Sunday, August 29, 2021

September 2021 Edible Garden Planner

Harvest from September garden
Sunday, August 29, 2021

End of summer is a great time to tidy garden beds, harvest herbs, and plant for fall and winter harvests.  As the days get shorter, growth slows and before long the sun cannot support all the greenery from summer.  Plants, trees and bushes will drop leaves, but peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers will keep producing through frost.  Keep the fruits picked to keep them producing.  Beginning of September is an ideal time to sow seeds of cool weather greens for fall and early winter harvests.  

Harvesting Herbs
This is the perfect time to harvest your herbs.  You can cut them back so they remain lush, improving the tidiness of your garden, and providing herbs for the winter ahead.  Cutting them back will help the plants build stronger root systems.  Trimming also encourages new growth.  You just don't want to prune too close to frost as new growth makes the plant less hardy. 

I dry my herbs to preserve them.  I cut the plant back by about two thirds and put the stems 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.  With a soft herb like chives, you can just crumble into the airtight container.  I use wide mouth canning jars for herb storage or freezer bags kept in a dark location.  

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.  If it is a harsh winter, the tops of these perennials will die to the ground, but re-sprout in the spring.  .
Winter squash from the September garden
Fall planting guide for cool season crops
In September, plant more greens, carrots and radishes.  October is the month to plant garlic for next year's harvest.  Buy your garlic early because the most popular varieties sell out early!  I will replant the biggest cloves from this year's harvest.  I have both regular garlic and elephant garlic to plant.  I like elephant garlic because it produces huge cloves.   Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......  

You can pick up transplants like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kale, as well as herbs at some nurseries since gardening has become so popular.  You can also buy them on line or grow from seed.  Everything that loves spring also thrive in fall into early winter.  Lettuce is my favorite for fall.  Plant a variety daily the first two weeks of September so that they are mature by the end of October.  

Caring for your new seeds and transplants
Like in the spring, newly sown seeds need moisture to sprout.  Keep seeds and transplants moist until they get their first real set of leaves and are well established.  Then water as needed.  Outdoor seed starting tips

Many crops you can harvest into December and beyond, depending on how cold fall is.  Some get sweeter with some frost, like carrots, chard, and lettuce.  With cover, you can harvest all the way through winter!  
Extend the season with protection for plants

Caring for the Summer Vegetables
Many of the summer veggies will continue producing until the first killing frost.  I continue to fertilize the beginning of September and October to keep the plants healthy while they are producing.  We are getting less and less daylight now so it is expected that the plants will drop lower leaves and have slower growth. Cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes all keep producing in our garden well into November.  

Greens in the garden are getting a second life as the temperatures cool and consistent moisture returns.  I tried starting lettuce a couple of times this month with limited success.  Lettuce seed will not sprout if soil temperatures are above 75F.  I will resow more lettuce and add spinach to the mix as temperatures are forecasted to be lower next week.  I'll transplant the seedlings into pots that I keep under the portable greenhouse for the winter to keep salads all winter long. 

A quick reminder, save the seeds from your best performers to plant next year!  You can replant seeds from any heirlooms or open pollinated plants.  Not only does it save you money, but it also gives you the plants that do the best under your garden and zone conditions.  Be sure to save seed only from disease free plants.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Monday, August 23, 2021

What's happening in the late August edible garden


Garden in the morning
Monday, August 23, 2021

August sees the full swing of the summer garden harvests.  Late sweet corn (plant corn in succession and different varieties to lengthen the harvest), summer squashes (like zucchini), peppers of all types (sweet to hot, hot), tomatoes, Mediterranean herbs, cucumbers, okra, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, beans, melons, figs, eggplant, honey, artichokes, raspberries, onion, and fennel are all in season in the Midwest.  

