Saturday, December 4, 2021

December 2021 Edible Garden Planner

Early December garden; chard in the foreground, herbs in the background
Saturday, December 4, 2021

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

This fall has been above average for temperatures and below normal for rainfall.  I was watering the beds to end of November.  Just brought all my overwintering tropicals, pepper plants, bay tree, moringa tree, rosemary, aloe vera and citrus trees a little over a week ago.  The pepper plant will continue to produce for a few more weeks.  It will keep its leaves and start producing again in February.  My kumquat tree is loaded with fruits.  Kumquats produce nearly year round.  

Outdoors, fresh herbs, onions, kale and broccoli are just steps away from the back door, the portable green houses are packed with greens.  

Most Mediterranean herbs are perennials so you get to enjoy them practically year round.  You can also grow many herbs indoors as well like chives, oregano, rosemary, parsley, chervil, and basil.  Rosemary, basil and bay are good ones to dig up and bring indoors to guarantee survival through the winter.  Just place your potted herbs in a sunny window.  I keep my bay and rosemary in pots and bring into the garage for the winter.  I am trying to root cuttings of my garden basil inside as well.  My bay trees is over 7 feet tall after 5 years in a pot.  
If you are using a greenhouse or row cover, your kale, celery, mustard, lettuce, chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, sprouting broccoli will be happy under cover all winter.  They will not grow much until sunlight gets back to 10 hours per day in late January, but you can still harvest from them right now.  Be sure on sunny, warm days to pop the top on your covers or you will scorch your greens.  It can get 50 degrees warmer inside a greenhouse on a sunny day than the actual temperature outside.  Do check to make sure your pots in the greenhouse have enough moisture.  Open when it is warm to check, water and harvest.  
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.  You can still sow seeds in December to get a head start on the spring garden.  What to plant in the December edible garden

Make sure if you have any potted veggies to put them on the ground if they are on coasters.  The ideal location is in full sun and 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.  Moving them up against the wall on the south side does double duty-southern exposure gets the most sun and warmth and the wall radiates its warmth.  Pots left exposed on all sides will be zone colder than the ones planted in the ground.  If you are in Zone 7, be sure that plants left in pots are hardy to at least Zone 6 if you want them to come back in the spring.  If they are not, put under cover, mulch around them or bring into the garage or basement for the winter.
Extend the season with protection for plants

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.  My Chiptelin and cayenne pepper are ones I bring in every year.   We place them in the sunniest spot in the garage or basement and supplement with 4 foot fluorescent grow lights.  

Your indoor and outdoor plants will still need to be fertilized at about half the rate as during the growing season.  A liquid fertilizer every two weeks would be plenty.

Be sure to spray your edible garden beds with deer repellant, sooner rather than later.  The deer and rabbits will be getting hungry and your edible garden will look like a feast to them!  If you keep them from getting into the garden the first time, it is much easier to deter them after the fact.
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, eggs 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

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 the farmer if she 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 your garlic in the pantry this summer and some has 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 use 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 can all of last year's tomatoes every fall.  I use Weck’s canning jars and regular canning jars with antique glass lids (for antique glass lids you also need the extra tall antique rings).  Both are all glass so no worries about what is lining the lid.  The Weck's jars are a really pretty tulip 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, pickles, jam.  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 for 24 hours.  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.  If you are using the antique glass lids, my experience is to just leave the rings on until you are ready to open the jar.  That’s it!  

Other high acid foods you can using a water bath are jams, jellies, condiments, salsas, pickles, and relishes.  I pickle my garlic harvest so I have garlic whenever I need it.  Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!  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 have used Christmas break in the past 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.  Here is my last year's reflections and plans.

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

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Year round fruit from a small space garden

Tigger melon

Sunday, November 21, 2021

I was recently asked if you can get fruit in a small space garden.  You can and if you are up for freezing, water bath canning and/or drying, you can have fruit from your garden year round.  I will share just a few options that I employ in our small space garden.  There are an infinite number of other options out there.

For spring,  strawberries and kumquats are ready for eating fresh.  Early cherry trees can bear fruit as early as June.

I have kumquats from a small tree I grow in a pot and early strawberries.  In the Midwest, we do have to bring most citrus indoors each winter to an unheated garage or inside the house.  Both have worked for me.  Kumquats fruit basically year round.  They are not a real sweet fruit.  It is their rind that is sweet and the pulp that is tart.  You eat the entire small fruit.  A great way to get your daily vitamin C!

