Green Living: Autumn is prime time to prepare spring crops

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      While it may be too late for you to get your winter crop on completely—cold-weather growing is all about planning, people—Sharon Hanna, local gardener and author of The Book of Kale: The Easy-to-Grow Superfood, 80+ Recipes and coauthor of The Book of Kale and Friends: 14 Easy-to-Grow Superfoods With 130+ Recipes, notes that fall is prime time to get a jump-start for spring.

      Take garlic and broad beans, for example: Hanna says the veggies should be planted by mid-October for harvesting in the summertime. Nonedibles such as “flowering onions” and poppies should go into the ground at this time, too. In addition to beautifying your soil space, these plants help facilitate the work of “good” garden bugs once they sprout in the spring.

      “They’ve got millions of tiny flowers on them and bees and other beneficial insects love them,” explains Hanna.

      If you’re looking to protect the edibles you already have growing, the master gardener suggests shielding your herbs from frost. Pots of rosemary, in particular, should be moved to a sheltered area to prevent damage from cold snaps. When putting your garden to bed, it’s also best to leave vegetables like beets, potatoes, carrots, and kale untouched.

      “Some of them behave as perennials. In the spring, they’ll start to regrow and you’ll get all these little broccolini-type sprouts coming through,” Hanna says of kale specifically, adding that root vegetables simply remain dormant during the winter.

      It’s also beneficial to leave some foliage lingering in your garden, rather than clearing it out completely. Leaves, for example, can be employed in composting or to insulate soil. “Don’t rake them up,” stresses Hanna. “Use them in your compost as layers or put them in a garbage can and use a weed whacker to break them down. You can use this to mulch your garden—it’s all food.”

      For warm-weather gardeners, the end of summer offers a bounty of fresh produce to be consumed, too. Hanna’s tip for munching up your harvest before it goes bad? Opt for easy-to-make recipes such as tomato jam, sauerkraut, and fermented salsa, which you can pressure- or boiling-water-can to keep for the months ahead.

      Hanna is also a fan of zucchini-tomato-basil gratin, a layered vegetarian dish from her Book of Kale that’s perfect for anyone looking to cook up their abundance of tomatoes and zucchini. “I’ve made it a bazillion times and it’s always a no-brainer,” she says.

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.