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Well, I finally did it.  I pulled out my tomatoes.  It is bittersweet.  Whenever you rip out those summer veggies, you are saying goodbye to that season.

Before: End of the season 2013 Tomatoes

After: A couple of hours of taking out tomato plants and cages


While this year wasn’t particularly fabulous because of the massive amount of rain <I swore I would never complain about rain, but this summer was tough….a colleague had a great description of the last couple of years of NC weather: “From Drought to Drench”>, I am grateful for the vegetables I did harvest.

The seasons are changing and that means you need to change your veggies too.  I call it the Great Fall Veggie Transformation — it sounds so epic, but really so simple.

Here are the 5 Steps to Transform your Summer Vegetable Garden into a Fall One:

1)Remove your summer vegetables – take your tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, eggplant and others out.  I usually put this out for the city to pick up, so I don’t contaminate my compost pile.

2)Shop and pick out your fall veggies.  I love fall because it makes me think of greens, autumn squash, and other grand root vegetables. I choose lots of kale, cabbage, swiss chard and threw in a few lettuces for fun.  I am going to try to do broccoli and butternut squash – though I haven’t had luck in the past.  But it’s a new season.

3)Collect your good planting soil, Osmocote fertilizer and a trowel and you are ready to plant. BTW-I usually do my major fertilizing in the spring, but of course your little seedlings need to eat.  The slow release Osmocote does the trick– look for the pink top.

Look for the pink cap! Osmocote fertilizer rocks!

Look for the pink cap! Osmocote fertilizer rocks!

4) Plant your little plugs according to the package.  I usually do it at least 6 inches apart so they have room to grow.  Throw in a sprinkle of Osmocote, the plant plug and cover with good soil.

5) Water.  That’s the final step.  Remember transferring plants can be extremely stressful, so almost over-watering is best to help relieve the stress. Just think after you do strenuous exercise how water can be so healing.

Fall Veggies

My fall vegetables ready to grow. I see collards, kale, swiss chard and other tasty fall vegetables in my future.

Now, just keep up with the rainfall, watering when needed and watch it grow.

That’s it! 5 steps to the Great Fall Veggie Transformation.

Go on…get out there and get dirty!

Happy gardening.



Lots of Southerners grow greens like collars and kale–so why don’t more of us grow leeks?  All of these crops winter-over in my Wake County NC garden which makes them easy and super-rewarding.

Remember that cold, cold December we had?  It didn’t matter.  My October transplants of kale, cabbage, collards and leeks are great food right now, chocked full of flavor and vitamins.    I just harvested a batch for one of my famous greens pies.

But you have to plan ahead, especially for a leek crop.  Leek transplants are almost impossible to find in garden centers.  I always have to start my own.

Below is a recent photo of next spring’s leek crop growing  from seed on my dinning room table.

The variety is Lancelot because it winters over well.

I’ll transplant these seedlings to the garden in late summer or fall.   Next spring–fresh leeks–so much better than those woody things that show up at the grocery store.  And much, much cheaper too.  Leeks are pricey.

Don’t do seeds?  Here’s a short cut.  Next New Year look for bundles of “baby leeks” in the produce section of up-scale grocery stores.  Take them home, and plant like transplants  in your garden.  I had leeks galore using this method one year.  Give it a try.  You’ll be hooked on homegrown leeks like I am…

Since I live in the south, I couldn’t get away being called a decent gardener if I didn’t grow collard greens, right?

But I can’t just stop there…Greens are one of the healthiest vegetables of all.  They are packed with nutrition and flavor.  Honestly, I haven’t encountered a green I didn’t like…collards, mustard, turnip, swiss chard–both ruby red and rainbow and Kale.  Shoot…I even love all kinds of cabbage too.  And they are super easy to grow.  Here are some easy steps and pic by pic guide to growing greens.

  1. Buy your seeds. I waited a little late to plant mine because of our extended summer…I just couldn’t garden in 90+ degree temps.  So I got mine from a  local nursery…you can get them at Lowes or hardware stores too.

    Big Swiss Chard seeds...collards and mustard seeds are tiny...

  2. Prep your soil. Till or shovel in 2:1 top soil-compost, plus I add in a slow release fertilizer in the mix.  Depending what your subsoil is you should do at least a foot…since i have that glorious/NC clay(insert sarcastic tone)…I had to add quite a bit.  probably 3 feet or so.

    2:1 top soil compost mix, with a healthy handful of slow release fertilizer

  3. Read the seed package directions.  I say this because of the 4 different greens I planted, collards, mustard greens, swiss chard and kale, they all had different instructions on seed depth and distance between planting.

    I know I hate to read directions..but worth while for success.

  4. Create your holes...I used a very high tech instrument to make these–a stick I found on the ground. HAHAHAHA.

    Create rows to offer stucture.

  5. Drop in your seeds and cover.  The collards and the mustard seeds were very small, so I had a hard time not dropping 2 or 3 per hole.  But when the seedlings get between 12-18 inches tall you have to thin.  Yep, Chris taught us all about thinning this winter.  I tried to deny this step with my tomato seedlings.  DON’T SKIP IT.  Your plants will thank you for it…and you will be thankful too.  Last year I didn’t think at all and just threw some seeds out.  I got a low yield…they were delicious and tender…but not much of them cause they were fighting for sun, water, soil and nutrients.  If you thin, you will have strong robust plants and maybe some to share…
  6. Don’t forget to label…I forget and then can’t remember.  So label, label, label. is important!

  7. Finally, water and mulch.

Different greens have different growth rates..of these 4 varieties–I should see something in the next couple of weeks.

Greens can handle our NC frost…I did this last year and come late winter, early spring…tons of greens to eat.

Want something to look forward to?  Well, I have to say this Green’s Pie of blog partner Chris’s is one of my favorites, next too simply sauteing with chicken broth, garlic and olive oil.  Many more recipes to come for those greens has they grow.

SO…you should grow more greens.

Happy Gardening!


A long-time gardener and a passionate beginner share the dirt on their NC gardens-

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