This year for warm season veggies, I am harvesting winter squash, tomatoes, peppers, greens, sprouting broccoli, Egyptian walking onions, eggplant, cucumbers, goji berry, green beans, okra, basil, melons, raspberries, strawberries, husk cherries, and herbs.  I planted my second round of zucchini and spaghetti squash plants last month and they are flowering.  For zucchini, it is a good idea to replant at the beginning of July to keep the harvest going.  Many do the same with tomatoes.  I started 8 tomato plants the first of July and they all look really healthy and are producing fruits.

If you are not growing summer veggies in your own garden, your local farmers market is a great place to pick up these seasonal veggies to either eat or preserve.  The best buy on any fruit or vegetable is when it is in season.  You can get even better deals on any produce that has a few blemishes which have no effect on the flavor.  If you are going to can, freeze or dry them, just be sure to remove any blemishes first.  Preservation garden

Our garden is incorporated into the flower garden mulch bed and in pots, so we have to be choiceful on what to grow.

In pots, we have had great luck with Egyptian walking onions (which can be harvested year round), peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, greens, fig, columnar apple, passion flower, sweet bay, mint, goji berry, raspberry, lettuce and celery. 
Spaghetti squash sitting on hummingbird vine
I have tried sweet and hot peppers in pots and the garden.  Overall, they seem to do the best in pots.  I am growing a few hot peppers-a pequin type Chiptle, cayenne, and Poblano.  I use the tiny peppers in my season salt I make, the cayenne for hot sauce, and Poblano for chili powder.

My sweet peppers have had a slow start this year.  I  have many peppers on my snacking pepper plant and just a couple on my Pimento pepper plant.  I planted all my peppers a bit late this year so they are doing well for how long they have been growing.

I had my first zucchini plant die from the vine borer.  Plant after June 1 to miss this insect or do a second planting in June or July.  

The first tomato plants put in the garden in May are slowing production.  I did a second planting of tomatoes in very large pots at the first of July.  There are many fruits on them and I have been harvesting these for a few weeks now.  If you don't have a very large pot or a limited space in the garden, look for compact varieties.   Choosing which tomatoes to grow  

Weekly watering for plants in the ground is sufficient with monthly fertilizing.  A pot with a water reservoir in the bottom is the best solution for lengthening the time between waterings when growing in pots.  Otherwise, plan on watering your pots every 2-3 days and fertilize every other week.  Summer garden tips

I grow all of our herbs in the ground except sweet bay.  Sweet bay is a tender perennial and will not survive winters outside so I keep it in a pot to bring in each fall.    I had one a couple of years ago that was supposed to be hardy in our zone and it didn’t make it.  I put my new ones in pots and they have overwintered well in our unheated garage for the last two winters.  Fall is a good time to plant perennial herbs, veggies, fruits and flowers.

Rosemary is also tender.  I have tried the several varieties that are supposed to be able to survive a Midwest winter and have yet to find one that will last past 2 seasons.  I have tried to also keep in a pot and bring in each winter.  Last year was the first time I had success with overwintering.  This is an herb I will buy each spring if overwintering does not work out, plant in the garden, then preserve for the winter by harvesting late in the season and drying.

Flowers are doing great right now in the garden.  They are covered in beneficial insects, butterflies and butterfly caterpillars.  The zinnias, marigolds, petunias, Hummingbird vine, and Cock's Comb are putting on a big show.  The zinnias, marigolds and Cock's Comb are also edible.  Flowers that are edible
Red zinnia
A quick reminder, save the seeds from your best performers that have been disease free to plant next year.  You can replant seeds from any heirlooms or open pollinated plants.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?  Not only does it save you money, but it also gives you the plants that do the best under your garden and zone conditions.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Schedule for planting the fall and winter edible garden

Kale in the winter garden
Saturday, August 21, 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 more on how to choose varieties to grow, starting seeds and transplanting, see this post.  Time to plant for fall and winter harvests!

Here is a schedule of what to plant by month in a Midwest garden.
Beets, carrots, Asian greens (pak choi, tat-soi), cilantro, collard greens, endive, escarole, frisee, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, mustard, onions, parsnips, scallions, and Swiss chard.  Use transplants for broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage.

