Sunday, November 11, 2018

Reflecting back on 2018, planning for 2019


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Now is the time to reflect back on the last edible garden season to capture what went well and what did not.  What you planted too much of and what you didn't plant enough of.  Make sure to include the names of varieties that did well and those that didn't so you have them for future reference.   

Here are my reflections on this year's garden............

Overall
In general, the garden did pretty good.  There were high points and not so great turn outs for the season.  Just your typical edible garden season!  

The good
The cultivated dandelions, cilantro, sage, rosemary, lettuce, corn salad, sorrel, tarragon, garlic, onions, basil, rosemary, sage, tarragon, spaghetti squash did fabulous!

The okay
The eggplants did pretty well.  I planted 2 varieties this year "White Star" and one that is advertised to stay sweet, even in the heat "AO Daimaru".  They both did stay sweet even during the sauna summer and early fall.  The white eggplant was super attractive to the flea beetles.  Insecticidal soap or diatomaceous earth will get them under control.  The green beans got ate by the groundhog so we didn't get many for ourselves this year.

The peppers and tomatoes did well.  I got a bumper crop of tomatoes this year.  The tomatoes and peppers did get fruitworms and stinkbugs in the middle of the summer that I had to use BT on (bacillus thuringiensis) to get rid of them.  I will definitely throw away all these plants and not compost to be sure the eggs don't survive through the winter compost pile.  Will also clear out the garden and not leave until spring.

The garlic did pretty well.  There were some cloves that did not make it; most did.  The ones that did gave nice bulbs.  I pickled 4 or 5 quarts of garlic.  This will be plenty for what we will use.  This is my favorite way to preserve garlic as it keeps for years.  Quick tip-”peeling” garlic

The chard had something eating on it until the temps chilled down.  They have recovered and doing great again.  For year round steamed greens, grow chard!

For some reason my chives did not expand much.  They are perennials so will come back every year.  Add chives to your garden

The bad
So my kale, sprouting broccoli and cabbage all get attacked by pests this year.  They are all in the same family.  I said I wasn't going to grow any this year to break the cycle, but had some volunteers that I didn't have the heart to yank out.  I started spraying with insecticidal soap to get them healthy again.  The key to these veggies is to harvest them early in the season before the pests set in.  Next year, I will be strong and wait until fall to get them going after the pests have moved on.

The stevia plant I purchased from a local greenhouse got infected with mealybugs.  These are common on indoor plants or greenhouse grown plants.  They can be treated with alcohol or neem oil.  This is one of the risks when purchasing bedding plants that they will have some type of pest that you bring into your own garden.  Late in the season, these spread to my potted peppers.

I didn't have the best luck in getting my fall spinach sprouted this fall for winter harvesting.  Hopeful the spinach still has time to get going in the portable greenhouse.  Otherwise, I'll have a jump start on spring!

The groundhog also feasted on the summer squash so we got very few for ourselves.  That was okay as we had a bumper crop last year and still have plenty in the freezer.  The vines looked healthy and put on lots of babies for the hungry critter.

I also did not plant okra this year as I have tons left in the freezer. 

Tomatoes
I tried some new tomato varieties and also planted my standbys.  Most of the new varieties did not pan out the best, but a couple I will add to next year's garden.  
-Tried Indigo Pear Drops this year.  It has fun colored fruits.  The vine grows very tall on its own.  I planted late in the season to keep the harvest going through fall.  I did get quite a few fruits.  If I plant again, I would plant earlier and pinch back the vine to keep it more compact.
-Cherokee Purple did well as usual.  Nice slicers.  This is one that always does well in our garden.  Will keep in the garden next year.
-Italian Red Pear an heirloom paste had a health vine, but ripened late and took a long time.  I planted it in full sun this year, but late in the season because the first plant got cut off at the ground by something.  This was too late to get many fruits.  Next year, I'll plant in full sun again, early in the season and 2 plants instead of just 1.  Adding these to sauce makes a smooth, creamy sauce.  
-I had Amish Paste in the garden this year.  I have tried it before and did not get many from the plant.  This time it did well, giving paste tomatoes much sooner than the Italian Red Pear.  The Amish Paste fruits are smaller so don't take as long to form.  I'll keep it in the garden next year.  I try to put at least some paste tomatoes in each bag of sliced tomatoes that I freeze.
-Tried 2 Brandywines this year, the traditional pink and True Black.  The True Black did the best of the two.
-Tried Black Krim a second time.  It did decent in our garden.  The fruits were huge.  
-Other new varieties did okay, but will not try them again because they didn't thrive in the garden-Box Car Willie, Costoluto Genovese, and San Marzano.
-I planted a couple of black tomatoes that I had seed for, but was too late in the season to really get going.
-Lastly, I grew Boronia in a pot as it is an heirloom compact type.  It did decent until late in the season.  Its fruits are more like paste tomatoes.
Next season what I'd like to add to the garden is more meaty medium size chocolate tomato.  Typically, smaller tomatoes get started sooner than the large tomatoes.  
Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes

Spaghetti squash harvest on hummingbird vine
Summer and Winter Squash
The summer squash did well plants did well but the groundhog got all the fruits.  I will do these again next year-Early Prolific Straightneck and Cocozelle Zucchini.   It is recommended you either wait until the second week of June to plant your squash or do a second round of planting in July to have healthy plants for the entire summer.  Will definitely plant both varieties next year and do a second crop mid summer to keep the harvest going.

I planted winter squash this year, spaghetti squash and it did well.  The groundhog only got 1 or 2 fruits.  I'll add this to the garden for next year. 
Everything you need to know to grow squash

Eggplant
I had 2 potted eggplants going this year.-White Star and AO Daimaru.  The white and green both did well.  The white varieties typically have the least bitterness, but are very hard to grow from seed.  This green one also did not become bitter in the heat.  I'll do both again next year.  I do also like the taste of Turkish Orange.  The flea beetles went to town on it last year and it did not do very well.  I may try it again and just be more vigilant on the flea beetles.  
Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden

Peppers
I have been able to freeze about a pint of sliced peppers every week.  I had 6 sweet pepper plants.  I had planted a few seeds from sweet banana peppers I bought at the store that I grew out 2 years ago.  They didn't look anything at all like a banana pepper and were smaller than the ones from last year, but they tasted great and did extremely well.  

The Pablano pepper plants did well.  I grow those to make chili powder.I have a small hot pepper plant that is ages old, Chiltepin.  It took 3 tries, but I was finally able to get it to grow.  I have them in a pot that I bring in to overwinter each year.  I like putting small hot peppers in my seasoned salt and pickled garlic and wanted to grow my own.  They are covered with the tiny hot tots!  

The spicy ones I will grow again next year are the Pablanos and Chiltepin.  And definitely the sweet peppers from last year's seeds.  They did great and were very tasty and prolific.
Peppers are for every taste and garden

Cucumbers
I planted 3 different varieties of cucumber vines.  I got only a few fruits from both the Miniature White and Hmong Red.  I got lots from the Jaune Dickfleischige vine.  These are huge yellow fruits, if you let them grow, with tough outer skins.  The fruits keep for weeks on the counter.  I'll plant a white one and a green variety again next year.
Cucumber info and tips for growing
View between the pole beans in the edible garden
Beans and peas
The pole green beans did great this year, but the groundhog ate them all.  I planted purple and green Romano types.  The beans and flowers were very pretty.  The green Romano are stringless and the purple Romano type had a small string that was easy to remove before freezing.  I will definitely keep these (Romano and the purple Blauhilde) in my garden next year..

I planted peas in the pots in the spring.  The groundhog ate the vines.  Pea vine tips and flowers are tasty.  I will grow them again next year.  I like snow peas; more veggie for your space since you can eat the entire pod!    

