Saturday, October 26, 2019

Frost forecasted? Here’s your to-do list



Saturday, October 26, 2019

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 of 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 done in my garden.  Cucumber info and tips for growing  If yours is still producting, harvest what is on the vine and put in the fridge to use for salads or 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 28 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 my freezer is bursting at the seams.

I'll follow the same approach for tomatoes.  When it is going to get below 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.  Or you can do fried green tomatoes A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!  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 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.  Freezing the extras for winter

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

Sunday, October 20, 2019

What's happening in the late October garden


Sunday, October 20, 2019

This is a time of year that most summer vegetables are winding down and cold crops are growing strong.  With frost, many summer vegetables will die and cold season crops will get sweeter.  The biggest difference between spring and fall is that the days are getting shorter instead of longer.  For planting in the fall, add 2 weeks to the "Days to harvest" on seed packets to compensate.

We continue to fertilize our vegetables monthly.  Fertilizer stimulates new growth so don't fertilize the plants that are "tender"/susceptible to frost.  This is also a great time to re-mulch the garden beds to give an added blanket of protection to prolong the season.  The mulch will break down over the winter, providing additional organic matter.

Be sure that you are saving seeds from your best producers for next year's garden.  Seeds from plants that do well in your garden are the best to save as they are proven to like your garden conditions.  Always save seed from the best tasting, best sized veggies.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Our zucchini and cucumbers are done for the year.  It is a good idea to replant some zucchini seeds in August to keep zucchinis on hand in the garden.  It is not a bad idea to replant tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini in early August each year to keep these plants at top producing vigor until frost.

Our tomatoes and eggplant are still producing slowly.  For tomatoes, be sure to take all the tomatoes off the vine before it frosts.  You can either wrap the green tomatoes in newspaper and store in a cool place to ripen, make them into relish, or eat them as fried.  For fried green tomatoes, we use Andy’s Cajun batter.  Gives them a nice, spicy flavor.  A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!

Any plant that has a disease, do not compost!  Throw away in the trash.  Composting may not kill all spores and you could be spreading the disease next season wherever you use the compost.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors

Peppers love this time of year.  They are native to the mountains so they love this weather.  They will continue to produce even after frost.  To prolong the season, I put the pots up against the house.  You can also bring them indoors and they will produce for weeks inside.  When spring comes and you put them back outside, they will get a jump start on producing next year.  Peppers a Plenty in September

I have gotten many Poblano peppers off the two pots I had this year.  I have had them drying.  I cut them in half and keep them outside until it starts getting chilly.  It is about time for me to put them in the oven at a low temp and get the rest of the moisture out and grind them into chili powder.  

For the sweet peppers, I grew three varieties in pots and am still getting peppers from them. 

I harvested the basil in mid-September to dry.  I put the cut stems into a paper bag loosely to let them dry.  I took the leaves off the dry stems today.  I'll keep them in a ziplock in a dark room until I am ready to use them. 

Basil are very tender annuals and will turn black with the first frost.  You can dig them up and bring them in for the winter.  Place them in a full sun spot.  You can put them back outside again in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

I volunteer lettuce, parsley, carrots, and cilantro that are a few inches tall now.   All are doing well.  My potted cultivated dandelions, arugula, corn salad and parsley is still producing and will continue through the winter.  Dandelions are perennials and very healthy to eat.  The Italian and French types have been bred to have large leaves.  Great to make salads.  Plant lettuce seed now for fall and winter harvest...

Cabbage, kale, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, chard, onions, arugula and other cold crops get sweeter with cool weather and a nice frost.  The kale is putting on many new leaves.  They love the cool weather. If the taste of these are too strong for your palate right now, give them another chance after frost.  Our Egyptian walking onions are lush and green.  The bulbs are filling out nicely.   Egyptian walking onions

This is also the perfect time of year to reseed your lawn or transplant perennials.  The fall and winter give the roots time to establish so they will be ready to grow upwards come spring. 

Many herbs are perennials-garlic, sprouting onions, lavender, oregano, chives, sage, tarragon, thyme, savory, salad burnet, and rosemary.  Bay laurel is a perennial but may not make it through our erratic temperatures.  I keep them in pots and bring into the garage each year.  They are getting quite large. The rosemary I planted last year returned this year.  We shall see if it makes it another year.  I don't have the best luck with rosemary making it through late winter/early spring.  Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden

Fall is a great time to cut back your herbs.  Save the stems, place loosely in a paper bag, put in a dry location, and in about a month you will have all the dried herbs you and many family members will need for the next year!  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"

Fall is a bountiful time for gardening.  I have planted many winter hardy varieties of lettuce, kale,  mustards, onions and carrots to keep the garden producing into December and hopefully beyond.  With the portable greenhouse, we will have greens all winter.  How to extend the garden season

October is prime time to plant garlic


Sunday, October 20, 2019

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!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Fall composting tips

Dual chamber tumbler compost bin
Monday, October 14, 2019

Had problems with your compost bin last winter?  Fall is the time to get your compost bins set up for winter.

Last winter, my compost bin pretty much had my food scraps on hold with no composting happening.  To make sure I have enough composting space this winter, I plan on getting both sides of my dual composter cleared out so I have plenty of room for my winter food scraps.

In winter, composting slows down to a crawl.  My tumbler type composter also let water in when it rains.  I had an insulated compost bin made from galvanized metal from Jur_Global, but it rusted through in a couple of years because rain water would leak into it and it was expensive!  I bought a plastic composter this year so I don't have to worry about it rusting, but it is not insulated so composting will be even slower this fall and winter.

I did save the insulated tumbling composter.  Would like to make another like it but with aluminum so it won't rust away.  A project for the future...........

You could place your tumbling type composter under an awning to keep out unwanted rain water.  This would keep it from being soaking wet which pretty much stops composting activity.  

Since I don't have a covered area to put my tumbler type composter, I plan on getting it cleaned out by the end of October.  I'll add plenty of dry materials to help compensate for the rain intrusion through the winter season along with my food scraps.  

My new tumbling compost bin came with a catch bucket underneath.  I'll use the liquids for my "compost" tea on my indoor plants.

For more tips on composting problems, Troubleshooting your compost pile

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Mr. Frost is a knockin’!

Tomatoes will survive a light frost, but not a freeze.  If you still have green tomatoes on the vine, make sure you pull them before the first killing frost.  You shouldn’t harvest tomatoes from a dead vine.

There are a few techniques you can use to prolong your tomato harvest: 
*You can cover your plants with a sheet when calling for frost and removing when it warms in the morning.  
*You can keep them going even longer if you put a portable greenhouse over them.  Be careful to vent your portable greenhouse very well when it is in the 50’s or warmer and sunny.  It will be a scorcher inside and you’ll have roasted tomatoes.  
*You can bring any potted tomatoes indoors and they will continue to produce in a sunny spot.

There are several things you can do with your green tomatoes: 
*You can make green tomato relish.  I just love all the fun flavor combo’s I see folks coming up with, from spicy habanero to sweet sorghum.  Your imagination is the only limit!  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty
*You can wrap them individually in newspaper and store them some place dark to ripen.  I have had tomatoes keep until February.
*Or, you can go all out and have fried green tomatoes!

I remember my Granny making them each year.  I don’t have her recipe, but you can use a spicy fish breading, like Andy’s Cajun.  You simply slice your tomato, dip in the breading, fry in oil, and enjoy!


Even if you have a small space, you can grow tomatoes in a small garden spot or in a pot.  There are lots of varieties out there developed to stay compact.  Compact tomatoes for small spaces and pots