The rest of the greens (arugula, corn salad, lettuce, miner’s lettuce, spinach, mustard, endive), kohlrabi, onions, snap peas, scallions, cabbage plants, radishes, and turnips.  Peas and Fava beans can be planted in August for spring harvests in Zone 6 or higher.  

Plant more greens, carrots, and radishes.  September is also a great month for starting perennial veggies, fruits, and herbs as well as flowers, trees and shrubs.  Midwest Perennial Vegetable Garden
Greens in a portable greenhouse
The month to plant garlic for next year’s harvest and over-wintering onions.  Order your favorites early as many sell out quick.  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

If you don’t want to start seeds, some big box stores and local nurseries have begun to have fall planting veggies.   If none in your area do, there are many mail order seed companies that carry fall bedding plants.  Late August, early September is the best time to get transplants into the garden for fall and winter harvests.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Saving seeds

Seeds from heirloom tomato bought in store
Sunday, August 15, 2021

Saving seeds has been the foundation of farming since it began thousands of years ago.  Seed saving is easy and saves you money.  Always save the seed from the best vegetable you grew! Or the tastiest you buy at the farmers market or store.  

Pick the fruit or plant that has the characteristics you want to grow next year.  The one that was the biggest or had the best taste or produced the most or produced the longest or gave you harvests the earliest or was the most drought or pest resistant.  Whatever characteristic that you want to have in your garden next year is the plant's seeds you want to save from this year. 
Lettuce flower buds
One caveat, you cannot get true to parent plants from hybrids.  If they grow, they will often be totally different than the parent or could get weaker with each generation.  You need “open pollinated” or heirloom vegetables for the seed to for sure produce a baby like the parent.  You can always save seed from hybrids to try as an experiment, but don't be surprised if it is very different from the parent plant.
What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

It doesn't cost a thing to save seeds from store bought veggies or fruits you like and you can end up with some great plants for your garden!  To be sure that the seeds you save will come back true to the parent, heirloom is a sure bet.  One of my favorite paste tomatoes is one I saved the seed from a tomato bought from the store.
For garlic, you save the best, biggest cloves.  You divide up the garlic head into individual cloves and plant them in the fall when it cools off.  Typically, sometime in October or November.  Most store bought garlic has been treated to prevent them from sprouting so you may or may not have luck using the ones from the grocery store.  Organic garlic is not treated.  Your farmers market is also a great place to get garlic well suited for your area.  October is prime time to plant garlic
In our garden, seeds can be saved from tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, broccoli, cilantro, dill, celery, borage, salad burnet, garlic, okra, Egyptian walking onions (bulblets), basil.  I have many zinnia, amaranth, chervil, garlic chives, marigold and basil "volunteers" in the garden every year from seeds dropped by the plant last fall.
Try self-seeding veggies and flowers

Do not save seeds from any diseased plant as the disease can be in the seed itself and passed to the new plant.  You wouldn't want to save seed from a plant that is susceptible to disease any way.  You want to save seeds from plants that thrive in your garden conditions. 

Lettuce flower seeds
For peppers, squash and tomatoes, just scoop out the seeds, lay them on a paper towel on a plate and let them dry completely.  Some suggest for tomato seed to put them in water and let them ferment a bit.  The ones that sink are the ones you want to keep for planting, not the ones that float.  After drying, I put in plastic baggies and keep in the frig to prolong seed life.  Don't forget to label the variety and date saved.
Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow ...
Growing zucchini and summer squash
Warm joys of winter squash

I have finally found/grown two kinds of sweet peppers that produce well.  I'll keep saving the seed and growing them out.  They are now a mainstay for my garden.  Peppers are for every taste and garden

Many greens, like chard, parsley, lettuce, broccoli, will shoot a large stalk up then flower.  This is called "bolting."  The easiest thing to do is to let the seeds form, cut the stalk, then put the stalks with seed heads attached into a paper bag.  Let them dry thoroughly, then shake the seeds out.  Some may require that you roll the seed heads between your fingers to free the seed.  

