Saturday, November 12, 2016

Edible garden winter checklist

Saturday, November 12, 2016

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!

Last Harvest
When a hard freeze is in the forecast, it is time to pick the last of the summer veggies and winter squash.  Any cold sensitive edibles should either be picked, covered or brought indoors.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, summer squash like zucchini, and cucumbers are all freeze sensitive.  You can also take tender ends from basil to root them to grow indoors for the winter if you have a bright window to place your plant.

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

Tidy Beds & Compost
It is time to clean up your edible garden to prepare it for the long cold season.  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.

New Beds & Soil Sampling
Now is the time to lay out any expansion you want to do in your garden beds.  Using a hose to outline the new beds is a great way to envision how they will look.  You can simply cover with card board to kill the grass over the winter.  I like to cover with cardboard, add a layer of compost and fertilizer, then top with mulch.  Letting the bed lay over the winter will allow the fertilizer to seep into the soil so it is ready to plant come spring.  Take a soil sample from your new bed(s) and existing beds to take it in to your conservation office or mail in to a soil analysis service.  The results will tell you exactly what your soil needs for amendments.
Cover Winter Crops
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 have my mini portable greenhouse over my three Earthoxes that contain kale, celery, French dandelion, spinach, lettuce, blood veined sorrel, and garden purslane.  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.

Save Seeds
I am going to do a tour of the garden and save seeds from the late producers.  On my hit list is the green beans I left on the vine to keep for seed, flower seeds from the marigolds, hummingbird vine, moon flower vine, and zinnias, and any of the really nice summer vegetable specimens.  It is good to save the best of the best for seed as these parents will give you the characteristics you want in your veggies for next year's garden.

Tool Care
Now is the time to take care of your tools to get them ready and stored for next season.  Sharpen your garden knives, scissors, shovels, and hoes.  Lightly oil all needed to protect from rust and keep working smoothly.  Make a list of any additions you want for your tool collection so you can research and purchase over the winter.

Winter Cover Crops
If you have an un-mulched garden bed, winter cover crops are a great way to protect the soil, keep it from washing and add nutrients your garden needs.

Summarize & Plan for Next Year's Garden
Now is the time to write down all you liked about the garden to you can repeat it for next season as well as what didn't go so well.  You can use the winter season to research solutions to the improvements you want to make on your garden for next year.

I like to look back through all my garden notes for the season and capture the varieties I want to be sure to have in the garden for next year as well as any new ones I want to try.  

For instance, I have been trying different varieties of sweet peppers to see if I can find varieties that are prolific producers in my garden.  I'll write down that I want to search for new varieties to try for next year.  This year I finally found a couple that did well that I want to overwinter this year for next year or start from seed next spring.  I also want to add two of the peppers I saw in Sicily while on vacation with my mom.

Tomatoes-definitely going to put the heirloom Italian paste in the garden, Cherokee Purple, the volunteer that comes back every year, and a couple varieties from last summer's garden-the small chocolate and small black tomatoes.  I also want to try the overwintering varieties that I saw in Sicily.

For eggplant, the Japanese White Egg did really well in the pot, but they were just smaller than I liked.  I'll go back to the white eggplant seed from Martha Stewart collection, the Turkish Orange that I grew last summer in a pot, and am going to try to overwinter my friend's purple potted eggplant that did great this summer.

The cucumber varieties I tried this summer did really well.  I will do them again next year, but stagger their planting as there were just too many of them at once.  Staggering will let the production stay consistent.  As one vine winds down, the next one will be ramping up.  Not sure I will actually do the Hmong again.  It was a great producer, but the fruits were just too large for what I use them for.  Leaning towards planting Dragon's White Egg and Miniature White; perhaps the Jaune Dickfleishige.

Zucchini was a little challenging this year to get the plants going because of all the rain we had this summer.  I am going to look back at what grew well in the garden a couple of seasons ago and replant those next year.  I start these from seed.  I planted Black Beauty, Bush, and Early Prolific Straight Neck which are favorites of many.

All the green bean varieties did great this year.  I am saving the seed from them right now to plant for next year.  Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer

Spring lettuce-I really liked the Red Romaine and Red Sails lettuce we had in our garden last year.  They stayed a long time before bolting.  I also like the oak leaf lettuces and Grand Rapids varieties.  I'll have all of these in the garden next year.

I'll absolutely do the Cardinal Basil and traditional sweet basil.  I like the Cardinal Basil because it's flowers is just so pretty.  The sweet basil for making pesto.

My husband loves zinnias and marigolds.  I'll start these from seed I save now to grow again next year.  Flowers add not only beauty but attract pollinators.  These little hard working gardener assistants significantly boost your garden fruit production like tomatoes, peppers, beans and eggplants.

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