Sunday, November 26, 2017

December 2017 Edible Garden Planner

Early December garden; chard in the foreground, herbs in the background
Sunday, November 25, 2017

December is a time of digging in and staying warm.  It may appear that everything is dead outside, but there is still life in the garden.  In the beds, sprouting broccoli, kale, cabbage, salad burnet, sorrel, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onions, lettuce, leeks, chard, dill, celery, sage, carrots, spinach are all still green in December.

Fresh herbs are just steps away from the back door.  Most Mediterranean herbs are perennials so you get to enjoy them almost year round.  You can also grow many herbs indoors as well like chives, oregano, rosemary, parsley, chervil, and basil.  Rosemary and bay are two to dig up and bring indoors to guarantee survival through the winter.  Just place your potted herbs in a sunny window.  Growing herbs indoors for winter

If you are using a greenhouse, your kale, celery, mustard, lettuce, chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli are still happy under cover.  They will not grow much until sunlight gets back to 10 hours per day in late January.  Be sure on sunny, warm days to pop the top on your greenhouse or you will scorch your greens.      It can get 50 degrees warmer inside a greenhouse on a sunny day than the actual temperature outside.  Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter
Cultivated dandelion in a pot

All cold crops are at their sweetest during the cold weather.  Frost brings out the sugars in cold crops.  Hardy greens like chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens, cultivated dandelion greens, and collard greens make great salads and are tasty steamed or braised.

Make sure if you have any potted veggies to put them on the ground if they are on coasters and move them to a sheltered area on the south side of the house to extend their growing time.  Placing straw bales around them or mounding mulch provides extra protection.  I also move them up against the wall.  This does double duty-southern exposure gets the most sun and warmth.  Pots left exposed creates a micro climate that is a zone lower than the ones planted in the ground.  If you are in Zone 6, be sure that plants left in pots are hardy to at least Zone 5 if you want them to come back in the spring.

Veggies like your favorite tomato, pepper, eggplant, or celery that you potted and moved indoors will continue to produce indoors if provided warmth and enough sunlight.  When you move them out in spring, they will have a jump start on fruiting and you won't lose your favorite plant!  I am bringing in tomato, eggplants, bay, pepper, lemon verbena, and goji berry plants for overwintering in our attached, unheated garage.  We place them in the sunniest spot in the garage and supplement with 4 foot fluorescent grow lights.
Chives in front, sage and rosemary in back
The Fresh Produce Buying Local Option
You can check on line to see if you have a farmers market in your area.  Many have farmers markets year round where you can get fresh produce, canned, baked goods, and meats locally grown.  Many that aren't open regularly will have hours before Christmas so you can get fresh, local ingredients for your holiday meal.  A great place for finding what is near you is the on line resource at

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It is where you invest in a local farmer in January when they have to purchase their seeds and supplies for the upcoming gardening season.  You then get a weekly share of the farmers harvest typically from May through October.  There are even some winter CSA's now!

Before I started our own edible garden, we joined a CSA.  It was great.  We got lots of super fresh produce, our weekly grocery bill was significantly reduced as our meals were planned around the vegetables, and it was an adventure getting to try new recipes with veggies we had never ate before.   
Eat well, be healthy

A CSA shows you what grows well in your area.  You can find out the varieties you like and when they come into season.  You can even save the seeds from the varieties that you want to grow in your future garden if you partner with an organic CSA that grows open pollinated and heirloom vegetables and fruits.
What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

To advertise as “organic” you have to be certified.  Many farmers cannot afford to do this.  Some farmers participate in the "Certified Naturally Grown" program.  This is less expensive than USDA organic, but also relies on inspections by other CNG farmers, non-CNG farmers, extension agents, master gardeners and customers instead of USDA certified agents.  If you are interested in produce grown without pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, ask if the farmer uses organic practices.  Go visit them to see the garden for yourself before you commit.  You can also check out reviews on line. 

Where to find a CSA?  Again, a great resource is the web site at www.localharvest,org 

Many sell out by January so don’t delay if you want to join!

Preserving the harvest
It is easy to store winter squash in your pantry to pull out anytime.  We have eaten butternut squash from the garden all the way into June of the following year.  21 no tech storage crops

If you put garlic in your pantry and some have dried out, make garlic powder.  Just process the dried garlic in a coffee or spice grinder.  Now you have great flavor to add to burgers, sauces, or steaks. Quick tip-make dried garlic into garlic powder 

I take the herbs I had drying in paper bags and remove all leafs.  I store my herbs in quart canning jars.  I mix them all together for a homemade “Herbes de Provence”.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"  I used it on everything!  It is great in sauces, on meats, in dressings.  