I had tried three pole storage beans this year-Portal Jade, Good Mother Stollard and King of the Garden lima beans.  The Portal Jade and the Lima beans did not produce much.  Good Mother Stollard went to town!  I got quite a lot from these vines and they are still producing.  I think it is fun to have different color and sized beans in the chili I make.  I did not do the storage beans again.  They don't produce nearly as much for the space as green beans.
Okra
I planted okra for the first time last year and these guys did fabulous.  I planted two varieties-Red Burgundy Okra and a green variety.  Both did very well.  I think I will stick with the Red Burgundy for future gardens or try a dwarf variety for the future.  I didn't realize how tall okra gets!  Some of these plants grew to 8+ feet tall.  They produced all summer long and are still producing and growing in height.  They did well enough that I did not need any in this year's garden.  I just sliced and froze them.  I am planning on using them in soups and roasts.  They were pretty tasty just boiled in a pan of chicken broth.
Growing and harvesting okra
Our very tall okra last year
Garlic and onions
The garlic and onions did well this year.  The Egyptian walking onions did great!  I hardened the garlic on our covered deck.  I'll replant the best producing garlic which always includes Elephant garlic.  I like to grow the ones with large cloves that are easy to peel.  I pickle my garlic so I can use it year round.  It has been warm this fall.  I'll be planting the cloves soon for next year's harvest.
Everything to know about growing onions
Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......
Herbs
I had a bumper crop of basil this year; most were Holy Basil volunteers from last year's garden.  The other herbs did well, too.  We have rosemary, tarragon, bay, sage, parsley, chives, and mint.  I keep peppermint in a pot so it doesn't take over the garden. The dill went to seed early.  I use tarragon in the summer after the cilantro has bolted.  It adds a different taste, but is still good.  Most of my herbs are perennials.  If the rosemary doesn't make it through the winter, I'll replant it again next year.  Right now, both rosemary plants-Tuscan Blue and Arp look great.  I will always start basil and dill in the spring, along with cilantro if it doesn't come back from seed.  Can't have a garden without them.  The bay plants I bring in for the winter.  They are not hardy in this zone but do fine overwintering in the garage.
Start a kitchen herb garden!

Greens
I'll keep the same recipe for greens.  I have many perennial greens and self-sowers that give greens pretty well year round.  Perennial greens-sorrel, cultivated dandelions, arugula, chard.  Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden  Self-sowers-corn salad, purslane, cilantro, mustard greens, salad burnet.  Try self-seeding veggies and flowers  I'll continue to have several types of lettuce and spinach.  The standbys are red and green romaine, Red Sails, and some type of buttercrunch.  Red and Green Oakleaf used to be a standby as you can harvest individual leaves for salad. They always do well.  I hadn't had those recently but sowed them for the winter garden in the mini greenhouse.  They have done well through the winter under cover.

Zinnias and morning glory in edible fall garden
Flowers
I always have flowers in the garden.  I started gardening with flowers.  They are pretty and bring pollinators to your edibles, increasing the harvest.  I had a ton of self-seeding zinnias that returned from last year.  Most were a fuchsia color.  I pulled most of them to space them out in the garden and plant other colors.  Will definitely include marigolds.   The Hollyhocks I planted this season should return on their own.  I love the giant ruby red cock's comb that my dad sent me seeds for.  I'll keep them in the garden every year.  I had many volunteers in the garden this year.  I grew alyssum from seed as I couldn't find any bedding plants.  Most came as white.  Found the best way to get them going is to just sow in a pot, let them get to a decent size, then transplant into the garden.  I'll do red Hummingbird vine, a blue Morning Glory vine, and a white tropical vine like Moonflower.  If you want all edibles in your garden, there are many flowers that fit the bill!  Flowers that are edible  

The garden season is not over yet.  There will be much to enjoy through most of the winter. We will have arugula, mustard greens, lettuce, chard, blood veined sorrel, garden sorrel, French and Italian dandelion, spinach, lettuce, purslane, corn salad, chives, parsley, cilantro, celery and sprouting broccoli for salads.  The Egyptian onions will produce all through winter.  The herbs will be available for harvesting until the snow covers them up.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Winter growth slow down

Outdoor potted lettuce

Saturday, November 10, 2018

If you have noticed that plants stop growing in the winter, whether indoors or out, you would be right.  It is not just the temperatures that affect this slow down.  It is the amount of sunlight!  

Basically, plants go dormant when receiving less than 10 hours of daylight.  For my latitude, this is from November 17-January 24.  You can look on the weather channel to see when your daylight hits 10 hours.