I am growing 2 more citrus varieties that are hardy to my zone, a lemon and grapefruit tasting types.  They are still small so I am not sure how their fruits will taste and how hardy they will prove to be in the garden.  I have them in pots right now that I will overwinter again indoors.  Next year, I will transplant into the garden.  Since they are citrus, I will plant close to a wall with southern exposure.  This is the warmest spot in the garden.

You can grow many different varieties of strawberries to extend the harvest from late spring through fall.  They are perennials and hardy in the Midwest.  I plant them in between where I will have summer veggies and close to the front of my flower/edible garden bed.  
Strawberries ripening

Summer and fall are prime fruit season.  You have many options for small space gardens.  Strawberries will continue to produce.  Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries will all fruit during the summer.  Like strawberries, different varieties can fruit at different times over the summer.  You can plant early, mid and late fruiting varieties to extend the season.  

Melons are typically ready starting in July and continue through until the first frost.  Try smaller fruits like Tigger Melon if you want something for a couple of people for each fruit.  If you are planting to train the vine up a trellis, look for shorter vine lengths or pinch it off when it reaches the top of your trellis.  You can also let them ramble between taller plants as well.  They do a great job of shading out weeds!

I just planted blackberry bushes this year so mine should start fruiting next year.  There are thorny and thornless varieties.  I am trying both.  I do go pick wild blackberries each summer as well.  

I had planted an everbearing raspberry last year.  It fruited from late spring all the way through fall.  Here in Kentucky, we have a new pest fruit fly that they are encouraging us to plant varieties that fruit early in the season. It is the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), Drosophila suzuki.  It is only 1/10" long and has red eyes.  If you have late fruiting plants, harvesting frequently will keep them in check.  I like to take a walk around my garden every day.  It is relaxing and fun to see how things are growing, seeing any issues arising, and, best of all, pick what we are going to eat for dinner!

The berries are easy to freeze.  I just put any I don't eat into a quart freezer bag.  When full, I move to our deep freeze.  Be sure to label with the variety and date.

Berries can also be dried or canned.  Here is a blog on drying veggies.  Same procedure applies to drying fruits.  Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies

If you are one that likes to add sugar to your fruits, you can employ water bath canning to preserve the extras, too.  Be sure to follow the recipe exactly.  The pH has to be acidic enough to insure your canned goods stay safe to eat.  If you are concerned about BPA used in canning lids, here is a blog on other options in canning jars  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty  

For me, my go-to method is freezing and drying.  The advantage of both canning and drying is you don't have to use up valuable freezer space if you don't have a deep freeze.

Summer and fall are prime fruit season  Fall fruits include late or everbearing raspberries, kumquats, figs, apples and pears.  

Depending on the variety, pears and apple season is from August to as late as November in our area.  The great thing about apples as there are many varieties that store for months in a cool spot over the winter that will keep you in fruit until spring.  Some apple varieties stored just in the basement can last over a year.  Each apple should be wrapped in newspaper and stored in a cardboard box.  Good storage apples include Arkansas Black, Newton Pippin, and Winesap.  There are many more.  Stark Brothers is a reputable nursery to mail order fruit and nut trees from.  

I am going to plant Arkansas Black because it has very good disease tolerance in our area.  I am going to prune it so it stays small and easy to pick.  How to prune fruit trees for small spaces   You can use this method for any fruit tree.

If you are a big apple lover, you can plant a few different types of trees to be able to eat fresh apples for months.  Also choosing ones that store well can keep you in apples until harvest begins again next summer.

Pears are a little different than most other fruit trees.  They do not ripen until after they are picked.  You tell if they are ready by lifting the fruit sideways and if the stem easily comes off the tree, they are ready to be picked.  I have a neighbor that has a few pear trees.  He is happy to bring me many 5 gallon buckets of fruits.  I wait until they ripen (they will have some give when pressed and a sweet aroma when ripe), slice them in have, cut out the core, sprinkle with cinnamon, and bake on a cookie sheet.  I'll then set them in the freezer until frozen and put into gallon freezer bags.  This way you can pull out individual half pears to eat whenever you want.