Tarragon, thyme, sage, rosemary and chives
If you threw your extra tomatoes into the freezer and are now thinking it would be nice to have tomato sauce, canning tomato sauce is simple and easy to do.  I use Weck’s canning jars.  They are all glass so no worries about what is lining the lid.  And they are a really pretty shape.  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty

All you need to can tomato sauce is a large pot, canning jars, a funnel, and canning tongs.  A pressure canner is not needed for acidic foods like tomatoes.  Always follow the recipe as written to insure food safety.  If the food is not acidic enough, it can allow botulism to grow.

I throw the entire tomato (de-stemmed) into the food processor.  Most recipes say to remove the peel and seeds so you don’t have a bitter taste, but I have not noticed any issue with bitterness.

Here is the recipe from Ball’s “Complete Book of Home Preserving” for tomato paste:
9 cups of pureed tomatoes, 1½ cups of chopped sweet bell peppers, 2 bay leaves, 1 teas salt, 1 clove of garlic.

I put it all into a large pot and let simmer until it is the consistency and taste I like, about 2.5 hours.  Remove the bay leaves and garlic.  Boil the jars, lids, and seals as the sauce is close to done.

Add 3 teas of lemon juice to each hot pint jar, fill with the hot tomato sauce to within ½ inch of the top, and seal the lid, following the instructions for the type of jar you are using.  Place all the filled jars in a large pot, insuring they are fully covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 45 minutes.  Be sure that the pot is at a steady boil for the entire 45 minutes.  Remove from canner.  Let cool.  Remove the ring and test the seal after the jar is completely cool by gently lifting the jar by the lid.  It should not lift off.  That’s it!  

Other high acid foods you can using a water bath are jams, jellies, condiments, salsas, pickles, and relishes.  Consult with a canning book for more tips and always follow the recipe exactly as written to insure the right acidity for safe canning.

Winter is time to savor the fresh herbs from the garden along with what you have preserved, browsing for canning ideas, and planning next year's garden.  A potential Christmas meal using what is growing in the garden in December, Jazz up the Christmas feast with herbs from the garden

I use Christmas break as the time to finalize my garden plan for the spring.  I look back on my notes from last year's edible garden and this year's seed catalogs to decide what new varieties to add to my standbys.  
Your 2017 Edible Garden Plan
Reflecting back on the 2017 edible garden

For tips on choosing seed catalogs:  New seed catalogs are here! 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Essential oil room sprays for fragrance, mood and immunity

November 24, 2017

Essential oils are derived only from plants.  They can hearten the soul, make a room smell fabulous, set a mood, and even boost your immunity.  As cold weather is here and our houses are all closed up, room sprays become even more used.  You can use the dried plants for similar effect, but a lot less intense fragrance.

For immunity, there are several essential oils that are popular to boost your body.  Tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, lavender, oregano, rosemary, frankincense, and rosemary are a few popular essential oils for boosting immunity.   Try different blends to see what you like the best.  

I just use a spray bottle that does a nice job of misting, fill it up with distilled water, then add the essential oils.  Be sure to shake well each time you use before spritzing the room; essential oils like to sit on top of the water.  Some also recommend adding a teaspoon or two of rubbing alcohol to help disperse the oil in the water.

Here is one I like:
14 drops eucalyptus
10 drops lemon
6 drops tea tree

I also really like adding orange to earthy scents.  Here is another potential to try:
10 drops frankincense
8 drops rosemary
10 drops orange

One that I just love that smells great and feels calming is:
10 drops eucalyptus
10 drops geranium
10 drops lavender

You can also use this in your closets.  Lavender is a great moth deterrent.

A simple combo that packs a big punch that I use in the diffuser:
10 drops clove oil
10 drops orange oil

This one is purely for fragrance.

Make sure you are getting 100% pure essential oils and not fragrance oils.  Fragrance oils are chemicals and are not healing oils.  There is evidence to suggest they could be cancerous.  

You can also make body oils that smell great from essential oils or dried herbs from the garden.  
Make your own fragrant herbal body oil

You can also make diffusers with essential oils:  Natural air fresheners you can make

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Edible, nutritious "weeds"

American cress and dandelions growing in a pot

Sunday, November 19, 2017

There are many plants we consider "weeds" today that were a critical part of the winter and spring diet for nutrition and fresh "produce" when the garden was relatively barren.

