Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

225 Cool Season Vegetable Tips

September 02, 2022 Fred Hoffman Season 3 Episode 225
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
225 Cool Season Vegetable Tips
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

September is here, and many of you are still enjoying your summer vegetable garden. But get ready…the days will be getting shorter and cooler this month and those plants may start to go into decline. Now is time to be planning and planting your second garden of 2022, the fall and winter vegetable garden, wherever you might live here in the Northern Hemisphere. Nursery Owner Don Shor has the cool season garden basics.

We learn something new, every time, on Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!

Cool Season Vegetables

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GB 225 TRANSCRIPT Cool Season Vegetables Tips (portions originally aired in Ep. 43)

Farmer Fred  0:00

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. It's made in the USA. Visit slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.

Farmer Fred  0:31  

September is here, and many of you are still enjoying your summer vegetable garden. But get ready…the days will be getting shorter and cooler this month and those plants may start to go into decline. Now is time to be planning and planting your second garden of 2022, the fall and winter vegetable garden, wherever you might live here in the Northern Hemisphere. Nursery Owner Don Shor has the cool season garden basics.

We learn something new, every time, on Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go! 


Farmer Fred  1:25  

Well, it's September. It's cool season vegetable time for much of the country. that would be USDA zones 9-8-7 and six if you feel real, real lucky, but let's just concentrate on the warmer areas, let's say south of the Mason Dixon line, along with most of the West Coast and getting into Arizona and probably parts of Texas and Florida, Of course. So let's talk to somebody who's very familiar with cool season vegetables: nursery owner, Don Shor owns Redwood Barn Nursery in Davis (CA), and Don it's cool season vegetable time, and there's a lot to choose from and I hope people don't give up after their summer garden. Maybe they're already tired of tomatoes and squash, they've already started ripping it out. You can put in crops that will do well in the cooler weather ahead.

Don Shor  2:11  

It's a funny time of year here because our summer vegetables are still going along strong, but it's a good time to get started on broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, a lot of those things that we grow and harvest in the cool season, but they need a good lead-in.

Farmer Fred  2:27  

The first thing people have to do is either plant from seed or pick out the plants and one of the easier things to do is to pick out the plants. go to your favorite local independent nursery. Your local independent nursery is always a good place to shop for plants, because they're going to carry the varieties that are known to do well in your particular area. Yeah, and for instance, here in Northern California, Don, what would you have in stock now is in the way of cool season vegetables for people in Northern California.

Don Shor  2:55  

We've just started bringing in broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco of the different types of cabbage, napa cabbage, regular headed cabbages, and we have the very first of the leafy greens, lettuces, spinach, and we always have swiss chard. There's things you can plant now all the way through November here in our area, and many of those are planted again in late winter, early spring, depending on where you're listening. But right now, end of August early September is really the beginning of the planting season for a lot of these things for most of The zones you talked about. 

Farmer Fred  3:29  

And for those who may be wondering... what the heck is romanesco? 

Don Shor  3:32  

Well, that's a little controversial, but it's usually described as a type of cauliflower. But to me it looks more like broccoli. And it's  fascinating looking. Everyone should grow it once. It makes a huge plant, two to three feet across, makes an enormous head with a fractal pattern, you can look up Fibonacci patterns. This is great for those of you who are homeschooling kids right now. And it's a very tender broccoli like flowerhead that sort of resembles cauliflower and texture but broccoli and flavor.

Farmer Fred  4:35  

And but it takes up a lot of room, It sounds like. 

Don Shor  4:38  

yeah, it's a big plant. And I think people need to know that if you're if you're limited for space, you'll get a lot more for your money out of just regular broccoli that re sprouts, but it's a beautiful plant and very fascinating to grow at least once not difficult. It's very similar to broccoli.

Farmer Fred  4:18  

What about  containerizing these plants? do many of them take well to containers?

