Cooking Greens in October


Vates kale in the fall.
Photo Bridget Aleshire

Cooking Greens to Harvest in Central Virginia in October

Beet greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, chard, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale,  komatsuna, Maruba Santoh, pak choy, senposai, spinach, tatsoi, Tokyo Bekana turnip greens and Yukina savoy can be available here all month (and perhaps longer, depending on the temperature). OP Yukina Savoy seems more cold-hardy  and bolt-resistant than the hybrid Koji.

The new outdoor greens this month are tatsoi, kale, spinach, collards, and mizuna (if we have that outdoors).

Eat-All Greens harvests can start, if you sowed some last month. When we sowed some on September 16, we got two harvests in October and several in November.

From the hoophouse we start to harvest spinach, tatsoi, and leaves of Tokyo bekana.

Cooking Greens to Sow in Central Virginia in October

This month we finish sowing spinach and kale for overwintering outdoors (10/30 is our last chance). No more outdoor sowings until spring!

“Filler Greens”

Filler greens: short rows of Tokyo bekana, Yukina Savoy and senposai used to fill gaps in the winter hoophouse.
Photo Pam Dawling

On October 10, we sow Brassica fillers #1. These are short rows of senposai, Tokyo bekana, Yukina Savoy, Maruba Santoh,  to use to fill gaps later during the winter as soon as they occur. We simply dig them up, replant where needed and water well. Alternatively you could keep some plug flats of these plants handy. Bare-root transplanting is much easier than many fear.

During December we use the “Filler” greens plants to replace casualties and harvested heads of Tokyo bekana, Maruba Santoh, Chinese cabbage, Pak choy, Yukina Savoy and tatsoi daily. We stop filling gaps in these early harvest crops on December 25, as they will bolt in the hoophouse conditions in January at the latest.

We continue to fill gaps elsewhere with senposai until January 25. Asian greens don’t make good growth before bolting if transplanted after January 25. From January 25 to February 20 we fill all gaps everywhere with spinach transplants

Hoophouse Bed preparation and Planting

In the hoophouse we have a lot of bed preparation (all the beds except the Early Bed which we plant in September), as well as transplanting and sowing.

On October 14, we sow turnips #1: Red Round (1 row on North), Hakurei (2 rows South). Oasis, White Egg.

On October 20, we sow Filler Greens #2.

By October 23, we clear and prepare two more beds and sow spinach #2; tatsoi #2, turnips #2, chard #2 and perhaps Frills (Frilly Mustards) #1.5.

Brassica (Mustard) Salad Mix

Interesting mustard mixes are sold for salad mixes. We often mix our own Brassica Salad Mix from leftover random brassica seeds. For a single cut, almost all brassicas are suitable – just avoid turnips and radishes with prickly leaves! We sow between October 2 and November 14 for harvests during the winter, and from December 4 to February 12 for March and early April harvests.

We could, but so far we haven’t, sow Eat-All Greens in hoophouse in October.

Catch crops

Useful if a crop fails, or you have an empty space. Don’t delay, as rates of growth slow down as the temperatures and daylight decrease. Don’t expect much from sowings during the Persephone Days (less than 10 hours daylight).

Tokyo bekana is a quick-growing Asian green, for cooking or salads.
Photo Twin oaks Community

This year we grew an early catch crop of Tokyo bekana when we realized we had space that wouldn’t be needed till mid-October (for turnips). We direct sowed it August 28, weeded and thinned to 1” (2.5 cm) on September 5; weeded and thinned to 3” (7.5 cm) on September 16, using the small plants for salad. We need to clear this crop by the middle of October to sow the turnips, and the Tokyo bekana has got to a fine size.

  • Ready in 30–35 days in fall, longer in winter: brassica salad mixes, spinach, chard, salad greens (lettuce, endives, chicories), winter purslane., kale, arugula, radishes (the fast small ones and the larger winter ones), many Asian greens: Komatsuna, Maruba Santoh, mizuna, frilly mustards, Senposai, tatsoi, Tokyo Bekana and Yukina Savoy.
  • Ready in 35–45 days in fall: corn salad, land cress, sorrel, parsley and chervil.
  • Ready in 60 days in fall: beets, collards, kohlrabi, turnips

Cooking Greens to Transplant in Central Virginia in October

September sown White Russian kale (transplanted in October).
Photo Wren Vile

In our hoophouse in early October, we transplant Tokyo Bekana, Chinese cabbage, Pak choy, Yukina savoy #1,  using plants which we sowed outside under insect netting.

By October 13, we transplant chard #1, Frills #1, and Red and White Russian kales, from our outdoor nursery seedbed.