If you are new to foraging, make sure you take an experienced guide with you as many plants can look alike and some plants are poisonous.  If you are not sure of the identity of the plant, do not eat.

Here is a run down of the edibles that are available this time of year in our garden and yard.
Starry chickweed is edible and has a mild flavor.  This was a green that settlers looked forward to every spring to have something fresh and green to eat.  They thrive in cool/cold weather.  They are quite prolific in my garden this time of year.  I add these to salads.

Wild onion, leeks and garlic are all edible.  You can tell what they are by taking off a tip and smelling the greenery; it will have that distinct allium odor.  Garlic is hollow and round stemmed while onions and leeks have solid stems.  Another great add to salads, butters or potatoes.  I use these just like I would chives.
Wild onion
Dandelions are edible from root to flower.  The leaves are great in salads or as wilted greens.  Cold temperatures make them mild in flavor so if you have tried them in the summer, try them again this time of year.  The flowers can be used in salads as well or fried, but dandelions flower only in warm months.  The root can be dried and used as a coffee substitute.  Dandelions have over 100% of vitamin A and over 500% of vitamin K.  The dandelion is actually a European import.  They were brought over by early settlers.  At one time they were thought to have medicinal properties.  It is likely that it was just getting nutritious greens after a long winter that was the reason for improved health.  

You can buy cultivated dandelions from many seed companies that were bred for their large leaves and sweet taste.  I have had Italian dandelion for a few years and it tastes great.  I bought several more varieties this spring, Thick Leaved Improved, Nouvelle, Debelleville, Rugels and Vollherzigen.  Grow Cultivated Dandelions

Cultivated Italian dandelion, note the large leaves
Plantain greens are mild and nutritious.  A great add to salads or even wilted greens.  Eat these leaves when they are small and tender.  The bigger leaves become fibrous.  It has a nutty, asparagus-like flavor.  They are loaded with iron and other vitamins and minerals.

American cress has a peppery flavor that can be used like you would arugula.  It is very winter hardy.  If you steam the leaves, the leaves have a mild taste.
Spring American cress in bloom

Lamb's quarters have velvety leaves and are best wilted.  They are found most commonly in urban areas.  They have the taste of spinach with a powerful nutritional punch for daily nutritional needs-10 times the vitamin K, 3x vitamin A, all the vitamin C and half your calcium and magnesium.  Wow!
Lamb's quarters

Sweet clover to me has a kind of tart apple taste.  Another nice addition to salads.  Sweet clover is from the legumes family so are a source of protein when complemented with whole grains.  They also provide fiber, vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12 and minerals manganese, magnesium, copper, since, and selenium.  Sweet clover does contain coumarin, a natural blood thinner, so it is recommended to be used in small quantities, less than 4000mg a day which is a perfect amount for a salad topping.
Sweet clover

Garden sorrel is considered by some to be a weed.  It is one that I also use as a salad green.  It is rich in fiber and vitamin C and also contains vitamins A, B-6, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium.
Garden sorrel

Even after your garden lettuce, mustard and spinach greens have succumbed to the frigid temps of winter, you can still get fresh greens by using edible "weeds".  Bon appetit!  
Pot with "volunteer" chickweed, clover and dandelions with a couple of lettuce plants

Saturday, November 18, 2017

How to extend the garden season

Portable greenhouse
Saturday, November 18, 2017

When temperatures start their downward trend, there are ways to protect your crops and extend the season.  This works for either the fall, winter or spring.  Give them a "coat" of sorts to protect them against those drops in temperatures.  There is also the old time technique of a hot box. 

What can you do to extend the season?  
*Throw a sheet or plastic or other light weight cover over them when the cold snap comes in.  I remember my grandmother putting a sheet over hers.
*Buy “cloches” which are little plastic or glass bell shaped covers and place over each plant.  
*Put a portable greenhouse over them. 
*Use wall of water.  They really do work!
*Another option is to plant them in pots so you can bring them into the garage when temperatures get into the 30's and 40's.
*I am keeping some plants on the covered deck.  This will keep them protected from frost, but tender plants like basil won't make it through nights at or below freezing on a porch.
*Add mulch.  Mulch will raise the garden bed temperature and also keep the ground temperature more moderate, less swings.

