Mid-August is the ideal time to plant a Fall smoothie garden. My family’s smoothie garden is a favorite because of its delicious results.
There’s something to love about picking fresh veggies, and creating a smoothie within minutes. While we don’t grow everything that goes into our smoothies, we do grow all the veggies that lend excellent nutrition and antioxidants to our morning breakfasts or afternoon snacks. Check out these smoothie garden must-plants:
Benefits: calcium, antioxidants, vitamin K, phosphorus, potassium, zinc
Kale is a must-grow plant in a smoothie garden.
Plant several varieties; our favorites are Russian Red (also called Ragged Jack) and Lacinato kale. Russian Red offers broad leaves with beautiful purplish-red tones while Lacinato, which in Italian translates to black cabbage, offers dark, bluish, blackish leaves. Lacinato kale is also commonly referred to as Tuscan or dinosaur kale.
Kale typically takes 60-75 days to full maturity, but baby leaves can be picked much sooner. Most kale is frost hardy — we mulch ours and enjoy it all winter long, even during snow storms. Once the frost hits, kales became sweeter as well as their starches turn to sugar. Simply harvest, chop, and blend! We love pairing kale with coconut milk and frozen blueberries for a delicious morning breakfast.
Benefits: vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, betacarotene, folic acid, antioxidants
A favorite leafy plant world-wide, there are endless kinds. We plant several varieties including Giant Noble, New Zealand, and Perpetual. While Giant Noble offers huge leaves, New Zealand tolerates heat but isn’t frost hardy. Many home gardeners also love strawberry spinach, which offers edible red berries. However, while the berries are pretty, know that they are bland in taste — best added to smoothies or to decorate salads.
Spinach seeds should germinate within two weeks, and can be harvested beginning at four. Clip leaves from multiple plants to encourage plants to continue producing. Cut leaves at the stem base, selecting the older, outer-most leaves. Spinach can do quite well in containers.
3. Swiss Chard
Benefits: vitamins A, C, E, and K, beta-carotene, antioxidants, manganese, zinc
Go for the rainbow variety to add some color to the garden! While all the leaves of Swiss chard are green, the rainbow varietal offers various stem and vein colors including red, pink, orange, yellow, and white.
This vegetable powerhouse offers a great bang for your buck. Just two to three mature leaves with stems can make a great smoothie with apples and carrots. Since the plants can grow up to two feet tall, it’s best to plant them several inches apart. Ideally, as they grow, you’ll want to thin them out to about six inches or more to encourage air circulation. Swiss chard is not frost hardy, so enjoy it until then!
Benefits: vitamins A, K, C, biotin, potassium, beta-carotene
Carrots exist as a magical garden plant because you never quite know what you’ll pull up! We plant rainbow carrots, so these root veggies keep us guessing on whether we’ll harvest purple, orange, white, yellow, or pink. Additionally, our kiddo loves cutting the carrots, especially the bi-colored ones with purple skin and a yellow or orange center.
Carrots prefer well-worked soil, free from rocks that would obstruct their growth. They can be slow germinating — up to three weeks, so be diligent about keeping the soil moist. Most carrots are ready for harvest in 10 weeks. Carrot greens are also edible! Beyond using them in salads, treat them like any other smoothie green: wash, chop, and blend.
The greens offer protein, vitamin C, potassium, and calcium among other key nutrients! Carrots offer a natural sweetness that pairs well with greens and apples or berries in smoothies; ginger root marries well with carrots too!
Benefits: phosphorus, potassium, folate, phytonutrients, antioxidants
Beets exist as a favorite root crop for many tables, likely because of their high sugar content when roasted. However, they are equally tasty raw, grated in salads/slaws or in smoothies. Beets come in both globe or cylindrical forms, and can be white, yellow, pink, or red. Some varieties, including the Early Wonder and Chioggia beet, offer circular interiors akin to tree rings. Our favorite varietals include Detroit Dark Red, Chioggia, and Golden beets.
Best practices for planting fall beets includes digging an inch-deep trench and sowing seeds about one inch apart. Thin to three inches apart as the beet grows. Baby beets are tender and just as delicious as mature beets. Beet leaves are edible, but can be bitter. Simply wash and chop the greens, but balance with a sweet fruit such as Honeycrisp apples in smoothies. Beets mature in about 45 days — the roots will be three inches in diameter, depending upon the variety.
Note: dark red beets have been known to remain so colored in bowel movements, so don’t freak out if your child’s poop (or yours) leaves the body red.
Beets pair well with berries and bananas. We love to pair several chopped beets with a cup of mixed frozen berries, one banana, and ½ cup of liquid such as almond milk or vanilla soy milk.
Herbs can be delicious in smoothies too, and many are easy to grow. Most struggle in hot weather, so planting a second round for the Fall is ideal for these (mostly) annual garden gems.
Mint exists as the weed of home gardening — it will rampage through a garden given the space. Plant in containers or a contained space. Excellent for improving breath and aiding digestion, seek out delicious cultivars such as chocolate, lemon, apple, ginger, and/or peppermint. Mint pairs well with most fruits and spinach.
Like mint, basil offers a wide range of flavors including sweet, cinnamon, lime, and licorice. It pairs well with strawberries and watermelon as well as tropical fruit including mangos and pineapple.
While my kiddo doesn’t like parsley in her smoothies, I love it. It possesses a strong cleansing and clarifying effect for the body, and puts the green in green smoothies. I like pairing it with berries and kale or mango and pear. Consider creating a chlorophyll smoothie consisting of all greens sweetened with a tad of honey too.
While carrots may struggle in containers, everything else can thrive if you have little in-ground space. Growing a family smoothie garden not only teaches patience, but also rewards — delicious, nutritious rewards.
Do you have a favorite smoothie combination? If so, share below in the comments.