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Miniatures are quicker; you can plant these vegetables now, harvest in 20 to 60 days.

Miniatures are quicker

Baby vegetables are fun to grow--not only for the novelty of small size, but for the delicate, sweet flavor larger vegetables seldom offer. Earlier this year (see page 282 of the May Sunset), we described young and miniature vegetables to harvest in summer. This month, we show nine enjoy fall through winter.

All are cool-season vegetables--mainly root crops and leafy greens. In mildwinter climates, you can plant them as both fall and spring crops. In coldest areas, delay planting until early spring.

Because you harvest these vegetables before they're fully mature, you can take advantage of a shorter growing period. While standard 3-inch-wide turnips, for example, take about 60 days to develop, young ones are ready in only about 30 days. Miniature peas, or petits pois, are one exception; the vines need as much time to grow as the regular varieties.

When to plant

If you live in northern or interior climates where October frosts bring all but the cold-hardiest crops to a halt, you can still squeeze in a harvest of young cool-season vegetables before normal shutdown.

Gardeners in mild, fog-cooled coastal areas have greater flexibility and can sow seeds in late August and still have time to replant in early October. Or, for a continuous crop, stagger plantings: start some seeds or transplants now and sow the rest in groups about two weeks apart. After the first crop is pulled, fill the empty space with new seeds and plants.

In coastal and interior valleys of California, you can start seeds now through mid-September. To get plants off to a good start, follow the hot-weather planting suggestions below. Wait until October, however, to plant peas and cold-hardy varieties of lettuce.

Delay planting in the desert until weather cools in late fall.

How to beat September heat

Getting fall crops started can be tricky in hot weather. Later, they'll need a sunny exposure, but to germinate well now, seeds need a cool, moist location.

One technique is to sow seeds in the shade of summer crops--such as corn and beans--that will be producing for another month or so. When seedlings are well developed, move them to space left by harvested summer vegetables.

If you start seeds in open beds, cover the rows with boards or a layer of west burlap or newspaper to trap soil moisture. Watch carefully, and remove covers as soon as sprouts emerge. Protect seedlings from heat with a loose-fitting tent made from shadecloth or a sheet draped over stakes.

Sowing seeds in flats indoors, or outdoors in partial shade, is often the easiest way to keep them moist. Place flats in a cool, well-lighted spot out of direct sun. Transplant seedlings outside after four to six weeks. Bok choy, leeks, lettuce, and peas can start this way. The rest grow best from direct sowing in the ground.

Where a find baby vegetables

Seed racks and major seed catalogs carry most of the vegetables mentioned here.

The following mail-order sources specialize in imported vegetables, such as petits pois, and unusual varieties. Unless noted, catalogs are free.

The Cook's Garden, Box 65054, Londonderry, Vt. 05148 ($1).

Johnny's Selected Seeds, 299 Foss Hill Rd., Albion, Maine 04910.

Le Marche Seeds International, Box 566, Dixon, Calif. 95620 ($2).

Nichols Garden Nursery, 1190 N. Pacific Highway, Albany, Ore. 97321.

Shepherd's Garden Seeds, 7389 W. Zayante Rd., Felton, Calif. 95018 ($1).

Photo: Just an inch wide, instead of a mature 2 to 3 inches, young turnip tastes sweet and mild. Since growing time is short, you can get in a crop or two before winter chill

Photo: For fall planting, here are eight young or miniature vegetables to try; note harvest size and average number of days from seed

White turnips 1 to 1 1/2 wide 30 days

French radishes 1/2 wide 20 days

Beets 1 to 1 1/2 wide 45 days

Pearl onions 1/2 to 3/4 wide 60 days

Leeks 1/2 wide 60 days

Petits pois 2 to 3 pods 65 days

Carrots 3 long 55 days

Bok choy 6 tall 30 days

Photo: Diminutive rosette of young "Royal Oak Leaf' lettuce--A mere 6 inches across--makes a single salad serving
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Sep 1, 1986
Words:698
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