“Two heads are better than one.” That phrase is thought to date back to the early 1500s and appeared in books related to interpretations of biblical proverbs. Though I am not a historian nor have any proof, I suspect it was actually expressed by a gardener who grew cabbage. In fact, it could be said that five heads are better than one, for that is what I have now on a few cabbage plants which were first decapitated in mid-August.
I learned early in my life, not quite back to 1500, that if I left a cabbage plant intact after harvesting the primary head the plant would produce additional heads from buds at the base of the oldest leaves. Most of these heads will become firm and just as tasty as the primary head. Though they may be too small for making stuffed cabbage leaves, they can be used in soups, slaw, stir-fry, and many other recipes. Of course, another option after harvesting the primary head is to pinch out all but one of these lateral buds. If this is done early enough in the summer, this remaining bud will develop into a head equal to or almost as large as that of the one first harvested.
This feature is not unique to cabbage. Most veteran gardeners know that broccoli plants left intact after harvesting the main head will produce many smaller side shoots all summer long. We are still harvesting these smaller heads. They are just as flavorful as the main head was.
Though they don’t form heads as do cabbage and broccoli plants, there are other spring-planted vegetables that can be kept productive through much if not all of the growing season. These are commonly referred to as “cut and come again” vegetables. They are typically leafy plants that produce a rosette or circle of leaves, with the newest leaves arising at the center of the rosette. Leaf lettuce, chard, kale, and spinach are a few examples. For a continuous yield, only the oldest leaves at the outside circles are harvested at any one time. As a result, the center of the plant keeps producing more leaves.
These techniques can be very useful to gardeners who have only a small space to grow vegetables.
Hopefully, this list of tasks will be useful to gardeners:
- Select a fully ripe tomato of an open-pollinated variety, typically an heirloom such as San Marzano, Brandywine, and Mortgage Lifter, and use this as a source of seed for next year’s tomato plants. Start the process by cutting open the tomato and scooping out the seeds. Drop the seeds and the surrounding pulp into a clear glass jar and add about a cupful of water. Set the jar aside at room temperature for several days until the seeds are separated from the pulp and have sunk to the bottom of the jar. At that point, pour off the pulpy water. Add a little more water to the jar and then pour it plus the seeds onto a sieve to drain. Then, dry the seeds on a pan or dish. Once dry, store the seeds in a small, air-tight container such as a used pill bottle. While you’re at it, try saving seeds from other vegetables such as peppers and beans.
- Cut down old corn stalks but don’t discard them. Use them for fall decorations, preferably not in the living room, or chop them up and use as mulch, or toss onto the compost pile. I like to cut some of the stalks into foot-long segments and stack a few layers of these in the bottom of my compost bins. These bins are simply cylinders of four-foot high fencing with a diameter of 18-24 inches. I have a number of these cylinders set up in the vegetable garden. We’ll continue to toss kitchen scraps, raked-up tree leaves, grass clippings, and garden debris into the bins through the fall and winter. In spring, I’ll place several inches of soil over the debris and then sow seeds of vine crops, e.g. winter squash and melons into the soil. The resulting vines will drape over the fencing and keep the developing fruit off the ground.
- Harvest Brussel sprouts as needed but don’t worry about frosts. The plants and sprouts will survive frosts down to about 20F. The tastiest sprouts are those which have been exposed to a frost.
- Take cuttings from annuals grown outdoors in containers. Coleus is a good choice for rooting from cuttings and then growing on indoors in a sunny window. These can then be transplanted to containers again next spring after the danger of frost.
- Do not cut off the spent flowers on rose bushes. Any type of pruning done at this time, including deadheading, may delay the onset of dormancy in roses and increase the chances of winter injury to the plants.
- Pay attention to the bloom time when buying spring flowering bulbs. If buying tulips, get some early, midseason, and late flowering varieties to extend the period of bloom in your garden. Do the same with daffodils.
- Prepare beds now for spring planting. Proper bed preparation is the key to successful gardens and landscapes and to a good night’s sleep. "ZZZZZZ..."