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Have beautiful green salads everyday, fresh from the garden

Cooler days and nights have settled into Fallbrook, slowing the growth of local gardens and creating a stronger chance of rain. As things slow in the plant world, the gardener must, in turn, adapt and follow the teachings of nature.

With the onset of cold weather, most plants, shrubs and trees settle into a period of hibernation, called dormancy. Leaves fall and growth minimizes, leaving the gardener time to prune fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs. Pruning is truly a precise art, which with a little study at a pruning clinic, can turn the average gardener into an artist.

Consider the effects of weather upon Fallbrook’s micro-climates. Upper areas provide an environment ripe for warm weather plants, while cold valley floors yield an ecosystem that promotes most deciduous fruit trees.

Bare root fruit trees, berries, roses, grapes, kiwis and numerous other varieties are available at the many garden centers and large citrus nurseries. A selection of blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries (red, gold, and white), strawberries, asparagus, and artichoke plants are ripe for the choosing this time of year.

Artichoke is an exceptional perennial which can be mixed into a variety of ornamental landscapes. It produces blue-green leaves that have a fern-like quality and its fruit can be harvested the first year. When cut back in the fall, the artichoke plant grows approximately 3 feet tall and wide.

Asparagus on the other hand needs about two to three years to develop a strong root system able to handle a spring harvest. Once firmly established, the asparagus plant will produce for many years. Both asparagus and artichoke supply the body with necessary nutrients.

After pruning has been taken care of and cold weather shrubs and trees have been planted, two collard greens and about four plants of a cabbage variety can be added to the garden beds. Collard greens are a particular favorite of the South, and happen to be one of the highest suppliers of minerals, especially calcium, of most crops. They carry a strong flavor and are best used gingerly in food preparation.

Six more of your favorite lettuce varieties planted amongst the cabbage family keeps fresh salad coming to the table regularly. The first lettuces planted in December have doubled in size and will be ready for harvest.

Adding four more of your favorite Asian greens will fill in more space and add even more variety to the expanding garden, with parsley, onions and peas, keeping a succession available for the healthy appetite. Adding a wonderful splash to many meals, three cilantro plants and a few arugula can be added to the mix.

Cabbage, another fantastic vegetable, comes in the standard green varieties found at most grocery stores, as well as the tender, loose-leaf Savoy variety from France and Belgium, and the popular red leaf from Denmark and Germany. Today’s hybrids feel softer and are a welcome addition to fresh salads and coleslaw and dishes like Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage or Russian Cabbage Soup.

Before planting, lightly dust a good organic fertilizer and compost blend on the garden bed and around trees and shrubs, as the timing is right, to start a healthy fertility program. Included in the program is mulch, as its use is an important facet to plant growth and garden health.

To add carrots and beets to the garden, scratch a short, shallow trench on the edge of the garden bed and plant carrot seeds one-half inch apart and beet seeds 2 inches apart. Cover gently so as not to push the seeds in too deep and you will find an unexpected surprise in the near future.

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