The watch-out for covering with plastic, cloches or greenhouses is that you can fry your plants if you leave them closed up during sunny, warmer days.  The cloches that I have come with vents that I can leave open, but I have had casualties even with leaving the vent open.  My portable mini-greenhouse has a zipper opening that makes it easy to vent.  For plastic sheeting, you will either have to remove it when it warms up or have a way for the ends to be opened to allow cooler air to circulate and keep the plastic off the plants themselves. 
Surprisingly, I had some peppers under cover and others that were not, and the uncovered peppers did just fine, even when the temperature dropped to 28 degrees.  Getting down into the teens would kill any pepper plants left outdoors.

For the peppers, tomatoes or eggplants that you loved, you can overwinter them indoors because they are tropical perennials.

I have used all in the garden.  There are pros and cons to each.  The covers can blow away if not weighted down.  The cloches and mini greenhouses can get too hot on a sunny day if not opened.  If you work, it is hard to time opening just after the sun rises depending on when you need to be at work.

How long can a cover extend the season?
Tunnels (row cover with hoops) and cloches- 6 to 7 weeks for broccoli, cabbage and greens.  4 weeks earlier for melons and squash
Wall of water-Up to 8 weeks for tomatoes and peppers.  Just be sure that the ground and wall of water is nice and warm before planting these warm weather lovers.
Mini greenhouse-Up to 8 weeks.  I put jugs of water inside my mini greenhouse to moderate the temperature inside.  I have had my lettuce and greens last all winter in the portable green house.

Cold frame or hot box/bed-This is a technique I have not tried and it has been around since glass was made.  My Grandpa had several that Granny used every spring.  
Manure hotbed-Horse manure with straw bedding used to keep the hotbed warm to get warm season crops seedlings started or can be used to keep the cold crops going through the winter months.  Back in the day, manure hotbeds fed Paris through the winter.

Hotbeds are dug into the ground a couple of feet and lined with bricks to act as an insulator.  Several inches of horse manure with straw bedding was placed in the bed, wetted, allowed to age a few days, then topped with 8' of soil and when the temperature is between 70-80 degrees, seeds are planted.  Close attention has to be paid with opening and closing the window type lid so that the plants don't overheat on warm sunny days.

Of note, fresh manure can have the bad microbes like e. coli.  It is recommended to fully compost any manure to eliminate the risk and to "cool" the manure so as not to burn the plants.

You can use without the manure.  These are called cold frames.  The temps won't stay in the 70's day and night like they will for hot beds, but will sustain cold loving crops through the freezing temps of winter.

For more on cold loving crops and gardening:  
You can garden year round in small space  
Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter  
Time to plant for fall and winter harvests!  
Plant now for winter and spring  
Fall and winter greens  
Plant a last minute edible fall/winter garden
Winter growth slow down

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Make your own fragrant herbal body oil

Sunday, November 12, 2017

It is easy and fun to make your own body oil!  You can make an oil specific to your skin type and add herbs for specific benefits or just for the scent.  Or add your favorite flower.

I have very dry skin, inherited from my grandmother.  I tried every lotion I could find and none were moisturizing enough for my alligator skin!  I remember Granny doing the same thing; looking for a lotion or oil that would be moisturizing.

I also started reading about the chemicals that are in most personal care products and thought there had to be a better, healthier way to help my dry skin with fragrance I love.

I then tried different kinds of oils-almond, coconut, jojoba, olive.  Out of all of them, coconut oil ended up being the most moisturizing of all.  The draw back to coconut oil is that it is a solid below 75 degrees F.  

I added olive oil and almond oil to the coconut oil to get it to stay liquid at lower temps.  You can always put the oil under the shower to heat it back up if you prefer more coconut oil in the mix.

I use all organic ingredients: raw coconut oil, cold pressed olive oil and cold pressed almond oil.  Cold pressed keeps the most nutrition in the oil.

I remember what I read once-your skin is the largest organ of your body and absorbs everything you put on it.  So, only put on your skin what you would eat, including the quality of the ingredients.

I read my "Herb Encyclopedia" book to see what herbs from my garden would be beneficial.  The two that were great for anti-aging were lavender and chervil.  I grow both in my garden with no chemicals, all organically.  They smell great too added to the oil!  You get a 2 for 1 benefit.  Start a kitchen herb garden!