Don Shor  4:23  

I do that and I use large containers. I use anything from a seven to a 15 gallon size, you want at least half a cubic foot of potting soil, a cubic foots even better because these are plants with extensive root systems and they don't want to get drought stress. It's very important with all the cole crops, things like that, but they have a good root volume. If you're limited and you have a smaller container, go with leafy greens, lettuces, spinach is you can crowd those together, harvest leaf by leaf and have them over a very long season.

Farmer Fred  4:53  

What are the best selling varieties that you've worked with over the years?

Don Shor  4:57  

on the broccoli, I'm a big fan of DiCiccio, which is a known heirloom variety. I like the newer ones like green magic, which is very similar. What I suggest home gardeners look for is broccoli that is listed as re sprouting side sprouts, lots of side shoots. commercial growers want a very large head of broccoli, they want to make six inches across and they're just going to get it one and done they get one big head and that's it. You as a home gardener can plant DiCiccio or green magic or Gypsy. Some of these like that have been around for a while and am some newer hybrids, and you'll get one four inch head and immediately new side shoots come up and you can be picking those all winter. So that's really better for the home gardener.

Farmer Fred  5:36  

What is the spacing for broccoli? I know on some of the older varieties like green Goliath, green Duke and Waltham 29. They recommended planting them 10 inches apart in 20 foot rows.

Don Shor  5:47  

you can go closer with these three sprouting types. That sounds about right. I usually go about a foot apart I may crowd them the more you crowd them the smaller those initial heads will be but you'll still get good results. That really I think broccoli and its cousins broccoli Raab things like that are some of the easiest things for home gardeners to start with. Easy to grow from seed, easy to buy implants and they'll produce quickly.

Farmer Fred  6:08

Alright, so much for broccoli. Let's move through the alphabet. What's next?


Don Shor  6:13  

brussel sprouts. ever grown any, Fred?

Farmer Fred  6:17  

brussels sprouts are a challenge here because even though they're a cool season crop, if you want to plant them correctly here, you have to do it in the heat of July.

Don Shor  6:26  

Right. they need to go in mid summer. They In a really long start to the growing season, and you're not going to harvest until March, and I guarantee you'll be battling aphids the whole time. So I would not rush into brussels sprouts if you're a novice gardener, but it can be fun to do. But I don't know how much you like brussels sprouts, they're probably not the easiest. So maybe let's move down the alphabet to cabbage.

Farmer Fred  6:47

But let's put one more thing on brussel sprouts, though, for people in other parts of the country, maybe this brussel sprouts are best treated as a spring planted crop.

Don Shor  6:55  

Yeah. And they're heavily grown in the coastal areas of California. Most of the production for many years was over in the coast of the Bay Area, that long season planning them early in the spring, cool, mild climate, they'd be harvesting them over a very long period. So it's a challenging one because it takes literally about six months from plant to harvest. 

Farmer Fred  7:16  

Wow. All right, can we go to the letter C?

Don Shor  7:19

Now remember, these are all related and these are all basically the same plan. They are brassica oleracea. That's the botanical name of the The ancestor of all of them. And from that we got broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, I feel like I'm forgetting something. But they're all basically the same plant. And they like a mild climate to grow and expand and get their major initial start. And then we're harvesting different parts, we're harvesting the flower buds, we're firing the inflorescence. And in some cases, the weird stem like on the kohlrabi, what they want is to have a long period of development, and then initiate with flowering and then we eat them before they get a chance to flower.

Farmer Fred  8:06

Now I'm fond of the Chinese cabbages the bok choy and the pak choi.


Don Shor  8:09  

very easy to grow, and you can crowd them. They're a really good one for folks who like stir fry, have maybe one container to crowd a bunch of things in bok choy, pac joi, there's a bunch of different names and different styles of those. You can harvest a leaf at a time or the whole thing. And again, all they want is cool, mild conditions. they're okay with Frost, light frost okay down into the mid 20s Fahrenheit. So they're pretty easy to grow in almost all the climate zones you mentioned. And in coastal areas, the places where tomatoes don't do well peppers don't do well. So let's say Seattle or Corvallis, Oregon. Those are great choices they will do very well for you pretty much year round.

