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 20, 2018

Make your own apple cider vinegar

Saturday, October 20, 2018

It is the end of apple season.  It is a great time to get local apples to make your own apple cider vinegar.  All you need are glass jars, water, apples and sugar to make this healthy brew.  

Here is the recipe that I am using for a gallon of apple cider vinegar:
*3 pounds of a variety of apples (more variety gives a fuller flavor.  )
*8 cups of spring water (do not use tap water as chlorine kills the yeast that makes the cider)
*1/2 cup of sugar

*Slice the apples into quarters
*Let the apples brown on the counter
*After browning, place into a wide mouth glass gallon jar
*Fill with water, add sugar, and a weight to keep the apples under the water to keep flies from landing on the apples or mold from growing on them
*Cover with a cheese cloth with a rubber band to keep any fruit flies out

Let the apples ferment in a dark, warm location for at least 4 weeks.  The fermentation goes faster in warm weather and slower in cooler temperatures.  White scum will form on the top.  This is normal.  Bubbling is also normal as it ferments into cider.  Mold is not.

After at least 4 weeks, strain out the apples and put the liquid back into the jar and cover with cheesecloth.  During this time, yeast will eat the sugar to transform your apple water into apple cider.  

After you have apple cider, it is ready to transform into acetic acid and vinegar.  You can add some finished raw apple cider vinegar or mother into your strained liquid to give it a boost.  It should take another 4 weeks to turn into vinegar.  Allow to continue fermenting until it reaches the appropriate tartness.  

You will see a thin rubbery substance on the top of your jar.  This is the "mother" that converts the cider into vinegar.  

When the taste is the way you like it, you can now put a regular lid on your gallon jar or pour into smaller jars to make room for another apple cider vinegar batch!  The mother can be kept in the jar or stored separately.

*Use organic apples if possible.  If not, be sure to remove any wax coating and then soak in baking soda water for 15 minutes to remove all pesticides.
*You can use apple scraps as well.  Make sure that any scraps are well cleaned as above.  Peels and cores are great adds.  You can keep scraps in the freezer until you have enough to start a batch of vinegar.
*Use a combo of apple types.  50% sweet like Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious.  35% sharp like McIntosh, Liberty, Winesap, Northern Spy, Gravenstein, Granny Smith.  15% bitter like Dolgo crabapples, Newtown, Foxwhelp, Porter's Perfection, Cortland.
*If you don't have access to spring water, you can use filtered, reverse osmosis water or distilled water.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

What's happening in the early October edible garden

Saturday, October 6, 2018

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 have slowed in the last few weeks.  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 well this year.  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 two Ancho Anaheim peppers that are ready to harvest.  I did not get very many off the plant, but they were nice sized and enough for the chili powder I’ll use for making chili this winter.  The Pimento Elite I planted this year produced many peppers but they just wouldn’t turn red.  Peppers get sweeter when they ripen, but are good to eat even when green.  The jalapeƱos were the same, many peppers but stayed green.  The cayennes were prolific and slow to ripen.

For the sweet peppers, the rabbits kept them ate back to the stems for most of the year.  I finally put a wire cage around them and they are leaving back out, but likely too late for any peppers.  The one pepper they didn’t eat was the Sweet Red Banana.  I got a few off this plant.  The taste was very nice.

I harvested the basil and made pesto in mid-September. The basil plants are quickly regenerating.  I should be able to get another harvest from them before frost hits.  These 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 planted some chard, spinach, kale, lettuce,  seeds in Earthboxes and pots in mid-September.   All are doing well.  Many lettuce seeds have sprouted.  My potted sprouting broccoli, celery, arugula, corn salad and parsley is still producing and will continue through the winter.  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.  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.  I separated flowers and herbs to take to our lake retirement house.  I had two really pretty Italian dandelions in the Earthbox.  I took the smaller one and replanted at the retirement house.  Dandelions are perennials and very healthy to eat.  The Italian and French types have been bred to have large leaves.  Great to make salads.    

Many herbs are perennials-garlic, sprouting onions, lavender, oregano, chives, sage, tarragon, thyme, savory, salad burnet, and rosemary.  Bay laurel is a perennial at our Zone 7 retirement house, but not in Zone 6.  I have kept it in a pot for years, but will be planting it at the lake.  It will actually become a tree when planted in the ground.  The rosemary I planted last year at the lake is quickly becoming a very large bush.  I give as many branches as possible away!  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, collards, mustards, and cabbage 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