This is going to be a challenging year for the vegetable garden. Everything is a couple of weeks behind because of the weather. It is going to take a long fall to get everything ripe. Even then, getting cantaloupes and watermelons to ripen at all is going to be iffy unless you live in a warm pocket.
That said, now is the perfect time to plant some crops for fall harvest. The warm soil will help seeds germinate and grow quickly. As the weather cools at the end of August into September, the plants will continue to grow without the heat stress and even relish a light frost or two.
Crops good for a fall planting are many of the same ones we traditionally plant in the early spring. Crops such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and collards are very tolerant of frost. If the winter isn’t too harsh, kale can be overwintered in the garden.
Roots crops like carrots, turnips and parsnips are insulated from the cold by the soil. Carrots and parsnips actually get sweeter with a few hard frosts. Many people mulch parsnips and harvest them in March as the first spring crop.
Garlic is planted in October for harvest next July. Other crops that do well in the fall are spinach, lettuce, kohlrabi, onion and peas.
Now, what happens if we get the perfect fall with enough time to ripen everything in the garden including your new fall crops? You can only eat so much of it fresh. Freezers are only so big, and canning them properly takes time.
Look no further than your local food bank. They welcome donations of fresh produce for their clients through the Plant a Row for the Hungry program. Fresh produce and fruit are expensive for folks on limited incomes but are very important for a healthy, balanced diet. Many food bank clients say getting garden-ripe produce is like getting a present as well as something to eat.
All vegetables or fruit are welcomed, but sturdy vegetables and fruits that are commonly available in the grocery store are best. Even a pound is welcome. If you have uncommon vegetables, package them in a bag and enclose a note on how to use them. Fragile greens and herbs need to be delivered close to the day the neighborhood food bank is serving clients, as they don’t keep as well.
Produce can be taken to your local food bank or to Second Harvest Inland Northwest’s main warehouse at 1234 E. Front St. To help you connect with your local food bank, you can access a list of food banks at the Second Harvest website: www.2-harvest.org/2-harvest under the Get Help section.
Ask for a donation receipt. You can take $1.50 a pound as a federal tax deduction, while the Plant a Row committee gets to tally up the total poundage at the end of the season and brag about how great this community is when the chips are down.
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