By October 21, we clear and prepare another bed and transplant 1/2 bed kale, plus Yukina Savoy, and frilly mustards. (This is our favorite crop selection to suppress nematodes),

By October 23, we clear and prepare two more beds and transplant senposai and Yukina Savoy #2 from the outdoor nursery bed.

Other Cooking Greens Tasks in Central Virginia in October

October is our month to weed and thin the fall crops in the outdoor raised beds, especially spinach and kale. We thin kale to 12” (30 cm); perhaps more space would be better, although Vates is a dwarf variety.

We put rowcover over any beds of pak choy, Chinese cabbage or Tokyo bekana we have that year. Later we weed (again!) and cover the spinach for faster growth, but leave the kale uncovered after a bad experience of Vates kale with rowcover fibers mixed in. The cooks didn’t love us!

Galinsoga dies with the frost.
Photo Wren Vile

We prefer to wait to cover spinach after frosts kill the galinsoga. As well as raised beds, we plant spinach in our cold frames, making good use of the space until the frames are needed in spring for hardening off transplants.

We roll, label and store drip tape from the fall broccoli and cabbage

Special Cooking Greens Topic for October: Get Soil Tests; Be Ready for Cold Nights.

October is a good month to do soil tests, when the soil is not too wet, and the soil temperatures are still warm (the soil life is active).

Weather Forecasting

We use Wunderground, but subtract 5F° from their forecast night lows for our nearest town, and mentally downgrade the chance of rain by 10%, as rain often passes us by as it scoots along the river valley north of us.

See for the typical ranges of weather in your area:

Savoy cabbage with frost.
Photo Lori Katz

Predicting Frost

Frost is more likely at Twin Oaks if:

  • The date is after 10/14 or before 4/30 (our average first and last frost dates).
  • The Wunderground forecast low for Louisa Northside is 37°F (3°C) or less.
  • The daytime high temperature was less than 70°F (21°C).
  • The temperature at sunset is less than 50°F (10°C).
  • The sky is clear.
  • The soil is dry and cool.
  • The moon is full or new (maybe to do with tides and gravity?).
  • If temperatures are falling fast, the wind is from NW and the sky is clear, then polar air may be moving in, and we’ll get a hard freeze.
  • The dew point forecast is low, close to freezing. Frost is unlikely if the dew point is 43°F or more.

Watch for cold night temperatures and decide which crops to harvest, which to cover, which to abandon:

In a double-layer hoophouse (8F/5C warmer than outside) plants can survive 14F/8C colder than outside, without extra rowcover; with thick rowcover (1.25 ozTypar/Xavan) plants can survive at least 21F/12C colder than outside.

The hoophouse winter crops are an important part of feeding ourselves year-round

Each winter I update my Winter-kill Temperatures of Cold-Hardy Vegetables.

Here are some early winter numbers for killing temperatures outdoors (without rowcover unless otherwise stated). Your results may vary!  Let me know!        

35°F (2°C): Basil.

32°F (0°C): Beans, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, tomatoes.

27°F (–3°C): Many cabbage, Sugarloaf chicory.

25°F (–4°C): Some cabbage, chervil, chicory roots for chicons and hearts, Chinese Napa cabbage, dill, endive, some fava beans, annual fennel, some Asian greens (Maruba Santoh, mizuna, most pak choy, Tokyo Bekana), some onion scallions (many varieties are hardier), radicchio.

22°F (–6°C): Some arugula (some varieties are hardier), Bright Lights chard, large leaves of lettuce (protected hearts and small plants will survive colder temperatures), rhubarb stems.

20°F (–7°C): Some beets, broccoli heads (some may be OK to 15°F/-9°C), Brussels sprouts, some cabbages (the insides may still be good even if the outer leaves are damaged), celeriac, celtuce (stem lettuce), some head lettuce, some mustards/Asian greens, flat leaf parsley (curly parsley is hardier), radishes, most turnips.

15°F (–9.5°C): Some beets, beet greens, some broccoli, some cabbage, rowcovered celery, red chard (green chard is hardy to 12°F (-11°C)), cilantro, endive, some fava beans, Russian kales, kohlrabi, some lettuce, especially medium-sized plants with 4-10 leaves, curly parsley, rutabagas if not covered, broad leaf sorrel, turnip leaves, most covered turnips, winter cress.

Frosted daikon radish.
Photo Bridget Aleshire

8 thoughts on “Cooking Greens in October”

  1. Hi. I just found your site and it’s an amazing resource for someone starting to experiment with winter gardening. I’m curious if some of your kill temps are related to the ground freezing and/or the freeze thaw cycle vs temperatures alone.