When planting in the fall for winter crops, you need to plan that they are at full, harvestable size by November 17th (I add 14 days to be on the safe side for the cooler temps and less daylight than in spring).  They will remain basically this size until the end of January, when they begin regrowing.  If growing in a greenhouse, the warmer temperatures will help plants grow, but at a much slower rate than during longer daylight times.  

The same techniques for protecting spring crops work for your fall and winter gardens.  
Protect your new plants from a late frost
Preparing for a hard freeze
Lettuce and greens in January under a portable green house

Growth starts back up at the end of January, for indoor and outdoor plants.  The lettuce, chard, sorrel, cabbage, kale, celery, and herbs that have overwintered will start growing with vigor again after this time with clear days and warmer temperatures.

Covering plants with row covers or portable greenhouses can help your plants grow; warmth does make a difference.  Just don’t expect significant growth until we get back to at least 10 hours of sunlight.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Garlic planting time


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Garlic is rich in lore.  It has been reputed to repel vampires, clear the blood, cure baldness, aid digestion over the ages.  Garlic has been around for thousands of years.  It originated in Asia, was cultivated in Egypt and has been a Mediterranean staple for centuries.

Today’s studies have shown is garlic antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and a cancer fighter. And, it tastes great!  Garlic is high in vitamin C, B6, calcium, manganese, selenium and more.  For more nutritional info, garlic nutritional value 

It is easy to grow and has little pest issues.  All you do is throw them in the ground in the fall in October or November and by early summer, they are ready to harvest.  Loosening the soil and adding compost prior to planting can boost the garlic bulb size.  I have planted Elephant garlic straight into my mulched flower beds and had great luck.  Their flower in spring is quite striking as well.

The clove puts out roots in the fall.  Depending on how warm the winter is, there can be green shoots showing through the cold months.  Garlic will be some of the first to start growing.  The stems resemble onion greens.  The garlic flower, or scape, has a cute little curl in it.  It grows on hard neck varieties.  They are great in salads.  There is debate among garlic growers if removing the scape will also increase the bulb size.  Either way, you can't lose by harvesting them.
Garlic sprouting
You should choose the biggest cloves to plant.  The bigger the clove, the bigger the harvest!  Cloves as a root vegetable like loose soil, compost and steady fertilizer.  Like carrots, radishes and beets, you can add sand to give a looser soil structure in your garlic bed.  Simply tilling in compost should provide the soil texture that garlic loves.  Compost and mulch well in the fall before cold weather sets in.

Plant the cloves root side down, 1-2” deep, and 4-6” apart.  For planting by the cycle of the moon, garlic should be planted during the waning cycle of the moon.  After the greens sprout to 6”, add compost or fertilizer as a side dressing.  Garlic does not need a lot of nitrogen so compost is a good choice.

Garlic is ready to harvest then the tops begin to die off.  Each leaf represents a layer of the white covering on your clove bulb.  Dig up one or two when about half of the leaves have died (40% yellowed/brown leaves).  If the bulb is still small, wait a couple more weeks before harvesting.   If you harvest too late, the outer covering will have disintegrated and you will have just loose, naked cloves.  Typically garlic harvest is mid-summer.

Garlic ready to harvest

Be careful when you go to harvest.  If you cut the bulb, it will not keep and needs to eaten soon.  The garlic should be left in dry shade for 2-3 weeks or brought inside and stored in a cool, dry location with good air circulation.  They can be hung or placed in a perforated bin to dry and store.  

Store bought garlic has been treated with chemicals to keep them from sprouting so they are not a great choice for growing your own.  A great option is to buy garlic from your local farmers market.  You know they grew well in your area.  Just separate out the bulb(s) into individual cloves and plant the biggest ones.  Be sure to leave the "skin" on the cloves that you intend to plant.  You can eat or preserve the smaller cloves.

