Yes, yes, I know it's the height of the summer growing season. The first of the lemon cucumbers have just ripened (pictured here in all its glory). The cherry and grape tomatoes are ready for picking each day. The first set of beans are winding down, the pattypan squashes are exploding overnight, and the moon and stars watermelon vines, spotted yellow like the fruits will one day be, are running rampant through my garden.
My mind has already raced ahead to fall and the plantings that will start as early as August 1 (broccoli and kale), with rolling plantings right behind that--August 15 (beets), September 1 (carrots), September 15 (garlic, lettuce, spinach).
And so, in order to avoid the bad mail order experience I had with Seeds of Change in the spring, I headed out yesterday to my favorite garden center in Atlanta, Hastings Nature and Garden Center in Brookwood, which is designed as a bit of an urban oasis with paths, bridges, ponds, free popcorn and a parrot that says hello. It is the only place I've found that carries Seeds of Change seeds, which are my favorite because of their interesting heirloom varieties, all certified organic. Plus, I loved the book that Seeds of Change founder, Ken Ausubel, wrote about the company's genesis (oh, I should have saved that for a FoodShed Summer Reading Pick of the Week! Oh well--enjoy a second good read this week!) Finally, the displays at Hastings are always time-appropriate. The tomato and cucumber seeds are mostly gone by now, although there is still time to throw in a second planting of cucumbers.
So, here's what I got (all on sale--this whole list cost me about $20):
* Lutz Salad Leaf Beets--2 packs. You know how we have fallen in love with goat cheese and honey on beet greens!
* Chioggia Beets. An old Italian favorite known as "bull's eye beet." It has white and red concentric circles inside and I get them confused with radishes when I see them, although they taste so much better to me.
* Dinosaur Kale. Also called Lacinato. If you think you don't like kale, don't give up before trying this type.
* Red Ursa Kale. This cross between Red Russian and Siberian Kale is light blue-green with a red-purple tinge. Pretty in a winter salad.
* Broadstem Green Chard. I have fallen in love with any and all types of greens. I throw them in salads and sautee them completely indiscriminately.
* Tatsoi. This Asian green is supposed to do well in the winter in a coldframe. I got a coldframe last winter for Christmas and can't wait to try it out again this year. It kept my lettuces alive through those, ahem, three weeks of winter here in Georgia (sorry, Northerners!).
* Lots of Salad Greens (about 8 different varieties). Okay, I went a little crazy, but the kitchen garden salads are the real gems of the year. If you have a garden and have not been growing lettuces, you're missing out on a real treat. You gotta's see Foodie Farmgirl's post about lettuces. Believe me--it is easy to get obsessed about them. Once you start eating the wide variety you can grow at home, freshly picked every single day when they are still plump (plump! How many supermarket lettuce leaves are plump?!) with a creamy white elixir that disappears within moments, you will never turn back. Trust me on this one.
* America Spinach (Spinacia Oleracea--that's fun to say!), Bloomsdale Long-Standing Spinach (from Ferry Morse's organic collection, actually), and a new treat called Huazontle. I don't even know how to say it, but it's a traditional Red Aztec Spinach that the package says is like lamb's quarters, and you know how much that's growing crazy in my garden! That heat-lover I get to plant now.
* And finally, I bought the only pack of pumpkin seeds I could find, Ferry Morse organic Big Max pumpkins, which yield huge, round-to-flattened pinkish-orange fruits. Can reach 6 feet in diameter and weigh 100 pounds or more. Okay, so it will be a different year out there. Last year I grew these sweet little pie pumpkins, on a teepee of bamboo poles, no less. So, we'll see. I'll plant today and they should be ready for harvest in 120 days. That'll put us around the beginning of November. A little late for Halloween, but just right for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned.