Monday, September 20, 2021

What I planted for our fall and winter edible garden

Recently started lettuce in re-used lettuce container
Monday, September 20, 2021

The great thing about fall and winter edible gardens is little to no pests!  The insects die off in fall so your harvest is safe from pest destruction.  Once you have spent the effort to get the plants established and cool weather is here, fall and winter gardening is very low maintenance.  As it gets cooler, the veggies will get sweeter, too.

For this season, I planted lettuce, spinach, cabbage, tyfon, and snow peas.  I started the greens in shallow pots and re-used lettuce containers outdoors.  The peas I started in their final pots.  It is still warm enough that most should be up in the next week.  It is cool enough that even the lettuce should be able to germinate outdoors.  Lettuce doesn't sprout well above 70F soil temperature.  Outdoor seed starting tips

Lettuce varieties-Yedikule, Rouge d'Hiver, Landis Winter, Tango, Winter Crop, Royal Oak Leaf, Red Romaine, Tom Thumb, Continuity, Salad Bowl, Brunia, Craquerelle du Midi, Forellenschluss, Little Gem, Rosalita

Spinach-Giant Winter

Chinese Cabbage-Hilton and Scarlette F1.  Leaves grow large so can use as a bread substitute.  Taste is sweet so can also be used in salads.

Snow peas-Oregon Sugar Pod II that grows to 28", Avalanche that grows to 30", and Little Snowpea Purple that grows to 24".

Other greens-Roquette arugula, corn salad, Treviso radicchio, Broadleaf Batavin endive, Dark Green Italian parsley, tyfon, and chervil.

I had a lot of cultivated dandelions, sprouting broccoli, carrots and celery that self seeded.  They should do well all the way to spring.

Perennials already established like chives, oregano, tarragon, onions will keep harvestable through winter in the garden bed.

Fall and winter crops move from the fruits of summer to root crops and greens.  If you like beets, turnips and carrots, now is a great time to get them going in the garden. 



Sunday, September 19, 2021

What's happening in the mid-September edible garden

Trellised purple pole beans and potted Egyptian walking onions
Sunday, September 19, 2021

Self seeding flowers like zinnias, hummingbird vine, morning glory, marigolds, Love Lies Bleeding and Cock's Comb celosia are in full splendor right now.  Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, okra, Egyptian walking onions, cucumbers, the Mediterranean herbs like basil, rosemary, sage, oregano, chives, savory, dill, tarragon and thyme and all types of greens enjoy the bright sunshine and temperatures in the 70's.  We are preserving everything we have extra right now.  It is so rewarding to know that we can eat food we grew year round.

In the last week, we have seen the temps go from the highs in the 90's to the highs in the 70's.  We have started getting rain as well.  Quite the change!  It definitely feels like fall is on its way.

I fertilized at the beginning of the month with an organic fertilizer from Espoma.  With natural fertilizers you don’t have to worry about “burning” your plants as they slowly release into the ground.   This may be the last time I fertilize this season. You should fertilize about once a month through the growing season.  You don’t want to shoot too much nitrogen to your fruit producers as you can end up with all leaves and no veggie fruits.  

It is important to get all your winter and overwintering veggies and greens up to full size prior to early November.  The days are so short come November that there will be minimal growth from November to mid January.  A fall edible garden

Our garlic has finished hardening.  It is recommended you leave garlic and onions you want to store in 80+ degree temperatures in the shade for a couple of weeks.  Ours have been hardening on the covered patio for about 6 weeks.  It is now ready to plant in the waning of the moon next month, if you want to follow the moon sign.  Garlic can be planted any time between now and end of October.  October is prime time to plant garlic
Okra leaves up front, sweet potato vines, zinnias and cock's comb behind
This year was not a banner year for my tomatoes and zucchini.  I had to move my garden from the south side of the house to the north side of the house near oak and hickory trees.  When the veggies didn't do well, I looked up if oak or hickory trees can have exudes from their roots that stunt other plants growth.  Come to find out hickory trees are like walnut trees.  

The first tomato plants I planted in the garden bed died back over a month ago.  The zucchini plant two months ago.  I planted new tomato plants in pots over the Fourth of July.  I am still getting fruits from the replanted tomatoes.  You can get dwarf tomato plants for medium sized pots.  I used huge pots so I planted conventional size tomato plants.  It is a good idea to do two plantings if you want a lot of tomatoes all the way up to frost. Compact tomatoes for small spaces and pots

There is still enough tomatoes that I am continuing to freeze what we don't eat.  Fall is the time that I will take any frozen tomatoes left over from last year and can.  Last year, I didn't can as I had so much left from the previous year.  I used my last can of sauce today.  The freezer is about overflowing with frozen tomatoes.  I will have to start canning soon!  Preserving the tomato harvest       Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty

The chives, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, oregano, parsley, celery, and sage are all doing quite well.  The Egyptian walking onions are thriving.  All will do well through the fall and into the winter.  Use your own herbs for your Thanksgiving dinner

Basil does not survive a frost so I will harvest all of the plants when the forecast is calling for frost and make pesto that I freeze.  I may start a plant indoors too to use through the winter.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

My pepper plants are still producing.  The plants grew quite large this year in the pots. The Pimento Elite and Ancho grown in the ground were much smaller.  The sweet red snacking pepper, Ancho and cayenne pepper plants have both green and ripening fruits on it.  I have been freezing extras off the sweet pepper plants and drying the Ancho peppers for chili powder for about a month now.  They'll produce until a freeze.  The cayenne plant I overwintered indoors last year.  The Chipetin pepper plant has overwintered indoors for a few years now.  Peppers love September

I am getting enough sweet peppers to freeze for the Pasta House salad we love to make, and eat.  The cayennes I use to make hot sauce and in salsa.

For peppers, if you want to maximize the harvest, pick them as soon as they get to full size and are green versus letting them fully ripen to red, yellow, or orange on the plant.  This stimulates the plant to produce more.  If you let them fully ripen on the plant, the taste will be sweeter but the harvest less.  I compromise and take them off just when they start to turn.  They complete ripening on the counter in a few days.

My okra plants are producing some fruits.  They did not thrive in the partial shade garden.  They thrived in the south facing garden in previous years.  The pole beans are putting on a second flush of snap beans.

Basil in front, okra to left, cock's comb on right, zinnias in background
I had 3 cucumber plants.  They did well for about a month.  I had plenty to eat fresh and make pickles.  I am still getting a few fruits.  They also did much better in a full sun garden, but still produced in the partial shade garden bed this year.   Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix

I am behind on getting my lettuce and spinach seedlings going.  I will start them today.  It is best if you give them plenty of time to get going before the short days of winter. 

I had let the greens in the Earthbox reseed themselves over the summer and there are new lettuce, mustard greens, pink celery, chard, cultivated dandelions, and sprouting broccoli growing.  I will cover the Earthboxes with a portable green house later this fall so we can have salads throughout the winter.  Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter

Make sure you save the seeds from your best and longest producers to plant in your garden next spring.  I also save seeds from organic produce I get from the store that is really good.  Some of my favorite tomato plants have come from seed saved from store bought tomatoes.  Look for heirlooms as they will come back like their parent from seed.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

Tomato, horseradish, marigolds, morning glory and zinnias in the south facing garden
This fall, we will have mustard greens, lettuce, chard, blood veined sorrel, garden sorrel, French and Italian dandelion, spinach, purslane, corn salad, celery, chives, parsley, and sprouting broccoli for salads.  Peppers, eggplant and tomatoes will produce until the first freeze.  The Egyptian onions will produce all through winter.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Peppers love September

Ancho and Jalapeño peppers

Saturday, September 18, 2021

My peppers kick into high gear come September.  They seem to love the lower humidity and cooler nights.  Peppers originated in the mountains of Mexico so September into October are perfect weather conditions for peppers.

Nikita hybrid sweet pepper
Surprisingly, even though peppers originated in the tropics and subtropics of South America, peppers don’t like extremely hot weather.  They get sunburned when the temps get into the 90’s consistently.  Their sunburn looks like dark spots on the exposed fruits.  If you can, move them into the shade when temps are extreme.  They won’t croak, but they are stressed during periods of high heat.
Summer garden tips

Peppers like sulfur, calcium (to protect from blossom end rot), magnesium (helps flowers make fruits), sulfur (makes more nutritious pepper) and phosphorous (for flowering).  You can use the same fertilizer as you do for tomatoes; both encourage healthy fruit growth.

Be careful with the nitrogen.  Nitrogen promotes greenery.  You will end up with beautiful, lush plants with no flowers or fruits.  Also be careful in the type of potting soil you buy if planting in pots to make sure they are not for green leaved plants, but for flowers or vegetables.

Right now, I have Poblano/Ancho peppers, Chipetin (an ancient super hot pepper), cayenne, Super Red Pimento and a snacking size red sweet pepper, growing in pots.  I preserve all that I don't use fresh.  Preserving peppers

The Poblano/Ancho and Anaheim I use to dry for chili powder.  The sweet peppers I don't eat fresh, I rough slice and freeze for salsa. I have plenty of frozen hot Jalapeños from last year so didn't plant any this year.  I use Jalapeños and cayenne peppers for spicy salsa.  I also put Jalapeños in apple cider vinegar to ferment for hot sauce for wings for football games.  After about 4 weeks, I put them through the food processor and my hot sauce is ready to use!  You can use any hot pepper.  Homemade hot sauce wings with homegrown celery
Homemade hot sauce
Yum!  Yum!

If you smoke your Jalapeño peppers, you will get Chipotle seasoning.  I have smoked some Jalapeños, dried them and ground them up to make Chipotle powder for seasoning dishes and chili.  Or you can add natural smoke flavor to the pepper before drying to get that smoky flavor after dehydrated.

The heat of the pepper is in the ribs and seeds.  If you like spicy, be sure to keep these.  When handling spicy peppers, it is a good idea to wear gloves and be careful to not rub your eyes, nose or mouth until you wash your hands thoroughly.

You can also save the seeds and plant in next year's garden.  Just be sure to let them dry before you put them in an air tight container so they don't mold.  I store my seeds in ziplocks in the frig and they last for years.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Pimento peppers
I grow most of our peppers in pots.  I try to grow enough peppers to last us all winter for chili, salsa and salads.  The hot peppers like Jalapeños and Cayenne seem to do best in pots.  The Pimentos were average producers in the ground.  I have grown them in pots in the past and there doesn’t seem to be much difference in production.  The sweet peppers do well in pots.  The Poblano was grown in the garden and the Anaheim in the ground.  Both produced well.  I grow all my peppers in pots unless I run out of pots, then they go in the ground.   Peppers are for every taste and garden

If you had plants that did extremely well, peppers are tropical perennials.  You can simply bring them inside for the winter.  They will continue to produce through January indoors.  When you put them back outside in the spring, you will be the first on the block with homegrown peppers!  If you decide bringing indoors is too much of a hassle or you don’t have the space, save the seeds from the best fruit of the plant so you can propagate next year.  Hybrids will not grow true to seed so you will either have to overwinter or buy a new plant or seeds in the spring.  You can try the seed, but the offspring typically does not turn out with the same traits as the parent.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

A friend shared with me that he thought he was going to give up trying to grow vegetables because all he got was pretty plants with no fruits.  He was growing them in pots.  

My suggestion-don’t give up!  Since you are doing a great job with greenery, go for vegetables that are leafy, like lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, herbs, chard, and other greens.  Now is a great time to replant with these type of plants.

On the other hand, if you get all greenery and no fruit and your plant is in full sun, the most likely culprit is too much nitrogen fertilizer.  This can happen to any fruiting plant.  I fertilize once a month with an organic fertilizer and typically one for tomatoes as they are made with the nutrients fruiting plants need.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

5 Tips for a More Productive Garden

Small space garden in flower bed
Sunday, September 12, 2021

To maximize the production in your garden space, there are few things you can do to make the most of your time, energy, garden space and money.  Even if you have oodles of space, maximizing your production per square foot saves time and money.  Less to weed, less to fertilize, less to mulch.

5 Tips for a Productive Garden

1.  Healthy soil.  It all starts with the soil.  You need nutrient and microbe rich soil.  Chemical herbicide, pesticides and fertilizers all kill microbes and worms scatter when chemicals are applied.  For alive soil, use organic, natural fertilizers and compost.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds  Apply both in early spring so the nutrition can seep into the soil, ready to nourish the seeds and plants you put in the ground.  For more details on creating healthy soil, see this blog:  next step in garden production

2.  Smart garden plan.  You can maximize the production of the plants you put in your garden with a well thought out plan.  Divide out what you like to eat into the seasons they thrive in.  Plant your veggies in the right season and you will be rewarded with healthy plants and bountiful harvests.  Before you plant, check the heights and sun requirements.  Plant the tallest plants in the back so they don’t shade out the shorter sun loving plants.  Using trellis for vertical gardening of cucumbers, beans, and peas is a great use of space at the back of the garden bed.  For those that appreciate some shade, interplant between taller varieties.  Get the most from your space-plant intensively!  Look for those that help each other out.  This is called companion planting.  For more information on companion planting, see this blog:  Companion planting