Garlic can be mild or hot.  Elephant garlic is very mild and not really true garlic at all.  It is a type of leek.  It has a great garlic flavor and produces huge bulbs.  I always keep the biggest cloves to replant in the fall.
Elephant garlic flower
You can tell the difference in the two by looking at the flowers.  Leeks and soft neck garlic have a onion type flower while garlic has a curly scape flower.
Hardneck garlic scapes
There is soft and hard necked garlic.  For storing, soft neck garlic is the ticket.  It is also the strongest flavored.  Hard necked is milder, easier to peel, more cold hardy and the first to mature. 

Everyone knows of garlic in sauces and on cheese bread.  A few years ago, we tried roasted garlic.  It dramatically mellows the flavor.  I just put a few heads in a small baking dish, add chicken stock to just about level to the cut heads, and let bake covered at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until soft.  It is a great spread on French bread!

If your garlic dries up over the winter, grind it into garlic powder.  If you have great tasting garlic that doesn’t store well or you have a bountiful crop, another preservation option is pickled garlic.  Just peel (Quick tip-”peeling” garlic) and cover your fresh garlic cloves in organic apple cider vinegar.  You can add a couple of hot peppers if you want to add some extra zing!

Of course, you can also add garlic to the tomato sauce (Preserving the tomato harvest), pickles (Easy, homemade pickles) or peppers you are going to can.  You can flavor vinegars or oils by popping crushed garlic into them (Quick tip-make your own flavored oils).  Many options for utilizing your garlic harvest!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

November 2018 Edible Garden Planner

Fall garden
Sunday, October 28, 2018

November is a beautiful time of year as Mother Nature is getting prepared for the cold, wintry days ahead.  Late fall chores should include cleaning up your garden beds, reflecting on the gardening season completed, and preparing for the first freeze.

Garden bed clean up
To prepare your garden for its winter slumber, remove gardening debris from your beds.  For any diseased vegetation or seeds, be sure to throw these away and not compost.  You don't want to propagate and spread any diseases to other parts of the garden.  A really hot compost pile will kill them but it isn't work the risk going into winter. 

This is a good time to decide if you would like to make your own compost.  Compost is referred to by gardeners as “black gold.”  It provides nutrients, beneficial microbes, fertilizer and overall improves your soil’s condition.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors  Outdoor compost piles go slowly in the fall and winter, but speed up as temps rise in the spring.

I have used an electric composter called NatureMill that we kept in the garage by the door.  It is easy to keep an odor free bucket made just for this purpose in the kitchen to collect fruit and vegetable scraps and empty weekly into the composter.  The small indoor buckets are called compost keepers or bins and come in a variety of decorative styles.  You get finished compost in a couple of weeks.  You can store the compost you are making in a trash bag to use when preparing your spring beds and to revitalize potting soils.  Re-energize your potting soil!  It is great for flowers and vegetables.

I went to an outdoor insulated composter made by Jora.  It was designed in Sweden.  It works year round but much better in the summer.  It is important to keep the greens and browns in the right ratio to keep the compost cooking in the winter.  Unfortunately, it leaked when it rained and rusted.  I switched to an all plastic type with dual bins.  Here are some tips if your composter/compost pile starts having issues  Troubleshooting your compost pile

After your garden clean up, look to give your garden a nutritional boost for the winter months.  Doing a nice layer of compost and fertilizer, topped with mulch, will allow the nutrients to seep into the garden soil, ready to give your spring plants a boost.  The mulch will keep the soil more temperate during the winter months for your winter edibles and keep weed seeds from sprouting. 

Reflection on the past garden season
While the past gardening season is still fresh in your mind, now is a great time to jot down some notes on what went well, what didn’t, and what you would like to research over the winter.  Make a list of the varieties that did great that you want to replant, which plants you want to be sure to have more of next year.  Also make note of how many plants make sense to plant for next year.  Here are my reflections last fall for the edible garden.  Reflecting back on the 2017 edible garden  I'll do one for this season in the next couple of weeks.   

Keep track of what you eat over the winter to give you a good idea of what and how much to plant come spring.  How much to plant?

