recommendations specific to your area.

While careful watering and strategic covering can enable some selections to survive in warmer or cooler weather than they would normally be able to, this might be more work than you are willing to do. It’s best to know as much as you can about your climate zone, especially if you are new to gardening.

3. Utility

strawberry garden

It is important that you have an idea of the purpose your garden will serve. Will you grow fruits and vegetables for your family’s consumption? If so, you might consider raised beds or square-foot gardening. Are you hoping to create a beautiful backdrop for summer barbecues and family get-togethers? Incorporate insect repelling plants for beautiful, all-natural pest control. Do you have pets or animals that will live or play in the yard, and if so, how do you incorporate their needs into the plan? Some vegetables and flowers are poisonous to dogs or cats, while others can contaminate the flavor of free-range eggs. You may also need to protect your yard from your pets, so consider a fence or especially hardy flora. Do you want a lot of grassy space for playing or laying in the sunshine, or do you prefer a lot of vegetation? These questions will help you narrow your focus as you plan.

4. Choose a Theme

Think about scenery that you really love, and identify why it appealed to you so much. Try to figure out how you can incorporate those elements into your own landscaping.

For example, if you’ve always loved the clean lines of an English garden, aim for symmetry, strong geometry and monochromatic florals. If you prefer a cottage garden, fill your beds with fragrant, old-fashioned blooms and a quaint touch like a picket fence, bird bath or wind chimes. For a tropical look find bold, leafy plants with bright colors, dynamic water features and hand-crafted décor.

By focusing on a theme you ensure that the elements of your garden come together in a way that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

5. Size Matters

When designing a garden, consider incorporating a variety of different sized elements to create a more interesting design. For example, if you want to have decorative stones in your yard, pick a couple large stones, mostly medium sized ones, and a few smaller ones. You can also do this with trees, flowers, and decorative grasses. Keep in mind that smaller features should be places in front of the taller pieces.

Think about variety in the height and circumference of your plants, as well as in their shapes, colors and textures. Try to repeat certain elements at regular intervals to keep the selection from looking too haphazard, but don’t be afraid to mix things up in between.

6. Think of a House

There’s another way to think about varying the elements of your garden: think of it like a house. The floor might be grass, ground cover, pavers or planting soil. The walls include vertical elements such as fences, trellises and even the outer walls of your home. The ceiling may be purely sky, but can also include awnings, an umbrella or the branches of a tall tree. Furnish your garden with patio furniture, potted plants, a bench, an umbrella or even a whimsical garden gnome.

7. Color Outside the Lines

Rose"

The right combination of colors can create the effect of a fine painting, but a hodge-podge keeps the eye from perceiving the garden as a beautiful, unified and whole. Most flowers are easy to move if you don’t like their placement, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

If you want to play things safe, there are a few tried and true combinations that look great every time. If you like bold blooms, try a selection of bright primary colors or hot shades of pink, red, orange and yellow. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel look great together–think orange and blue, purple and yellow or red and green. For a more romantic look, use soothing pastels and creams instead of white.

8. Friendly Flora

Variety not only looks great in the garden, but it can help your plants thrive as well. Many plants are natural allies and placing them near one another will help your blooms thrive.

Trees, bushes and anything tall with wide leaves can provide necessary shade for smaller vegetation. Marigolds are known to repel aphids and can protect your vegetable patch from being eaten up. Clover and nasturtiums can even protect cabbage from harm. Rue protects roses and raspberries. There are many beautiful and mutually beneficial combinations that can be incorporated into your landscaping.

The most important thing to remember when designing a garden is to be creative and to trust your instincts. Choose elements that speak to you and your garden will always feel like home.

10 Ways to Save Energy While Cooking & Preparing Meals

Preparing Dinner

Almost everyone wants to save on their monthly energy bills. From turning off your lights to using a portable air conditioner, conserving energy and cutting down on your utility bills is easier than you might think. One way you might not have considered, is to conserve energy while cooking and preparing meals at home. Not only will this make a big difference over time, it’ll save you quite a bit of money.

It is highly important to understand your cooking habits and recognize that energy efficient kitchen appliances might not help much if you do not know how to use them properly. Additionally, it might not be realistic to purchase an entire new set of kitchen appliances, even if you do not currently have a convection oven, which is on average about 20 percent more efficient than a traditional oven.

You might be surprised at how easy going green can be. You also might be surprised to learn that saving energy while cooking can actually save time and make your life easier. Below are 10 quick and easy ways can save energy, cut your utility bills and still make delicious meals while cooking.
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6 Easy Home Improvement Tips to Cut Your Utility Bill

Sealing Window with Caulk

Considering the high cost of energy, it pays to do whatever you can to maximize your home’s use of this precious and expensive commodity. Fortunately, there are small, simple steps you can take to increase energy efficiency that can save you a substantial amount of money.

