12 October, 2008

Suggestions For The Cool Season Border

Beets – Burpee’s Golden have a wonderful leaf! Other beets have a wonderful reddish leaf in varying sizes and varying strengths of red.
Bok choy – harvest early for tenderness, bolts easily. Attracts snails like no other - you have been warned.
Cabbage – white/green, gray and purple/red – some need to be mid-border – if it’s listed at over one hundred days to maturity, you have a honker on your hands and putting it further back in the crowd will do you proud
Carrots – nice ferny foliage
Celery/Celeriac – you know what celery looks like…
Cilantro – a parsley like leaf – but much quicker, bolts readily in heat, self-sows
Garlic – a wonderful companion plant – slow growing! BUT, it has to be allowed to dry out if you wish to harvest bulbs that will store for a few months.
Lettuce – a quick crop can go in almost any empty spot of any size, comes in a fascinating multitude of colors and shapes – a marvelous addition to any border and meal; try to keep lettuce seedlings on hand just to be able to pop one in here and there
Marjoram – a lovely oregano look-alike
Onions – unobtrusive and provides a nice upright shape
Oregano – a perennial; if you can find the Greek oregano, it’s better – a lot better
Parsley – a short lived perennial – great intense green
Parsnips – slower than parsley but similar foliage and an annual – edible part is a long earthy root
Poppies – bread seed poppies are not only beautiful mauve flowers, but have wonderful seed pods afterwards, and then, almost as an afterthought, there’s the eating too!
Radishes – quick and fun – usually 28 days to maturity – don’t sow a lot of them, but one here and there is a delight
Sage – the culinary sage is a lovely low spreading perennial
Shallots – like onions, but take longer an d mostly more worth it
Spinach – quick although can be finicky – does NOT like heat at all
Strawberries – a lovely little plant with runners – a few plants can be propagated into a larger number of plants, a few plants will net berries for two bowls of oatmeal several times in a season. If planted correctly, strawberries are not hard.
Thyme - Many different varieties, some with silvery foliage, some golden, all with the thyme taste - choose one that matches your other plants.
Turnips – looking a little like radishes only a little slower and somewhat larger - like radishes, they are also a quick crop
Venidium – a sunflower like little darling – look for Zulu Prince


Broccoli – there are purple heading varieties
Calendulas – lovely and edible too, also called ‘pot marigold’ although I don’t know why
Cauliflower – they come in white, orange and purple – there are easier things to grow
Catnip – a wild thing with somewhat blue flowers – ‘spreads joyfully’ as they say
Chard – comes in pink, white, red, yellow and orange – a brilliant display!
Dill – ferny, feathery
Florence Fennel – gorgeous foliage – especially the ‘bronze’ fennel!
Larkspur – a lovely upright, purples and pinks with a lacey enticing foliage; this flower is an annual relative of delphinium, a wonderfully regal plant that is rarely at home in Southern California, but larkspur gets happy here and can self-sow, which is one of my favorites because it’s free plants year after year.
Leeks – stunning allium flower that can get to 8” diameter or more
Mustard (red) – really a red leaf, really, really! Rosy – but very spicy if that’s your bag
Potatoes – a little floppy, needs something to lean on, adds interest, edible roots after flowering – the size up only as the plant dies so it can look really ratty for a few weeks before harvest.
Rosemary – several different forms available – some are upright, some are prostrate and some can’t make up their minds as to one or the other and so possess qualities of both – still, a fabulous perennial especially in our climate!
Wheat – a fabulous upright annual grass – several different varieties are extremely ornamental – if you want to use it, threshing is a hassle unless you have a large supply of teenage angst energy to stomp and beat the berries free. Some wheat would be more back of the border so check the projected height.


Artichokes – a perennial that is huge, but boy is it impressive! Um, and tasty.
Brussels Sprouts – a slow, large Cruciferae (cabbage family)
Fava Beans – great black and white flowers and impressive when pods ripen.
Hollyhock – upright old-fashioned flower – some are used for dying. Can get rust…
Kale – very colorful and interesting shapes – the edible kale gets much larger than the little cute ornamental kale you find in the nursery
Edible peas – given something to climb on they produce a white flowers which turn into pods – if you grow the edible pod kind, it takes fewer plants to get a meal. Fresh peas and new potatoes is one of the most remembered meals of my youth, it doesn’t get much sweeter than that! But, in our climate, with our soils, neither of these are tremendous producers and you may well want to stick to fava beans here. Add artichoke hearts and you have a California Mediterranean meal that could well be a remembered meal for next year!
Sweet peas – give them something to climb on – don’t much care for heat and if you want that great sweet pea scent, grow older named varieties and be prepared to be patient!

In addition, there are a number of woody perennials to look into for the back of the border – I would encourage looking into a variety of ornamentals that can fill up the back of the border quite nicely.


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