3.  Choose wisely.  Choose the most productive varieties to maximize the production per square foot of space.  Dwarfs are a great choice for small spaces and containers.  You can get the same production from many dwarfs as you can the full size varieties.  Look for those that have “abundant”, “prolific”, and “heavy yields” in the descriptions.  Some great choices are cucumbers, pole beans and peas, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and many varieties of greens.  Use trellises to grow vining varieties up instead of out.  Decorative container gardening for edibles

4.  Think 4 season gardening.  Use as much of all 4 seasons as possible.  Start seeds indoors in late winter to get an early start on spring and summer.  You can plant out as soon as the weather is willing.  Help heat up the soil so your plants or seeds get a jump start when planted.  You can put down plastic or cloches where you want to plant to help get the soil warm.  Your seedlings will appreciate it!  You can also cover your seedlings with a row cover or cloche after planting to keep the warmth of the sun past sundown.  Be careful with cloche’s as they can get really hot and fry your plants.  A good choice is one with vents.  Extend the season with protection for plants  Also look for varieties that are adapted to the season.  There are tomatoes adapted to cooler temperatures to get a jump on summer and lettuces that are heat tolerant so you can continue to have salads into summer.  For more on 4 season gardening, see this blog:  garden year round

5.  Eliminate competition.  Weeds and pests take away from the vigor of your veggies.  Use mulch to keep weeds suppressed.  Mulch does triple duty as a fresh coat of mulch in the spring can help warm the soil, helps keep moisture from evaporating during the summer, adds organic matter while suppressing weeds.  There are good bugs and bad bugs.  Attract the good bugs by interplanting your veggies with flowers like marigolds and calendula.  Good bugs help pollinate your veggies, increasing yields.  They also eat bad bugs.  Be careful using sprays as a spray doesn’t know a good bug from a bad bug.  If you are just starting your organic garden, it may take a couple of seasons for the garden to come in balance.  For more on pests, see this blog:  controlling bugs naturally

Saturday, September 11, 2021

10 crops you can plant right now

Early November edible garden
Saturday, September 11, 2021 

Mid September is a great time to get many crops going for fall and winter harvesting.  Leverage all your garden space, in the ground and pots, to keep eating fresh all year round.

Here are 10 crops that you can plant seeds for that love the cool weather that is coming.
Peas-Austrian winter peas, conventional peas or snowless  Time to plant peas!
Greens-arugula, chard, corn salad, escarole, frisée, kale, lettuce, mache, mustard greens, sorrel, spinach  Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter
Beets  All about beautiful beets
Winter and Perennial Onions  Everything to know about growing onions
Scallions

Now is a good time to buy covers to extend the season.  I love my portable greenhouse that I just plop over the top of my pots to harvest greens for salads all through the fall and winter.  You can also put this over crops in the garden bed or use row covers.  Extend the season with protection for plants

September is also a great month for starting perennial veggies, fruits, and herbs as well as flowers, trees and shrubs.  Midwest Perennial Vegetable Garden

Monday, September 6, 2021

Time to plant lettuce seed for fall, winter salads


Monday, September 6, 2021

Start planting a variety of lettuce types now via seeds for harvests through fall and winter!  Sow every few days for the next couple of weeks to keep yourself in lettuce all fall and winter.  Lettuce enjoys cool temperatures and gets even sweeter as the temps dip.  They grow well in pots or in the garden bed.

The challenge to starting lettuce from seed this time of year is that it can be so hot.  The seeds will not germinate well in ground temps above 70 degrees F.  There are a couple of options for summer time seeding.  You can grow in shade, cover with a shade cloth or start your seedlings indoors move outdoors after they have sprouted.  Outdoor seed starting tips
I like to start in flats in the shade, close to the watering can on the east side of the house.  On a covered patio, porch or deck is an ideal place to start seeds.  The seedlings will be up in 7 days if kept well watered.  I let them grow until they have the first set of true leaves and are about 2” tall.  I then transplant them into their permanent home, keeping them well watered for another couple of weeks.  The trick this time of year to planting is getting the plants close to full size by November when daylight hours are too short to support growing.