    1. Hi Thomas,

      These are just air temperatures. It’s certainly true that as the soil cools, plants are more likely to succumb to cold air temperatures they might have survived the first time round. But I have no data on that, just observation. In Virginia we do not get long-term ground freezing, usually. We once had a month of frozen soil and/or snow, but that has not been usual. Our winter weather is back and forth, cold spells, mild spells. I bet the cycling also affects plant survival, but logging that would be exhausting, and really, I’m not sure how we’d use the information. So I just use the air temperatures. Pam

  2. Hello. Do you grow Galinsoga on purpose?
    We have it at the allotment gardens in Toronto.
    I’ve tried it and the young ones taste fine.
    I will add it to soup in 2020.

    1. Oh no! We don’t grow it on purpose! It sets seed so quickly and takes over everywhere (here in Virginia). I had heard it was edible, but most folk prefer spinach, cabbage, kale, senposai. And as a gardener I prefer less invasive greens! Maybe in Toronto it isn’t so invasive? We have both the hairy kind and the narrow-leafed one.


      1. Thanks for replying.
        At the allotments, plots that are poorly managed
        are the ones literally covered in Galinsoga.
        My place is no dig and very rich soil with cacao shell
        mulch. I get a few galinsoga popping up in hard to
        reach places and they grow enormous.

        This is one of those plants where : ‘If you can’t beat them
        eat them’ applies.

        High end chefs add galinsoga to their ‘foraged greens’ salads.

        I’m just going down a rabbit hole right now about Camelina.
        I bought a bottle of the oil this morning. Never seen it before, and am doing reading up on it.
        It’s very intriguing and may end up replacing canola.
        Worth checking out if you are looking to grow something that can be pressed
        for high quality oil. (lots of omega 3) Plus the seed cakes can be fed to your
        dairy cows and chickens. This is what I bought.


        1. I was intrigued by your mention of camelina, so I read some of the Wikipedia entry. I see “Camelina seems to be particularly adapted to cold semiarid climate zone”, which is not central Virginia, so I’ll leave it there. Also, we need to be careful about the brassicas we grow. We grow so many to eat, and we have harlequin bugs, so we don’t grow big areas of brassica cover crops, for example. we also try to have a month in the summer of No Visible Brassicas, to interrupt the life-cycle of the pest. Growing oil crops is an interesting challenge for homesteaders. Chris Smith writes about okra oil in his book “In Defense of Okra”, Cindy Conner addresses the issues in “Grow a Sustainable Diet” and Will Bonsall writes about oil crops in his “Essential Guide to Radical Self-Reliant Gardening” These are all books I’ve reviewed on this website, so you can search and read about them here. All teh best with your experiments.

          1. Thanks Pam. Didn’t realize that seed oil crop is not for Virginia.
            They grow it in Greece and Hungary and Romania. It
            has an excellent fatty acid profile and tastes like grassy almonds.
            Not bad.

            I think the Swede Midge arrived late summer in Toronto.
            The young kales and cabbages rotted off. At first I couldn’t figure
            out what’s going on.

            Chris Smith and his ‘In Defense of Okra’: I watched
            the ‘taste testing’ on Youtube, I think it was
            Gotta love the esotericism. I’ll check your blog entry book review.

            In Toronto 2018 full out summer started on May 1st. 28 celcius.
            We had bumper crops of okra. Had to pick daily or end up with tough okra.
            2019? It was winter until June 15. No okra. Such extremes.
            I will try 2020 and hope for the best.

            What we do have now in the pest department is the European Fire Ant.
            There were two nests of these in my allotment garden 2018.
            They actually moved the nest in order to be closer to the zucchini
            plants. Hand on heart: I never had any cucumber beetles develop past
            the instar stage. The ants did not eat the eggs but they ate the larvae
            as soon as they hatched. Same for potato beetle. My neighbours had
            the best cucumber harvest in history.

            What I’ve read is these Fire Ants kill colonies of native ants. Summer 2019
            I had a Pavement Ant war that went on for days. Clearly the Fire Ants
            did not wipe them out. There are black ants and other smaller red ants
            in my garden. The Fire Ants appear to have moved on for some reason known
            only to themselves. Perhaps they too have enemies.

            There’s a guy with a Youtube channel who keeps ant colonies. AntsCanada although he is
            in the Philippines. What happened was the feral Pharaoh Ants invaded his colony of
            Fire ants and killed them. Pharaoh Ants are much smaller but perhaps that’s what gave them
            the advantage. We have Pharaoh ants in Toronto also. I spend a lot of my time looking
            at the little critters in my garden. Like red velvet mites: there were many in 2016. Have not seen a single one in two years now.

            I hope we all get the growing season we wish for.

          2. Thanks Gabi, for the interesting info on the good side of fire ants!Sorry about the swede midge!
            I realize I gave you the wrong name for Chris Smith’s book. It’s “The Whole Okra”. Chris is also a great speaker if you ever get the chance to hear him speak. I will check out the okra taste tests on YouTube. Pam

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