Fall is a fabulous time to make new garden beds.  It is super easy, too.  Just use a hose to outline your new bed, fertilize, put down a layer of cardboard (earthworms love cardboard!), a layer of compost, and cover with mulch.  By spring, the new garden bed will be ready for planting.  Easy ways to make a new vegetable garden bed

Gardening after the first frost
For northern Kentucky, the average first frost date is mid-October.  We have had 2 frosts in the last week or so but the temps are back up and forecasted to stay that way for the next 2 weeks.  You can cover your veggies with a portable green house or row cover to extend the season for many cool season crops.  Frost forecasted? Here’s your to-do list  With a portable green house, we have kept lettuce, kale, mustard greens, sorrel, and celery all the way through winter.  You can garden year round in small space

If you are using pots, putting the pots on the south side, in a sunny local and close to the house will keep them from getting frost bit into November or even December for cold season crops.  It seems to extend the season for 2-4 weeks.

You can also divide a piece off your herbs, put them in a pot, and bring indoors on a sunny window to have fresh herbs readily available.  Chives, thyme, rosemary, savory, tarragon, salad burnet, and oregano can also be harvested into December from the outdoor garden.  Growing herbs indoors for winter

Surprisingly, we found that peppers and eggplants are great candidates from bringing in for the winter.  Our Jalapenos and Cayennes continued to fruit for weeks indoors and when put back out in the spring, we had peppers a month earlier than when using new plants.  Tomatoes are also contenders for overwintering indoors.  All are tender perennials.  I bring in only the ones that did really well that I want to get a head start on next season.

Be sure to use insecticidal soap on any plants you intend to bring indoors a couple weeks prior so you don’t bring in unintended guests.  Just remember that insecticides kill the good bugs like bees as well as the bad bugs so be careful when you spray.  Natural, organic pest strategies and how to make your own bug sprays

I keep my plants out as long as possible to minimize their stay indoors.  There is nothing like sunshine and fresh air for a plant.  Last year, I overwintered all my tropicals and edibles in the unheated garage with a hanging fluorescent light fixture with daylight bulbs.  They all did well except for the eggplants.  Eggplants are spotty, but worth the try if you had a great one.  Be sure to save seed so you can keep the plants going that do well in your garden. Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver    You can save seeds even from heirlooms you buy in the store to try in your garden.  I have a few that have become standbys in our garden that came from the grocery store and farmers market.
Late November potted lettuce
For the herbs you cut back earlier in the season to dry, November is a great time to now strip the stems of the harvested leaves, dry and put into jars for winter cooking.  You can make your own “Herbes De Provence”.  Thyme, oregano, rosemary, savory, basil, tarragon and lavender are common herbs used in this famous French seasoning.  I mix them up in about equal amounts and store in a sealed Mason jar.  It is great to add to just about anything-sauces, chicken, fish, potatoes, garlic bread.  Makes wonderful Christmas presents, too.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence".

For those that keep on going into the winter, I would prune back the plants by about two thirds and strip the leaves from the cut stems.  Do so when there are warm temps forecasted for a few days to allow the plants cut ends to heal.  Otherwise a cold snap can kill the plant.

Use your herbs for your Thanksgiving meal Use your own herbs for your Thanksgiving dinner  More than likely you will have some edibles still growing in the garden.  Take a look and plan around them for your meal.  Some winter hardy edibles include kale, cabbage, chives, sage, thyme, corn salad, sorrel, plantain greens, celery, mustards, even some hardy lettuces.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Prepare for hard freeze

Fall sunrise
Saturday, October 27, 2018

When a hard freeze is in the forecast, it is time to pick the last of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants and clean the plants from the garden and give your cold crops a coat to protect them all winter!

You can compost any that were disease free, but dispose af any diseased plants in the garbage.  Only high sustained temperatures will destroy the spores and it is not worth the risk of spreading disease into next year’s garden through your homemade compost.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors

Peppers will do well indoors.  They will continue to flower and fruit for weeks.  Their flowers and red fruits are pretty, too.  Come spring, they will have a one to two month head start on the season.