You can just plant a couple of seeds in re-used 6 packs so you can plant it all in the garden, plant several in a pot and then just transplant into the garden or final pot.  My personal favorite is sowing seeds into my self-watering Earthboxes that I cover later in the season with a portable greenhouse to keep the greens going all winter.  How to extend the garden season

If you want to direct seed in your flower bed, dig a shallow trench about a quarter inch deep, fill with potting soil, seed, pat down, then cover lightly with more potting soil.  Water well with a gentle stream of water so you don’t wash the seed away.  I use a rain head on my watering can.  Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

Plant a few seeds each day for the next couple of weeks to get a succession of plants for on-going harvests.  After you they have sprouted and have the first set of true leaves, fertilize with a nitrogen fertilizer.  

This time of year, look for types that are the most cold hardy to last the longest into winter.  Look for varieties marketed as: fast-maturing (for fall harvests), winter-hardy, frost tolerant, overwintering, for every season, year-round, remarkably cold hardy, etc.  

A few varieties to try of different types of lettuces known for being cold hardy: 
Bibb type-Brown Winter, 
Butterhead type-Arctic King, Brown Dutch Winter, Marvel of Four Seasons, Winter Marvel, Crisphead/Batavia type-Hanson, Continuity, Mottistone, 
Loose leaf type-Tango, Salad Bowl, 
Romaine type-Brown Goldring, Winter Density, Rouge d’Hiver.

Don't forget to look around your yard and garden for volunteer lettuce plant seedlings.  I let my lettuce plants go to seed in the summer.  There are many seedlings that will come up in the garden and yard.  I just dig them up and put them where I want them to grow for the fall and winter.  If it is still super hot, move them to a pot in a cool area in the garden or on a deck until it cools down.  Transplant them into the garden when it cools off.

There are some nurseries and even big box stores that carry edible transplants for fall planting.  There are many on-line seed companies that sell fall transplants, too.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Time to harvest and preserve herbs for winter cooking

Basil in center, silvery sage on the left
Saturday, September 4, 2021

Herbs have a tendency to take a walk on the wild side.  Harvesting your herbs throughout the summer helps keep them looking tidy and healthy.  Harvest herbs for seasoning dishes, sauces, meats and dressings for the next year.  For perennial herbs, late summer is the cut off for heavy pruning.

For perennial woody herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme, late summer is the cut off for heavy pruning.  Pruning stimulates growth.  You want your woody perennials hardened up well before the first hard frost.

When you harvest your herbs, you will have enough seasoning mix for at least 5 families with just a single plant of each type!  They make wonderful gifts.   Make your own "Herbes de Provence"

For soft herbs like chives and garlic chives, I cut around the outside.  Towards fall, you can cut them a couple of inches from the ground.  You can either dry or freeze your cuttings.  I like going ahead and chopping them, letting them dry and putting into jars.  You won't need much because chives are perennials and you can harvest from the plant almost year round.  Quick tip-don’t let chives go to seed
Common chives in bloom
For rosemary, I trim back as I would a tree, cutting off the lower limbs.  I have not been successful in finding a rosemary that survives outside in my Zone 6/7 region, even the Barbecue rated to Zone 6 and Arp rated to Zone 5. Before winter, I will harvest all the limbs so I don't waste any of that great flavor.  Another option is to bring the plant indoors for the winter.   I have had 50/50 luck on bringing them in for the winter.  Rosemary is perfect with lamb, on potatoes, or on cheese bread.  

For sage, savory, and thyme, I simply trim them into a pleasing shape.  For basil, oregano and marjoram, I remove about half of the top growth.  Basil also will not survive even a slight frost.  So when they call for frost, I harvest all that is left on the plant.  You can take cuttings from basil to start the herb in a pot and bring indoors for the winter.  I dry basil gently as it looses its flavor easily.  I also use most of the fresh basil for pesto that I make in batches and freeze.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil


I prefer drying my herbs to preserve them.  I put loosely in a paper bag in a dry, warm area out of the sun and let dry naturally.  Loose is the key here so they get good air circulation and do not mold.  They should be completely dry in about 3-4 weeks.  I like putting them in clothes closets to dry as they release such great fragrance and the darkness helps keep the flavor in the herb.

Once dried, remove the leaves from woody herbs and store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.  If a soft herb like chives, you can just crumble into the airtight container.  I use wide mouth canning jars and ziplock bags for herb storage.


If the winter is not a bad one, most perennial herbs like chives, oregano, sage, savory, and thyme can be harvested year round straight from the garden, snipping only what you need for the meal.

Herbs are the easiest thing to grow in the edible garden.  You can even plant perennial herbs this fall.  Start an herb garden in the spring and it will reward you all year round.  Start a kitchen herb garden!