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Gardening with Laurie: Cooler months can yield sweeter vegetables

By By Laurie Garretson
Sept. 26, 2013 at 4:26 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

I really love vegetables. All vegetables. But that was not always the case. When I was a child, I wasn't very interested in many vegetables. Potatoes and green beans were about the extent of my vegetable likes. Thankfully, I now realize what I was missing all those young years.

There is nothing better than fresh, homegrown vegetables. Many vegetables are so much better during the cooler fall and winter months. Cold night temperatures bring out the natural sugars in many vegetables.

I remember a Christmas many years ago when my folks gave my husband and I a bushel basket full of fresh, homegrown vegetables. That was such a special and wonderfully delicious gift.

One vegetable that usually takes an adult's taste buds to enjoy is spinach. Not to say that all children don't like spinach, but not many do.

Spinach is very nutritious and delicious and can be easy to grow with a few tips. Spinach is one vegetable that actually likes a neutral to high pH soil. Adding lots of compost and an organic fertilizer to your garden soil will help to produce a healthy crop. Spinach likes consistent watering yet will not tolerate soggy soils. Spinach grows very well in raised garden beds.

As with most vegetables, spinach likes full sun, but it will tolerate a considerate amount of shade. Planting on the west side of a deciduous tree works well to acquire these conditions.

Spinach is usually grown from seeds. I find that many gardeners start their seeds when the soil is too warm. Spinach seeds will germinate well in a soil that's about 75 degrees or less. This time of year, while the temperatures are still warm you might be able to shade the planting area to help with germination.

Before planting spinach seeds, soak them in liquid seaweed. In a glass jar, add the seeds to a diluted solution of liquid seaweed and store this in the refrigerator for 24 hours. The seeds will begin to absorb the solution, which will start the chemical processes that will then lead to germination.

The cooler temperatures during the fall and winter are the best of times to grow spinach. Spinach can be grown throughout all of our winter months with some protection. Cover the plants with some of your frost fabric on cold nights.

Spinach is a versatile vegetable that can be used raw in salads or on a sandwich. Spinach quiche is one of my favorite ways to eat spinach, but I also like it in soups, casseroles or just by itself. Spinach is 90 percent water, so there is no need to add additional water, other than what is on the leaves after washing them.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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