You can use any herbs or flowers you like!  Flowers that are edible  Be sure to dry them before adding them to your body oil. Fresh herbs can harbor microbes.  Harvesting and drying herbs

Here is the final 1 quart jar recipe I ended up with:
1/3 quart coconut oil
1/3 quart olive oil (loaded with CoQ10 and other antioxidants)
1/3 quart almond or sunflower oil
2 tablespoons shea butter (optional)
2 tablespoons dried lavender
2 tablespoons dried chervil

I just put them all in a quart jar and shake well (if the coconut is a solid, I put in a bowl of hot water to liquify it).  Let it sit in a cool, dark area for a couple of weeks to let the herbs infuse the oils.  It will smell wonderful!  

Then use a tea strainer to catch the herbs as you put them into the body oil dispenser you will use.  I use a glass jar with a flip top lid.  I apply right after I shower.  This timing keeps the moisture locked in your skin.

If you need your scented oil asap, you can gently heat the oil on the stove with the herbs to infuse quickly.  Keep the temp below 100 degrees F as you infuse your oil to keep all the wholesome goodness of your oil and herbs intact.  You'll have scented body oil in 20 minutes.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Preparing for a hard freeze

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

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.

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 will help keep the temperatures warmer for your 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 gallon jugs filled with water and spray painted black.  These will help moderate the temperature inside the 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.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Early November edible garden

Late fall tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and storage beans.
Sunday, November 5, 2017

Well, we had our first light frost a couple of weeks ago in our Zone 7 garden.  The temperature got down to 32 degrees F.  It was cold enough to bite the eggplant, basil, and pepper plants.  

The pepper and eggplant plants were not severely affected by the frost; just yellowing and curling of the leaves.  One of the basil plants turned black.  The others are fine.  The tomatoes don't seem to have been affected.   

I could have used a fabric cover to protect these cold sensitive veggies and they would have been fine for this temperature.

The green beans were done about a month ago.  The storage beans are ripening a few pods and then they will be ready to be cut and composted.  I'll not pull them so any nitrogen nodules on their roots will be left in the soil for next year.  I'll plant nitrogen hungry plants there next season like lettuce and spinach.

There was not enough damage to the tomatoes, eggplant or pepper plants to halt the fruit production.  The next 10 days do not show any temperatures down to freezing so I will leave them growing.  The next time the forecast has the temperatures going into the 20’s, I will harvest all the peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant fruits and call it a season for these summer veggies.
Tomatoes and peppers ripening on the counter.

You could bring the peppers indoors and they will continue fruiting for weeks and put them back out in the spring to get a head start on summer.  I get enough hot peppers off each of the plants to eat and freeze that I won’t do that this year.  I am thinking about bringing in some of the meaty sweet peppers that did great along with the Chiltepin pepper which is hard to get started. 

You could also put the potted tomatoes, eggplant and peppers in a greenhouse and lengthen the season for at least another 4 weeks.  I may bring in the white eggplant since this variety is hard to get going from seed and hard to find as a plant. 

The cold season crops like lettuce, kale, broccoli, onions, mustard, sorrel are very happy.  The celery is still going strong.  It doesn’t seem to be affected by heat or cold.  We harvest from it year round.

The rest of the herbs are doing very well-thyme, savory, oregano, chives, rosemary, sage, bay, parsley, mint.  The dill gave up last month.  I'll bring in the bay plants to overwinter in the garage when a freeze is called for.  

Don't forget your local Farmers Market if you want local and freshest produce in season.  Many are open all winter long!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Reflecting back on the 2017 edible garden

Saturday, November 4, 2017

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............

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 chard, green beans, okra, cultivated dandelions, cilantro, sage, rosemary, lettuce, corn salad, sorrel, tarragon, garlic, onions, basil, rosemary, sage, tarragon, zucchini did fabulous!

The okay
Tomatoes did okay.  Many in the area had a terrible year with plants dying in July.  I did have a couple that died.  Then had some that did okay and a few that did very well.  I am still getting 1-2 quarts a week to put up in the freezer.  The eggplants did pretty well.  Turkish Orange did great in the beginning and then the Casper and purple eggplants kicked in when the Turkish Orange wound down.

My chard had something come eat it in September, but then recovered and is doing great again.  

For some reason my chives did not expand much.

The bad
So my mustard, sprouting broccoli and brussels sprouts 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.  Next year, I will be strong and wait until fall to get them going after the pests have moved on.

I didn't have the best luck in getting my fall lettuce and spinach sprouted this fall for winter harvesting.