Baking brings out the sweetness in the pear.  I simply heat up and top with whipped cream for dessert or use frozen with milk in a blender to make a quick cinnamon pear shake.  What can be easier?

You can also slice and dry your pears and apples or can them.  If canning, follow the recipe exactly.  I like drying; they make good snacks as is or are easy to plump back up in water to use in recipes.

The last fruit that ripens in my garden are Chicago figs.  This year, my fig tree begin ripening in October and continue all the way through until a hard freeze.  I dry my extra figs.  It concentrates the sugars and makes a great snack all winter long.  You can also make fig preserves.  Be sure to follow the recipe exactly; pH is critical for safe and tasty results.
Ripe Chicago figs

Pawpaw and persimmon trees are another fall fruit tree.  Pawpaw typically bear starting in August into October while persimmon ripens starting in September and go into October.  They are both native fruit tree and can be found growing in the woods.  Pawpaw have a banana mango taste.  Persimmon have a sweet honey like flavor.  Drying is a good option for preserving the extras.

Fruits eaten in the winter are either those that you have stored, preserved or tropicals you grow indoors.  You can get storage apple varieties that will last a year or more in a cool area of your home.  The dried, canned and frozen fruits you preserved will be at your fingertips until spring arrives and strawberries begin again.

If you want fresh fruits, there are miniature indoor tropical fruits that will bear during the winter months like kumquats, mandarins, grapefruit and oranges.  They do require lots of direct sunlight to fruit indoors or a helping grow light.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

What to plant in the November edible garden

Portable row cover 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

You can still plant for the edible garden in November.  Plant seeds of cold loving crops and they will get a head start in spring.  Cover can be used for all the harvestable edibles to extend the harvest all the way through to spring.  
What is a four season garden?
You can garden year round in small space
Planning for a four season garden

This month you can sow more greens, carrots, beets and herbs in the greenhouse.  You can also transplant perennial veggies, fruits, and herbs as well as flowers, trees and shrubs.  Don't forget garlic if you haven't already planted yours, you still have time!   Midwest Perennial Vegetable Garden

Here are the crops you can start in the November Midwest edible garden:

November seeds outdoors
Austrian winter peas
Fava beans
Lettuce-winter hardy varieties
Snow peas
Spring bulbs

November seeds under cover
Broccoli and Sprouting Broccoli
Corn salad
Lettuce, Winter Hardy types
Mustard and Mustard Greens
Parsley and Parsley Root
Swiss Chard

November transplants
Cabbage, Oxheart
Winter and Perennial Onions
Trees and bushes

Portable greenhouse

Look for cold hardy varieties when planting for winter harvests.  You will be surprised to harvest all through the winter months things like greens, onions, Austrian peas, carrots, and cabbage.  You can also extend the harvest by looking for the same crop with different days to harvest timing so that they mature at different times and those that are advertised as winter hardy.  

 Fall planted crops take longer to come to harvest than they do in the spring.  Rule of thumb is to add 2 weeks.  It's because the days are getting shorter rather than longer and the temperatures are falling.  Planting in November, it may actually be spring before they sprout.  

Covering plants when there is a cold snap in the fall will keep them warmer and growing quicker.  I cover my edibles with the portable greenhouse or row coverings once daily highs are no longer getting into the 50's and night time temperatures are dipping down into the 20's.  You can use cover to extend the harvest all the way to next spring.  Extend the season with protection for plants  Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter

Monday, November 1, 2021

November 2021 Edible Garden Planner

Late November edible garden

Monday, November 1, 2021

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 nap, remove gardening debris from your beds.  For any diseased vegetation, 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 worth the risk going into winter.  I keep the seed heads on the flowers in the garden for food for the birds over the 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 was 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 need greens and browns to keep the compost odor free and "cooking".  Wood pellets, chopped up leaves, or shredded paper work well as "browns" with the "greens" of kitchen scraps.  You get finished compost in a couple of weeks with an electric composter.  An outdoor tumbler takes a few weeks in warm weather.  I emptied one side of my outdoor bin to have plenty of room over the winter for kitchen scraps.  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 have been using an outdoor, tumbler type composter for the last few years.  I first had an insulated, metal one by Jora.  It ended up rusting.  I now use a plastic tumbler.  I bought a grill cover to put over it to keep the compost from getting drenched with each rain.  You could also keep under an eave.  It works year round but much better in the summer.  It is critical to keep the greens and browns in the right ratio to keep the compost cooking in the winter.   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 organic 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.  Organic fertilizers take a long time to release their nutrients.  Using in the fall will give the spring garden a running start.  It is best to get a soil test done to make sure you are keeping the nutrients in the right balance.  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

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, or less, of next year.  Also make note of how many plants make sense to plant for next year.  Here are my reflections this fall for the edible garden.   Reflecting back on the 2020 edible garden; planning for 2021

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?  Use this winter to figure out what to grow in the spring!

