Welcome fellow gardening enthusiasts!
Brrr! It’s starting to get a bit chilly here in Poway, California. Thanksgiving is a few days away and the holiday activities are starting to pick up here at Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes specializing in memory care at our 86- bed facility.
The deciduous fruit trees in our orchards are dropping their leaves quickly and soon they will be ready for their dormant- season pruning. The citrus harvest is starting to increase with tangerines, oranges and Oro Blancos leading the way. We had some delicious persimmons and figs a short while back, and the citrus harvest should be very good this season.
Roses are still a regular in vases at each of our homes. We are experimenting with a variety of Protea and Leucospermum. If they can handle the winter, we will be increasing our production of cut flowers for the homes those times of the year when roses are rebounding from their annual pruning and our sunflower collection starts top kick in to production. Our residents really enjoy making floral arrangements as an activity.
We picked our last bit of squash and cukes last week and the tomatoes will be the next to go sometime in December. In our five organic gardens, we have been busy harvesting some beautiful broccoli and cauliflower. We went in a little earlier this year, mid August, with our cruciferous veggie transplants and consequently we have had plenty of heads of the cole veggies this fall. Take advantage of the warm weather of September and October, to get those broccoli and cauliflower starts in the ground. You will be rewarded with a very bountiful crop of huge heads early in the fall.
Speaking of the vegetables in the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc.), I would like to spend some time to share a very exciting and nutritious addition to our gardens this year---the “Queen of the Greens”----KALE!!!
This nutritional powerhouse is extremely easy to grow and is relatively quick to harvest. Like all the members in the world of cole crops, Kale (also known as borecole-Dutch for farmer’s cabbage) thrives in soils that are rich in fertile organic matter. The soil should be kept moist but not overly wet and good drainage is a must.
Kale is a form of cabbage (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group), with green or purple leaves, in which the central leaves do not form a head. The Acephala group also includes spring greens and collard greens.
Kale was one of the most common vegetables in all of Europe until the end of the Middle Ages. Today, kale varieties may be differentiated by the low, intermediate or high length of stem with varying leaf types. During WWII, kale cultivation was encouraged because it was easy to grow and a great supplement to the normal diet due to rationing. Healthy stuff!!
Kales are classified by leaf type- curly leaved, plain leaved, Rape Kale, leaf and spear (a cross between curly leaved and plain leaved), and Cavolo nero (also known as black cabbage, Tuscan cabbage, Tuscan kale, Lacinato and dinosaur kale).
Many varieties of kale are grown for their ornamental leaves. Their brilliant white, red, pink, lavender, blue or violet colors in the interior of the rosette, can add some pop to your edible garden landscape and are edible also.
We are currently growing two different types of kale in our organic gardens. Starbor is a variety of curly leaf kale and Toscano, an Italian heirloom type, is a lacinato or “dinosaur” kale.
STARBOR is a 55 day variety that has finely curled, dark blue-green leaves and can be harvested with one cut instead of being stripped off the plant one leaf at a time, as kale is traditionally harvested. The compact plants produce leaves that are very uniform, resist yellowing, and are very flavorful. You can harvest the entire plant at 12”-18”. This variety fits in well with our program, grown in between our broccoli and cauliflower like we do with our lettuce. It also fills a planter box very nicely.
TOSCANO can be ready to harvest as “baby” in as little as 30 days or as mature leaves in about 65 days. It is a real “eye grabber” and resembles little black palm trees with leaves 2”-3” wide and over 12”inches long. The leaves have a blistered (savoyed)/crumply appearance. Its upright and open plant habit serves a dual purpose- very ornamental and extremely delicious. This variety is extremely popular in Tuscany and central Italy. It is very tolerant to hot and cold weather and actually can handle frosts very well. The colder it gets- the tastier is will be!
If you can’t find six packs or 4” pots of these types of kale at your local home and garden supply center, like Grangetto’s here in San Diego County, check out Johnny’s Selected Seeds and order a packet of 100 seeds for $3.95.
Watch out for pests like the bragrada bug in late summer and aphids in the spring.
Give them a shot of your favorite organic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, like Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1, occasionally to keep them green and growing in the cool weather. Super Easy!!!
Here are some reasons to add kale to your diet-
- Kale is low in calories, high in fiber and has zero fat. One cup has only 36 calories and 5 grams of fiber.
- Kale is high in iron. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef.
- Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food. It helps fight arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.
- Kale is great for your cardiovascular system by lowering cholesterol levels.
- Kale is high in vitamin A to help your vision and skin and some ward off some cancers.
- Kale is high in vitamin C which helps your immune system, metabolism and hydration.
- Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants such as carotenoids and flavonoids, again cancer fighters.
- Kale is high in calcium. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk to help build strong bones.
- Kale is a great detox food to keep your liver healthy.
Another great reason to eat kale, and one that is very relative for helping our residents here at Sunshine Care- Kale is high in Vitamin K where increased levels can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s (the number one affliction of all of our residents).
So grow the “new beef”, kale, and get healthy. Whether juiced, in smoothies, dehydrated for chips, as a spinach replacement or in soups, these two varieties of kale have a place for eye appeal in the garden and tummy appeal in the dining room.
If you are in the area, give me a call or shoot me an e-mail and I would be elated to show you around our gardens.
Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture for Sunshine Care, a Community of Assisted Living Homes
Check out our web-site to get a better feel for what we do and offer, www.sunshinecare.com
Watch for the next article in “The Mulch”, which will inform you of our monthly garden lectures that are free, open to the public and held on the 3rd Saturday of the month starting in January again, at 10:30 am. Knowledgable speakers on timely horticultural topics, along with refreshments, door prizes and a stroll through the gardens, make our classes a hit. These are also posted on our website so- DON’T BE A STRANGER!!
Please contact me, if you have any questions or would like to tour our gardens.
Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture at Sunshine Care- 12695 Monte Vista Rd, Poway CA 92064