Farmer Fred  8:45  

cabbage varieties. I'm familiar with our Earliana, Copenhagen market, savoy King and the burpee hybrid. Are there others that you like?

Don Shor  8:53  

green acre, that's become one of the most popular because it will produce quickly. You'll look on the label you'll see some cabbages listed as 60 to 70 days others in the 90 day range, the the faster ones are gonna be better for some of the listeners who are in the colder USDA zones. They get them planted now they're listening in September, and we get frost in November there'll be okay with that they can get them out of the ground before a hard freeze sets in. In our climate, those tend to head up in the air in the late winter, early spring. Here we can do all of them because we don't get that cold in the winter. But that green acre in particular is a fast producer. 

Farmer Fred  9:27  

Oh well let's talk about another relative of those then, the cauliflower.

Don Shor  9:32

It's more challenging. The issue with cauliflower is that the heads are susceptible to cold damage and the cosmetic damage on the head. If it's open and we get, you know, open to the sky and we get 24 or 25 degrees, as we can do here in mid December, early January, it'll damage it. So an old technique is to pull those leaves up, crimp them over the top, and that protects the head. And with that colder weather you get a sweeter flavor. It's a little more tricky though, because they're more susceptible to slug damage, aphids and more challenging to manage that way. I would say for again, for novice gardener, broccoli is going to be a lot easier.


Farmer Fred  10:13  

All right, well cross cauliflower off the list. No. Okay, try. Yes, exactly. Try everything once. Yeah, one of my favorites to grow and I won't say it's bulletproof. But if you have good deep soil, it's kind of hard to go wrong with carrots.

Don Shor  10:25  

Yeah, as long as the soil drains well and you can do them Essentially any time of year as long as the moisture is consistent, so in the summer here, they can be pretty challenging just because of how hot and dry we are. But almost anywhere someone's listening unless the ground freezes over, they can do carrots right on into the winter. They can do them early in the spring even later in the spring. I suggest for areas with denser soil, they use smaller types like little fingered hand danzas haflong, try the round one orbit. Those are cool. And there's a lot of new carrots on the variety, a lot of new, new colorful ones, but I think you really can't go wrong with those first two. I mentioned little finger and Danvers haflong they develop quickly. You get three to four inch, very sweet carrots and remember the sweetness increases a little frost.

Farmer Fred  11:07  

I realize you're a nursery owner, but would you buy a six pack of carrots?

Don Shor  11:11  

I would sell one. Would I buy one? No.

Farmer Fred  11:49  

You would plant from seed.

Don Shor  11:51  

Absolutely. The thing to remember though, is carrots germinate very slowly. There's an inhibitor in the seed coat. So first thing is to soak the seed overnight before you plant To try and get some of that inhibitor out of there, then it'll only take three to four weeks to germinate instead of five to six. And an old trick is to plan carrots and radishes together in the same bed and the radishes come up right away. You're harvesting them in five or six weeks, just as you're pulling them out. The carrots are beginning to sprout. So you're making maximum efficient use of your bed and you're in bed waiting and waiting and waiting for the carrots to sprout. You're getting something else out of that bed at the same time.


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Farmer Fred  14:54  

Let's get back to our conversation with nursery owner Don Shor. he has more cool seasoned vegetable garden planting tips for us.

Another one of those slow to germinate ones I'm trying this year are parsnips. it could take three weeks for it to show its face above ground. 

Don Shor  15:14  

Anything in that family they have an inhibitor in the seed coat and a simple trick is to soak the seed overnight parsley well known for five to six weeks to germinate. Put them in a bowl, pour hot water on them, let it sit overnight, drain that off and that'll help somewhat but you're still looking three to four weeks to germination. Yeah. And all the vegetables I would recommend planting direct in the ground if you can. Yes, people like six packs.

Farmer Fred  15:38  

Yes. So root crops we're talking carrots we're talking about turnips. parsnips.

