Seems like summer took so long to get here with weather that was enjoyable and now those unspoken words have begun to enter our everyday lives, heard on the TV, references to it on the radio, thinking about ordering hot chocolate or hot cider instead of coffee, farm stands offering more than just summer veggies. Yes, FALL is on the way, there I said it.
There are so many more days to enjoy yet this year, don't think because school has started that the world (of gardening) should come to an end. Maybe the tomatoes out there are slowing down, maybe they may not look as good with spots and split shoulders, but they still taste great. Other summer vegetables may be sun setting, yet take a look at your fall crops – they are doing great! Wait quite a while longer before harvesting those carrots and parsnips and enjoy the sweetness as they pack themselves full of nutrients. If you want a real treat for the family during the holidays, mulch the carrots in well to prevent the ground from freezing them in and harvest fresh for Thanksgiving and even all the other holidays we celebrate.
If you think you are finished out in the garden, think again. There is still time to sow leaf lettuces and harvest them as "baby greens". Want to decorate your salad with bright colors, sow some red and white winter radishes. Add more color by using the Swiss Chard well into the early winter if you have it, go buy it if you don't. Farm stands will be well stocked with all our favorites and some new ones to try. Not only is Kale good for you but there are lots of ornamental Kale that can brighten the front porch, go into a floral arrangement, decorate a serving dish and be used as a garnish instead of the tried and true flat or curly parsley.
We have pigeon holed gourds and pumpkins as something for Halloween, but our forefathers thought differently. Gourds, winter squashes and even pumpkins (think pie pumpkins if you are hungry) can keep for months and retain great flavor. Store just 12 Butternut squash, start using them in January and you won't run out serving them once a week until March. Store a mix of winter squashes and the family won't be saying "Butternut squash again?!?" Consider that gourds and winter squashes can be used for decoration and later made into a side dish, just don't give them names.
We will very likely have many warmer days of summer and later warm days with cool nights as Fall finally gets here. In the meantime, keep gardening, make plans to bring the summer and fall bounty indoors and continue to enjoy your hard work out in the garden this summer with a variety of colorful foods in the coming weeks when family gathers around the table.
About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.