Try these six simple yet vital energy-saving tips and watch your utility bill start to shrink.

1. Seal Windows & Doors

Test the air-tightness of your home, and you might be astounded at how much energy passes through the cracks and crevices surrounding your windows and doors. Check the seal around your windows and the perimeter of your doors by holding a piece of tissue in front of them. If it moves, even slightly, you have a leak, which will be even more pronounced during windy weather. Rattling windows and doors also indicate air leaks, as does daylight peeking in from around door and window frames. Also check around switch plates and outlets for airflow leaks.

Cut down substantially on energy leakage by sealing off leaks in stationary windows with caulking and using weather sealant around windows and doors that are movable. Also install door sweeps.
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How To Lower Your Energy Bills With A Portable Air Conditioner

During the “Dog Days” of summer, people tend to look for ways to cool off. Some visit a local swimming pool to spend the day in the water. Others seek out a movie theater that has good air conditioning. Shopping malls are also a great choice for people who are looking to cool off during the summer. When these same people go home, however, they rely on their air conditioning units to cool down their homes so that they can relax and not feel the oppressive heat from the outside.

Portable Air Conditioner AP12000S

With energy prices skyrocketing around the country, many homeowners are now being forced to make a choice between a comfortably cool home and a low power bill. This is because many who rely on central air notice that their electricity bill increases dramatically during the months they are running their air conditioner. One way to keep cool and still keep a lower electric bill is by using a portable air conditioner.

Energy Efficient

Portable air conditioning units are much more energy efficient than central air. This is mainly because they can be moved from room to room based on which area needs to be cooled down.

A central air conditioning unit is built to cool the entire home, no matter which room a person might be in. By using the portable unit, you will be using electricity to cool only those rooms that people are using.
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Living Green for Earth Day

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22, and to help bring awareness, we’re going to discuss two things you can implement in your home to help the environment.

Composting

Compost consists of organic matter that has been decomposed down into a rich, fertilized soil. Because of its nutrients, it serves great use in organic farming and gardening. There are several benefits to composting at home, including the reduction of wasted space at landfills and its use in your own lawn and garden.

Compost BinComposting, the process of creating compost, requires four things to effectively decompose the organic matter: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water. An easy way to keep your compost healthy is to provide a 50/50 mix of dry, brown material and wet, green material. The process will require you to mix the pile often to provide oxygen. You should also make sure it gets enough moisture, otherwise the decomposition process will take longer.

There are several options to get started with composting at home. You could get a large wooden like the one pictured (Exaco ECO Composter), a taller, black bin like this GeoBin which is easy to setup and affordable, or a solar heated cone system that comes with a kitchen caddy as well. Explore these and other composters on our site.

What Can I Compost?

Here are some examples of thing you can compost. Remember to try and feed your compost with a good 50/50 mix of dry, brown and wet, green materials. Really, almost everything that was living at some point can be composted, but some things may take longer to decompose.

FruitDry/Brown (Carbon-rich material)

– Fall leaves
– Small twigs and branches
– Paper coffee filters
– Shredded paper (newspaper, office paper, etc.)
– Paper towels
– Wood chips

Wet/Green (Nitrogen-rich material)

– Fruit and vegetable peels (or whole ones that have gone bad)
– Coffee grounds
– Tea bags
– Egg shells
– Plant trimmings and fresh leaves
– Cooked plain rice or pasta

Depending on the size of your compost, you could have rich soil ready to go in 3-4 months, or 5-6 months for larger piles.

Rain Water Collection

Rain BarrelAnother way to help the environment and save you money is to implement a rain water collection system (also called rain harvesting). The concept is that you collect excess rainwater from your home gutters during times of heavy rainfall and store it for use in your lawn and garden, especially through times of drought and water restrictions. Environmentally, you help lessen the amount of flooding that occurs on streets and lessen the amount of pollution that reaches our oceans through rainwater run-off. The run-off carries pesticides, oil and harmful, inorganic materials. Another added benefit is the use of rain water in your garden, where you’re feeding your plants soft water that doesn’t contain added minerals. Your plants will be happier!

The most common solution is a barrel that sits below your drainage gutters of your home. The barrel comes with a faucet where you can easily hook up your hose. They come in different colors and sizes to blend into its environment. For extra storage, you have the ability to connect multiple barrels together as well. Browse our selection of rain barrels on our site.

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For more ways to go green this year for Earth Day, check out our Pinterest board, Living Green!