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(TNS)—With autumn upon us, it’s time to think about air and soil temperatures falling — thankfully after a long, horribly hot summer, in some regions.

In the garden, cooler days and nights call for a cool-season vegetable garden filled with lettuces, spinach, collards, onions and cabbages, all the good stuff for harvest-time meals. Plant your crops a week or two apart and you can enjoy garden bounty until January, especially if you use row covers or cheap fitted sheets to protect plants from the fall frosts that typically begin mid-November.

Fall’s Finest

Bonnie Plants, a vegetable, herb and flower name brand sold at garden centers nationwide, including Lowe’s and Home Depot, suggests these cool-season veggies:

Curly Kale. This pretty blue-green hybrid kale is easy to grow and keeps you supplied for months. Cut outer leaves so the center continues growing. Light frost makes the leaves taste sweeter.

Georgia Collards. Georgia collards are prized for their sweet, cabbage-like flavor. Leaves are ruffled and blue-green; leaves taste best when young. Withstands cold weather; frost makes leaves sweet.

Romaine Lettuce. Tall, dark green heads are easy to grow, and form crisp golden hearts. (Similar to Parris Island Cos, but taller and darker.) Harvest outer leaves throughout the season, or wait until the head forms. Looks beautiful in containers!

Lieutenant Broccoli. These plants form smooth, dark green heads on medium-sized stems with few side shoots.

Mustard Greens. Offering spicy hot leaves, this is a very fast-growing, nutritious vegetable. Mustard greens always taste sweeter when nipped by frost.

Arugula. These fast-growing leafy greens with a peppery taste are great for salads or gourmet recipes.

Kids and Cabbages

If you have a child in third grade this year, consider talking to their teacher about the National Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program. Third-grade teachers can now register online at http://bonniecabbageprogram.com for the 2017 spring project when Bonnie Plants trucks will deliver thousands of baby cabbage plants to third-grade classrooms nationwide — all free and all meant to compete for the biggest and best cabbage in weight and size.

Teaches distribute two-inch plants with instructions, provided by Bonnie, to students to carry home and grow, according to a company news release. At the end of the growing season, teachers select a class winner, based on size, appearance and maturity and that submission is entered in a state scholarship drawing. The state winners are randomly selected by each state’s director of agriculture, and Bonnie Plants awards a $1,000 scholarship for education to one student in each state.

“The cabbage program is a wonderful way to engage children’s interest in agriculture, while teaching them not only the basics of gardening, but the importance of our food systems and growing our own,” says Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants.

This fall, you and your child — or grandchild — can practice growing cool-season cabbages at home, using the O.S. Cross, or oversized version that the national cabbage program hands out. These cabbages can grow as much as 40 pounds, making it engaging fun for children to monitor their growth over days and weeks.

Get Growing

To grow a cabbage and other cool-season veggies, give them at least six hours of full sun, more if possible.

—Space your veggie transplants far enough apart so they can grow to full maturity without crowding each other. Adequate spacing allows for good overall plant development; it also allows light and air to penetrate the plant, thereby reducing the potential for disease and pests. For instance, large plants like cabbages and collards need three feet on each side to spread out. If you don’t have that kind of space, plant them in huge containers.

—Healthy soil equates healthy plants, so work compost or a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) into your garden soil before planting.

—Adequate water also nourishes vegetable plants, which need an inch of rainfall weekly. If that doesn’t happen, water with a soaker hose, saturating the ground thoroughly early morning.

—Regularly inspect your vegetable plants for pests, picking off munching worms when you see them.

—If weather gets below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, protect vegetable plants from frost, using a lightweight cloth (called floating row covers) you can buy at garden centers, or thin, fitted bed sheets, to cover cabbages, late-season tomatoes, spinach and lettuces.

Learn more about growing warm- and cool-season veggies with Bonnie Plants at www.bonnieplants.com.

Kathy Van Mullekom is the garden/home columnist for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. Her blog can be read at Diggin@RoomandYard.com

©2016 Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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