I tried some new tomato varieties and also planted my standbys.  The new varieties did not pan out the best.  The standbys did well so no new varieties to add to the "favorites" list.
-Lucid Gem had fun colored fruits but the vine wasn't sturdy enough to hold the fruit and I didn't get a lot of them either.  Will not do these again next year.
-Cherokee Purple did well.  Nice slicers.  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 more shade than last year, so will plant in full sun next year and 2 plants instead of just 1.  Adding these to sauce makes a smooth, creamy sauce.
-Principe Borghese did not do well.  Will not plant next year.
-I tried the Chocolate Pear again this year and the vine died back early.  I don't think I will try it again.
-Small and medium yellow storage tomatoes from Sicily.  The small ones did fine.  The medium just never ripened.  They were fun to try but I think I won't plant again next year.
Black Vernissage-did not do great.  Will not plant next year.
-Patio Princess for the pot did very well.  I will do it again next season.
-Rosella did great.  They are the size of marbles.  I don't think I will grow again because of the small size.
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.  Be nice to have some meaty tomatoes to add in to early tomatoes to see if they give the same creamy texture as the Italian Red Pear paste tomato.
Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes

Summer Squash
The squash did well early in the season, then the zucchini died from disease.  The yellow prolific summer squash kept producing into the beginning of this month.  I liked both varieties I tried this year and will do those again next year-Early Prolific Straightneck and Cocozelle.  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.  I thought I had started another zucchini but it ended up a cucumber.  Will definitely plant both varieties next year and do a second crop mid summer to keep the harvest going.
Everything you need to know to grow squash

I had several eggplants going this year.  The Turkish Orange did not do as well as in years past.  The flea beetles loved it.  The white and purple both did well.  The white varieties have the least bitterness, but are very hard to grow from seed.  I think I will bring the white one inside for the winter instead of trying to get a new plant started from seed next year.  Will definitely do Casper and try a pink along with the standby hardy purple.
Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden

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 last year.  They didn't look anything at all like a banana pepper, but they tasted great and did extremely well.  There are three that I  saved seeds for next year's garden (a yellow, a red, and a maroon).

I also grew from seed the red hot pepper from Sicily-Bocca Rossa.  It did very well.  It is always covered in peppers.  The Pablano pepper plants have done okay.  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 will bring in to overwinter again.  I like putting small hot peppers in my seasoned salt 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

The cucumber vines did okay.  The first set of cukes had 50% die back.  The one left produced for a couple of months.  I started another in the garden and it is still producing, but not a lot.  The plant looks healthy.  The cukes I get from this plant have a shelf life of 2 months or longer just sitting on the counter.  It is amazing.  They will also get huge.  This heirloom (Jaune Dickfleischige) produces yellowish orange skinned fruits.  I'll plant this one, 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 have died back in the last couple of weeks.  I planted purple and green Romano types.  The beans and flowers were very pretty.  The green Romano were 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.  Also interplanted with Scarlett Runner beans, too, for their beautiful flowers.  These are edible as well either as green beans or if left on the vine as storage beans.  Next year, I'll keep them separated so I know when to pick them.  

I 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 don't think I will do the storage beans again.  They don't produce nearly as much for the space as green beans.
I planted okra for the first time this 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.  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.  I think we got enough this year that I won't need any in the garden next year.  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
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......
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 and orange mint in a pot so it doesn't take over the garden. The dill went to seed early.  The cilantro is sprouting again for a second round in the cool weather.  I'll get to add it to our salsa and salads now until winter.  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.  Not sure I'll need to plant cilantro as it comes back from seed.  I will always start basil and dill in the spring.  Can't have a garden without them.  The bay plants I will bring in for the winter.  They are not hardy in this zone but do fine overwintering in the garage.
Start a kitchen herb garden!

TheI'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.  I haven't been doing oak leaf the last couple of seasons.  I think I will add them back in next year.  They always do well.  And maybe Grand Rapids and Simpson.  The giant spinach plants did quite well.

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.  Next year, I will pull more of them to space them out in the garden and plant other colors.  It took until fall for it to bloom.  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 have done alyssum in the past.  I'll look for them to add to the garden next spring.  I'm going to try to get a combo of red, white and blue vines.  Maybe 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 and sprouting broccoli for salads.  Eggplant, peppers and tomatoes will produce until the first freeze.  The Egyptian onions will produce all through winter.  The herbs will be available for harvesting until the snow covers them up.