Don Shor  15:45  

yeah you grow them

Farmer Fred  15:47  

This is gonna be the first year I'm growing and those will you thought I said parsley I said parsnips as far as taking three weeks to germinate.

Don Shor  15:54  

Yeah, they are storing a lot of starch and things. Remember with anything that stores starch is when we get cold, the starch converts to sugar, so even even the leaves of your kale, you'll get better flavor when you get some chilling on them. This is one of the reasons they're popular. Don't harvest your parsnips until Christmas.

Farmer Fred  16:11  

I'll remember that. Okay, I'm gonna write that down.

Don Shor  16:15  

parsnips until Christmas.

Farmer Fred  16:18  

Xmas. Okay, got it. Now, that brings up onions and garlic. Now around here we're used to planting from starts or transplants, usually in October or so. The rest of the country I'm not sure.

Don Shor  16:32

It's highly variable, hot areas in the southern part. They generally plant in the fall and they harvest in the spring as much as we do. Here. We plan to November harvest in May to June a little later for Walla Walla is and the colder tier states they plan in the spring for summer harvest. So it's going to vary and you'll have short day, long day intermediate day types. We're very lucky in the Sacramento Valley, we've got all of those we can go any kind of onion we want. Wherever you're listening locally, you should find out what the suitable varieties are for your area. Because there are generally varieties that are better for you and varieties that aren't as suitable.  

Farmer Fred  17:07  

I love the Stockton red onion. They're hard to find. But when you find them, get them they're good. 

Don Shor  17:13

Good luck getting the red. Stockton yellow, Walla Walla, is a fun one to grow. We always get demand for the red torpedo. It's a little dicey here because frankly It tends to bloom honestly. And when it blooms is hollow, it does keep as well. But yeah, the stocks in red are the new red burger, just an improvement on that. Onions in the Sacramento Valley arrive in November, and you plant them bare root. It's one of the easiest things in the world to do.


Farmer Fred  17:36  

Yeah, they usually come bundled 50 to a bundle, you'll be happy with one bundle.

Don Shor  17:42

I get people special ordering 200 to 500 at a time. And they call and call and call I don't know what is this? These old guys in their onions are very concerned about them. But they want to get them in November when they can water them in, get some nitrogen on them early in the season. And then they're just as easy as can be from that point on you just harvest in the early summer, late spring.

Farmer Fred  18:04  

And that's part of the beauty of living where we live in other areas of the country. It's more of a challenge. What's nice is that there are some mail order firms like Peaceful Valley they won't even mail out there garlic and onions to a zip code until it's right for that area.

Don Shor  18:20

Right there. big onon grower down in Texas i think is Dixon Dale farms, they know everything there is to know about onions and they shipped millions of them all over the country, and they tell you if they're gonna ship them to you when it's appropriate for your region.


Farmer Fred  18:34  

I guess the most frost sensitive plants would be those with water in their leaves like the leafy greens.

Don Shor  18:41

Yeah, and they're easy to grow. But of course, they're a little vulnerable to temperatures in the low 20s or below. So wherever people are listening, they need to take that into consideration. On the plus side, you can plant and harvest right away, you can start picking leaves immediately, especially the leaf lettuces and spinach is and you can let them grow and form ahead and harvest the whole hand if you like. This is probably where early novice gardeners go best is with leafy greens in a barrel or some planter like that crowd a man put in 30 plants I mean, go go overboard, because you can fit them out and use them. And if something is used up, there's a space go by a plant, stick some more in or do some more seed and we're talking about lettuce, Spinach you can do those those stir fry greens like you're talking about earlier, you're going to broccoli Raab, which is used for the stem and for stir frying. And you can even put some swiss chard in there, just be aware that it's ultimately going to outgrow all the other things we talked about. So keep them trimmed and pinched and use them all winter long here in the valley in the Sacramento Valley of California. You'll be harvesting out of that barrel all the way into April. Perhaps in colder climates you hear that you're gonna hear 21-20 degrees Fahrenheit, you might want to rush out and have a salad that night.