Even if you have a small area, you can grow most of what you eat.  How to decide what to plant for small spaces?

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 not had a frost or freeze yet, but they are calling for our first frost this week.  It is below normal highs for this time of year.  When the lows start getting 28 degrees F or below, this is a killing frost for the summer veggies.  Be sure to harvest the remaining tomatoes, peppers, and squash before the first hard freeze.

Green tomatoes and peppers can be brought indoors to ripen.  Green peppers are great as they are.  You can let tomatoes turn red or eat as green tomatoes.  I remember my grandmother making fried green tomatoes every fall.  A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!  Many make them into relish, too.

There are many edible crops that can still be planted in November.  You really can eat fresh out of the garden year round even if you live in Zone 3.  Greens, herbs, onions, broccoli, fruit bushes and trees and perennial flowers are a few of the crops that can be planted this month.  For more on planting in November,  What to plant in the November edible garden  

You can cover your veggies with a portable green house or row cover to extend the season for many cool season crops.  For cold climates, using cover is the key.  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

I still need to transplant my September lettuce starts into the portable greenhouse pots.  Having cover will help them grow and protect them through the winter.  It is late to start seed but will give a boost for spring harvests.  I will move my pots of greens under the portable greenhouse.  I'll use gallon jugs of water inside the portable greenhouse to keep the temperature more moderate.

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.  Prepare for hard freeze

You can also cut a piece off your herbs, put them in a pot, and bring indoors on a sunny window to have fresh herbs readily available.  Basil is an easy one to restart indoors.  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 some 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 and need direct sun to do well indoors.  I bring in only the ones that did really well that I want to get a head start on next season and not all do well.  To give them the best chance, make sure they get full sun.

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.  For the last 3 winters, 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 and are disease free. 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 your meal around them.  Some winter hardy edibles include kale, broccoli, cabbage, chives, sage, thyme, corn salad, sorrel, cultivated dandelions, plantain greens, celery, mustards, even some hardy lettuces.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Garlic planting time

Saturday, October 23, 2021

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 and conventional 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 in fall
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!

Saturday, October 9, 2021

What's happening in the early October edible garden

Saturday, October 9, 2021

This is a time of year that most summer vegetables are winding down and cold crops are growing quickly.  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 and cooler instead of longer and warmer.  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 do a soil test.  You can see what amendments are needed.  Get them on now so the amendments are fully available for spring crops.

Fall 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.  For any plants with disease, do not keep their seeds.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

I replanted cucumbers and tomatoes this year in mid-summer.  Both are producing well.  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.  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!

Our eggplants are still producing well this year.  I am grilling our extras this year and making baba ganoush that I freeze.  Grilling adds a smoky note to the dip.  I have tried freezing eggplant after blanching and after cooking, but the taste just wasn't the same.  Frozen baba ganoush seems to keep its taste well.  We enjoy eating it with pita bread or chips.

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 had a couple of Ancho pepper plants in a pot.  I have been harvesting and drying Ancho Anaheim peppers for a month or so.  I dry and make chili powder.  The Pimento Elite I planted this year did not produce well.  I was growing in a part sun area, under hickory trees.  My overwintered cayenne pepper did well in its pot.  So did my sweet snacking potted pepper.

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 tyfon, spinach, and 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.  Many herbs are perennials-garlic, sprouting onions, lavender, oregano, chives, sage, tarragon, thyme, savory, salad burnet, and rosemary.  There are varieties of Bay Laurel and rosemary that are supposed to be hardy in Zone 7.  So far, they haven't survived consistently in my garden.  They'll make it until early spring and then get killed by a hard freeze after a warm up.  I keep trying, though.  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.  Cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts and onions will do fine in the garden with no cover.  The cold hardy greens and veggies I have planted will produce all fall and winter with the portable greenhouse cover.  How to extend the garden season