FALL IN THE GARDEN
It's time to harvest, plant, tend and feast.
WRITTEN BY STEPHANIE STIKA
M any of us look to fall as a time to put our gardens to bed. However, for those of us driven by a passion for eating seasonal, fresh produce and even growing it ourselves, fall is not a time to stop being in the garden. It is, rather, a time to continue the never-ending cycle of planting, tending, and harvesting. Fall gardening brings a special gift of lower temperatures and the smell of autumn air. It is my favorite time to be outside amidst the colors of changing leaves and cool autumn breezes.
Fall also is a time for bountiful harvests. In September, we are bringing in ripe tomatoes, hard winter squash, peppers, and melons. It is the perfect time for preserving foods to eat in the cold winter months by canning, freezing, and drying tomatoes and herbs, making salsas and storing squash in the cool, dry environs of your garage or root cellar. October and November harvests include kale, chard, potatoes, onions, greens, and typically more pumpkins and squashes, depending on when the first hard frosts step in. Potatoes can be stored for winter months with onions and squashes, while the rest of the harvest should be eaten fresh, frozen, or canned. Of course all of this depends on having planted for later harvests. Though if you missed out on that for this year, don’t fret, there still is plenty of time to grow food.
Fall is a time for planting. In September, you may sow seeds of greens, spinach, kale, and chard, as well as turnips, beets, carrots, and green onions. October is the time to plant garlic for a harvest the following July. Fall also is an excellent time to plant perennial food items if you can find them. Fruit trees planted in the autumn months will have the benefit of plenty of time to develop a strong root system before they have to focus on producing leaves and flowers in the spring. Saffron crocus should also be planted now for a gourmet treat the following year. If you can incorporate season extenders such as mini hoop houses and row covers, you can continue rotating your cool season crops throughout the winter.
Fall also is a time for feasts. So try one of my favorite fall recipes, below. It’s always a hit, and has even turned beet haters into beet lovers. Enjoy!
Reno resident Stephanie Stika is a horticulturalist and avid gardener. She also has a landscape design and consultation company called Your Plant Guru (Yourplantguru.com).
ROASTED ROOT AU GRATEN
3 to 4 potatoes
3 to 4 small beets
Mushrooms (if desired)
1 large onion
A few cloves crushed garlic
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
A couple tablespoons fresh tarragon or a mixture of cayenne and oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sprinkle of cheese (Swiss and Parmesan)
In a pot on the stove, place 3 to 4 potatoes and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and slice. Peel and slice beets and turnips. Wash and slice carrots. All vegetables should be about the same width. Layer a 9 x 13-inch greased baking pan with potatoes on the bottom, followed by beets, then turnips, and finally carrots. Add chopped mushrooms on top if desired. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, sauté one large onion and a few cloves of crushed garlic in a tablespoon of butter, and set aside.
Next, prepare a basic white sauce by melting 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour. Return to heat and add 2 cups of milk. Whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens. Add the sautéed onions and garlic mixture, and herbs of your choice. (I like to use a couple tablespoons of fresh tarragon or a mixture of cayenne and oregano). Lightly salt and pepper the sauce and pour it over the root vegetables. Grate cheese (Swiss and Parmesan are really nice). Sprinkle over the top and bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes. It will turn a lovely pink color and it tastes delicious!