Farmer Fred  19:53

Some of my favorite loose leaf lettuce varieties are Ruby, bibb, salad bowl, green ice, head lettuce has always been more of a challenge here in the valley, but it's easy to grow if you live in a milder climate.


Don Shor  20:05  

Sure, it just it has more risk of getting problems on the interior of the head balling up and getting a rot. look for the salanova series. These are amazing. They're like bibbs style. They make a perfect little head even when they're only half grown. You can harvest them whole and they look absolutely great. They tastes wonderful. Also romaine. If some of you're listening in places where it's hotter, romaine seems to be more heat tolerant, Lola Rossa. And then an old standby for almost every region I can think of is the black seeded Simpson, which is tolerant of heat and cold. So it can take almost the whole range of the lettuce growing season. 

Farmer Fred  20:40  

And in the world of spinach. I've always loved the Bloomsdale long standing. And the melody hybrid.

Don Shor  20:47

melody is in this sort of new class of spinach where there's smaller leaves that are thinner, so probably a little more vulnerable to cold, but they're tender. We like to use them in salads. The bloomsdale is cooking spinach, been around forever tough, reliable, and said to be pretty tolerant of both cold and heat. So there's a whole range of spinach now basically thick leaf types and thin leaf types.


Farmer Fred  21:08  

And we touched on kale. and one thing I've learned about kale over the years is the plain green kale has a better taste to it than the ornamental kale, which is very colorful, but kind of bitter.

Don Shor  21:22  

not really intended for eating, Fred. It's like the parsley on your plate of the restaurant, but it's a different plant that kale is incredibly popular. It has become far and away the most popular of the coolest season vegetables for most retailers. It's easy to grow. There's the dyno kales which have the thick kind of lumpy leaves. You've got all kinds of frilly leaf types, they're all very easy to grow and they can go down to 19 or 20 degrees without much difficulty. And I'm said that labor flavor improves it gets sweeter when that happens. Yeah, they are really pretty ornamental ones and we get this question over and over through the winter. Are they edible? Sure. Does that mean palatable tasty? No. You want to eat it? I'd suggest buying lisianiada or Dino kale or something like that. red Russian, winter boa,r bunch of new hybrids is some really cool kale on the market. Now.

Farmer Fred  22:14  

Well, one solution around the bitterness of maybe kale or chard, or even spinach is to do it in a stir fry. And that helps it out.

Don Shor  22:22  

Anything this bitter. This is true, if you add salt that masks the bitterness. So the soy sauce takes care of that in your stir fry.

Farmer Fred  22:30  

Thank you. It's good to know. All right. So most people, if you're a first time gardener and you're going to start a cool season garden for the first time, if you really want success, start with transplants. Yeah, not from seed because it's a much longer process and frankly, we're running out of time here. So people are going to the nursery. What do they look for at the nursery?

Don Shor  22:52  

Buy younger plants. I'm really concerned what I see overgrown, rootbound, six packs all these cole crops we just talked about. their roots are bound up the plants going to get off to a slow start. So transplanted if you have to if he's not ready to go into the garden bed, move it up to a four inch pot into some nice soil. Look for healthy green, deep green, not purple discolored ones and not super rootbound in the container. I think that's really important for these winter vegetables. And then when you take it home, what should you do with it if you don't plan on planting at that weekend, well, just this morning, I took some six packs of napa cabbage that were fully rooted in and I didn't want to put them in the ground yet. So I shifted them up into four inch pots, just so they get them off to another little stage two to four weeks of growth before they go in the ground. Keep them growing, keep them moving, don't don't let them sit around in those packs and get rootbound so go ahead and do that extra step, putting them in a reasonable quality potting soil in a four inch pot. The plants will be growing and vigorous when you put them in the ground. 

Farmer Fred  23:22  

And then when you take it home, what should you do with it if you don't plan on planting it that weekend?

