Add edibles to your fall container gardens

Summer is a busy time for ­gardeners, and as a result, many of us fail to think about what we could plant for a fall vegetable garden ­harvest, or to provide color to our fall landscapes. If you are one of these gardeners, growing colorful fall ­vegetable transplants in ­containers could be an ideal option. Many of your local garden centers grow ­vegetable transplants especially for fall gardeners. Think about refreshing your tired summer annual containers and swapping them out for colorful edibles.

Vegetables and flowering ­annuals are grouped into categories based on how much cold they can tolerate. When thinking of a fall garden, the plants listed as very hardy or frost tolerant are the crops we want to ­consider. Started in late summer, these vegetables will be able to survive the cold temperatures allowing enough time for vegetables to mature and become harvested.

Here are a few great cool season vegetable options to take your fall containers to the next level this season by adding great ornamental features, as well as great taste:

Kale

A hearty and great looking green, kale thrives in fall’s cooler climate. Select several different varieties, like Lacinato, Red Russian and Curly Leaf varieties to add texture and interest to your containers.

Swiss Chard

This salad garden favorite develops pink, red, yellow, white, or orange full stems that are just beautiful, and of course edible, which is a bonus. Swiss chard grows 12 to 18 inches tall with delicious dark green, crinkled leaves you can harvest at any time for salads or cooking. The height of this green makes it an excellent choice to add a bit of height to your fall container.

Beets

Beets work well in combination with many other greens in a container. You may have planted seeds as an early spring crop, but plant again in mid-summer for a fall crop. Don’t ­forget that beet leaves (greens) are also edible, like chard, as they are both the same plant species, just different varieties or selections.

Bok Choy

Try something you have may have never grown before, like the Chinese vegetable bok choy. Start directly
from seed in a container or start transplants ahead of time. They take less than 60 days to mature, and are great sautéed.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums have both flowers and leaves that are edible and make a tasty, peppery addition to salads. Easy to grow from seed or purchased ­transplants, their brilliant colors and low-growing habit make them a perfect choice for around the edge of your container. Nasturtiums have interesting, scalloped, sometimes ­variegated foliage, too, and their habit can be trailing or mounding.

Don’t be afraid to add other ­ornamental and edible cool ­season flowers, like pansies, to your ­containers to add even more color this fall.

Candice Hart is a Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension serving DeWitt, Macon and Piatt ­counties. She is also a Certified Floral Designer, Illinois Certified Professional Florist and is an award winning floral designer.

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