You can actually re-sow seeds from cool season crops like lettuce, cilantro, parsley, chard, chives and get a second fall/winter harvest!  I re-sow seeding about every other week starting the first of September.  In about two weeks, you will have sprouting greens.  When they have grown a bit more, I will separate and transplant into pots and the garden.  I like starting seeds in long narrow pots what are self-watering to be able to move easily to the best growing conditions.  Can also move under the portable greenhouse when it gets cold.
Ideal soil temperatures for starting your seeds
Outdoor seed starting tips
I put my dried seeds in labelled ziplock bags and store them in the crisper, include the seed type, descriptor and date.  A picture of the plant can be helpful to remember the plant the seed belongs to.  Fun gift to give, too.  The seeds last for years this way!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Preserve your extra peppers

Potted Ancho pepper plant
Saturday, August 14, 2021

For preserving the pepper harvest, you have some options-drying, freezing, pickling. I have also seen creative pepper jelly and preserve recipes for canning.  They sound really fun.  Water bath and pressure canning is much nicer to do when it has cooled off.  Peppers keep producing until a hard frost so there is lots of time left to experiment with preservation options!

Potted pepper plant
Peppers love summer warmth.  Surprisingly, when it gets too hot (in the 90’s) they can start to drop flowers and get sunburned.  So, don’t be surprised when they are not as perky as earlier in the season.  They will come back when the temperatures get out of the stratosphere.  During extreme heat waves, they appreciate some shade.
Sweet pepper plant in the garden
If you have your peppers in pots, you can just roll them into a spot that gives some relief until it cools off.  If they are in the ground, you can use a shade cloth, or a piece of picket fence or screen on the south or west side of the plant.  Or just wait for nature to take its course.  The heat won't cause them to die or any long term damage.  
I have a small, ancient type hot pepper that I overwinter each year called Chiltepin.  It is the oldest form of capsicum annum species and is very hot.  These tiny hot peppers, I just put on the counter to dry.    When completely dry, I will put in a jar.  I use these peppers in the grilling mix I make. 

Ancho/poblano pepper
Peppers dry easily.  The quickest way is to put in a dehydrator.  Just slice in half and pop in.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use your oven on its lowest setting.  You can also put on a screen in the sun or hang in a dry place.  The watchout for drying outside is the level of humidity.  In high moisture, they may spoil versus dry.
Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies

If you are a big fan of chili powder, grow Ancho or Pablano peppers.  Just dry them and ground them into powder to use all fall and winter. 

The other hot peppers I freeze whole to use in salsa throughout the year.  Quick, homemade salsa  I chop and freeze the pimentos to use in salad.  It is a key ingredient in the salad we love from the Pasta House restaurant.  For the recipe, see  Homemade salad dressing recipes with garden herbs   Typically, any food gets soft when thawed.  The Pimentos I have chopped and frozen retain their firmness even after thawing.

I also make hot sauce from the hot peppers.  It is super easy by slicing and placing in apple cider vinegar.  I typically use Cayenne peppers for hot sauce but any hot pepper that you like will do just fine.  When ready to start using, I puree them in a food processor and put back in the jar so I can use just like any hot sauce.

If you have a pepper plant that did great this year, there are a couple ways to make sure you have them in your garden next season.  You can save seeds from your favorite peppers for next year's garden.  Just dry the seeds and put them in a freezer bag in the frig.  Be sure to save the seeds from the best fruits.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver  

Peppers are perennials that you can bring in to the house or garage to overwinter.  It gives them a jump on next season.  This has worked well for my hot peppers and not so well for the sweet peppers I have tried to overwinter in the garage.

For tips on growing peppers, Peppers are for every taste and garden.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

August 2021 Edible Garden Planner

August edible garden
Sunday, August 1, 2021

With the dog days of summer, comes peak harvests of summer vegetables.  Sweet corn, tomatoes, summer squashes (like zucchini and yellow straight neck), peppers of all types (sweet and hot), Mediterranean herbs, cucumbers, okra, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, snap beans, melons, figs, eggplant, honey, artichokes, tomatillos are all in season this month.