Don Shor  23:28  

Well, just this morning, I took some six packs of Napa cabbage that were fully rooted in and I didn't want to put them in the ground yet. So I shifted them up into four inch pots, just so they get them off to another little stage, two to four weeks of growth before they go in the ground. Keep them growing, keep them moving.  Don't let them sit around in those packs and get root bound. so go ahead and do that extra step putting them in a reasonable quality potting soil and a four inch pot. The plants will be growing and vigorous when you put them in the ground. 

Farmer Fred  23:55  

I was chatting recently with Brad Gates, you know him from wild boar farms. He's famous for his tomatoes, and he came up with a rather ingenious way to keep lettuce coming throughout our hot summers. Every week or so, he plants a nursery flat with lettuce seed. he takes a nursery flat, He puts a sheet of newspaper on the bottom, fills it with soil and then scatters lettuce seed or spinach seed or Swiss chard seed into the surface of the soil, keeps it watered, it pops up and within a month, they're using their scissors, cutting it off and serving it in a meal is during the wintertime. You could do that in the wintertime too, and you could do it indoors. 

Don Shor  24:36

A lot of places people are listening. You could do it in a sheltered front porch, something like that. I mean look for those microclimates. We're not talking about workplaces where there's snow on the ground, but places where it's maybe in the low 20s they could be a few degrees warmer up close to the house, he's growing microgreens and that's really easy to do. You just you're clipping them and you're not you're never trying to grow them to their full potential. You're just using them as little greens. I know people who do that with cilantro just to have a steady crop of it as well. The other group of plants that we should mention for some listeners are the peas and the beans. The garden not green beans, but fava beans. These are two cool season vegetables that we grow here for different purposes. Peas Of course for shelling, stir fry, depending on the different type. The sugar snaps have just dominated the market Now for 30 years ever since they came on because you can eat them whole, then fava beans are great for building the soil even if you don't happen to eat them. So they're very popular as a cover crop. And those are both planted going into the winter in this climate. Now this is something where you're going to have to find out locally in a colder climate, perhaps USDA zone seven, six, I'm guessing those are planted in the early spring. But here we plant them for the wintertime. And we have the biggest benefit of the fava beans all through the winter suppressing weeds, building the soil, adding nitrogen, and then people harvest and eat the beans as well.

Farmer Fred  25:53  

From what I've been reading about USDA zone seven, which includes parts of Arizona and New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. Those cool weather vegetables can usually be planted outdoors in early February. 

Don Shor  26:09  

Sure people do that here and there. It's a race against time to see whether they'll develop before we hit our first 90 degree temperatures. So we're doing the same thing but our preferred season is September October, November for best results.

Farmer Fred  26:24  

And as we've talked about in previous shows in discussing cool season vegetables, if you live in a colder climate, nothing beats a cold frame or a greenhouse. There you go. Or a root cellar. There you go. Exactly. Don Shor is with Redwood barn Nursery in Davis, California. Some great cool season vegetable recommendations. Don, thank you so much.

Don Shor  26:44  

Great to be here, Fred. Thanks.


Farmer Fred  26:52  

 Coming up in the Friday September 2, 2022 Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter, Debbie Flower and I discuss the role of plant hormones. Why should you give a rat’s patootie about plant hormones? Only if you want to be a better gardener. If you want to be more successful at propagating plants, you need to know about plant hormones. Want to grow bigger table grapes? Again, plant hormones can play a role. But there are other steps you can take to grow bigger grapes. And you’ll find out about those steps, in Friday’s Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. 

Find a subscription link to the newsletter in today’s show notes, or visit our website, Garden Basics dot net, where you can sign up to have the free, Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter and podcast delivered to your inbox each Friday. Also at Garden Basics dot net, you can listen to any of our previous editions of the Garden Basics podcast, as well as read a transcript of the podcast episode you are listening to now. 

For current newsletter subscribers, look for All About Plant Hormones in the next Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter, coming out on the morning of Friday, September 2, in your email. Take a deeper dive into gardening, with the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. And it’s free. Find the link in today’s show notes or at garden basics dot net.

Farmer Fred  28:12 

Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening. 

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Beyond the Garden Basics Newsletter