This is the time of year to put a coat over your potted plants left outdoors planted with cold crops.  The best place to locate your plants and greenhouse is close to protection and on the south side of the house in full sun.  Putting the greenhouse against the house or other structure will help keep the temperatures warmer for your plants.  Extend the season with protection for plants

I will put my mini portable greenhouse over my three Earthoxes that contain kale, celery, French dandelion, spinach, lettuce, sorrel, and corn salad.  I also put inside the greenhouse along the outside edge, 5 one gallon jugs filled with water and spray painted black.  These will help moderate the temperature inside the greenhouse.



Mini portable greenhouse

I added a larger portable greenhouse for the other self-watering pots I have. It worked very well last winter and allows me to have more winter greens and start greens, carrots, broccoli and cabbage in the early spring.
Larger portable greenhouse
The biggest risk with a greenhouse?  Overheating!  The sun’s rays are quite hot on a cloudless day.  I open the vent on my greenhouse when it is sunny and in the 30’s.  I will unzip the front door flap when it gets into the 40’s.   In the 50’s, the cold crops really don’t need any protection.  

The crops that do well in early spring are the ones that do well over the winter in a greenhouse.  Cold crops I like to grow under cover are Arugula, Broccoli, Cabbage, Celery, Chard, Cilantro, Corn Salad, Fennel, Kale, Leek, Lettuce, Mustard Greens, Onions, Parsley, Peas, Sorrel, Spinach.  Cold season crops for your edible garden

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Frost forecasted? Here’s your to-do list



Sunday, October 21, 2018

With frost in the air, summer loving veggies are coming to the end of their season.  Veggies like tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, basil, and peppers do not like cold weather.  It is time to harvest the last of the summer veggies and get the cold crops the protection they need to continue producing through fall and winter.

Basil turns black when bitten with the first frost.  Harvest all remaining basil when they call for low temperatures 36 or below.  I make lots of pesto and freeze.  Makes for a super quick and tasty meal any time.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

Our zucchini gave up weeks ago.  If you want to keep strong zucchini production until frost, it is best to plant a second round of plants in mid-summer.  Growing zucchini and summer squash

Cucumbers are still trying.  Cucumber info and tips for growing  What I don’t eat, I am putting in the fridge to use for smoothies.  Grow your own smoothie and juice garden

The peppers are still producing.  They handle cooler weather better than the rest of the summer veggies.  I’ll wait until it is going to get below 32 before I strip off all the peppers still on the plant.  See Peppers are for every taste and garden and  Preserving peppers  for growing and preserving info.  For my favorite plants, I usually bring indoors to overwinter.  They will continue to flower and fruit for weeks in the unheated garage and have a jump on production in the spring.  Peppers, tomatoes and eggplant are all tropical perennials.  This year, I am not bringing any of them indoors as I had a pest problem show up this month.  I'll throw away all the plant material from any plant that had pest issues so it doesn't come back next season.  

I'll follow the same approach for tomatoes.  When it is going to get down to 32, I’ll take off all tomatoes left on the vine.  The best way to get them to ripen is to wrap each individually in newspaper and store in a dark location.  They will slowly ripen.  Won’t be as tasty as off the vine, but better than what you can get in the store.  You can bring in your favorite tomato plants to an unheated garage, too, to overwinter.

I am still getting a few tomatoes.  I typically wait until it is nice and chilly to start canning.  I'll take all of last year's frozen tomatoes and make into sauce for the winter.  I like waiting until it is cooler before canning!  Preserving the tomato harvest

My eggplants are still giving us a few fruits each week.  They are happy in their pots.  We have had great luck growing our eggplant in pots.  Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden  I freeze the extra eggplants I have either sliced in half or thinner slices to be grill ready.  It is best to blanch eggplant before freezing to keep them tasty for months in the freezer.

Now is also a great time to divide any perennials you have, whether they be herbs, edibles or ornamentals.  This will give them all fall and winter to put down strong roots.  Perennial greens are always the first up in the spring.  Midwest Perennial Vegetable Garden

It is still not too late to transplant fall crops like cold hardy types of lettuce, cabbage, chard, pak choi, broccoli, kale, parsley, garlic, onions or perennial herbs.

Now is the time to order your mini greenhouse to extend the season.  I put mine out over the greens in my Earthboxes yesterday to keep the lettuce and greens going all winter.  Preparing for a hard freeze