A secret to maximizing your fruiting vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, snap beans, tomatillos, and summer squash is to harvest them continuously.  A plant’s driving force is to reproduce so by continuing to harvest, it causes the plant to put on more fruits.  There are many options to preserve the extras: Freezing the extras for winter, drying Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies, canning Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty, and pickling Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix.

Continue to fertilize with a natural, organic fertilizer every month for veggies in the ground and semiweekly for those in containers.  When fertilizing, scratch the fertilizer into the soil around the plant.  Nitrogen is the one component of fertilizing that is most used during the season.  If you leave the fertilizer on top of the ground, you will need twice as much as the nitrogen will off gas into the atmosphere if not covered.  Summer garden tips

Keeping consistent moisture to your plants is key.  Irregular watering causes tomatoes to crack and blossom end rot.  Make sure your garden is getting water weekly either from rain or watering, being sure to water deeply at the base of the plant and not on the leaves.  Many warm weather lovers like squash, tomatoes and cucumbers are susceptible to fungal diseases.  If your garden is susceptible to fungal diseases, you can continue using a natural preventative fungicide spray weekly to keep it at bay and boost your garden's production.
Summer peppers and tomatoes
If you had any lettuce from early planting, they will have bolted by now.  Take the flower heads off and save the seed.  You can shake the seeds into your self watering pots to get your fall lettuce growing.  I have pots at 3 different stages of growth going right now to keep us in fresh salads.  Lettuce will not sprout if the soil temperature is above 75 degrees F.  You can start your seeds indoors or in a cool, shady spot in the garden and then move to permanent spot. 

Planting for fall and winter vegetables
I know it sounds crazy, but now is the time to start planting for fall and winter harvests.  You need to plant early enough for your veggies to be full size when frosts hit.  Add 14 days to the days to maturity listed on the seed packet and back it up from your last frost date. 

Daylight hours determine the growth rate of plants.  Since the days are getting shorter, it will take longer for the plants to come to full maturity in the waning daylight hours of fall than the lengthening hours of spring.  By the first of November, all growth has come to a full standstill until the beginning of January.  

If you can't pick up transplants like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kale, and herbs at big box stores or a local nursery, you can get transplants from on line nurseries if you want to go that route.  Farmers markets may also have them.  

I have started doing more from seed.  I re-use 6 pack containers, put starting mix in them, water well, then add seeds, covering with soil per packet instructions.  I just leave them on our covered deck in a tray so that I can keep them moist.  Seeds sprout super fast this time of year.  The other advantage is that they are already acclimated to the summer temps so do well when transplanted when started outdoors.  

Fall planting guide for cool season crops
August is the month for the rest of the greens (arugula, corn salad, lettuce, miner’s lettuce, spinach, mustard, endive), kohlrabi, onions, scallions, cabbage plants, radishes, peas, fava beans and turnips.  

In September, plant more greens, carrots, and radishes.  For our Zone 7a garden, the first 2 weeks of September are prime for planting lettuce.  Try different cold hardy varieties planted at the same time.  Different varieties mature at different times, giving you an on-going harvest.  Grow lettuce through fall and winter

October is the month to plant garlic for next year’s harvest.  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

For more details on varieties to plant, Cold season crops for your edible garden

Caring for your new seeds and transplants
Like in the spring, newly sown seeds need moisture to sprout.  Keep seeds and transplants moist until they get their first real set of leaves and are well established.  Then water as needed.

Many crops can be harvested into December and beyond without any cover, depending on how cold fall is.  Some get sweeter with some frost, like carrots, chard, and lettuce.  With cover, you can harvest all the way through winter and get a jump start on spring!

Below is the portable greenhouse I use.  I can get 10 pots under its cover.  It could also be placed directly in the garden as well.  I use it to extend the fall and winter harvest for potted greens, broccoli and cabbage.   Prepare for hard freeze 

My portable greenhouse
A quick reminder, save the seeds from your best performers to plant next year!  You can replant seeds from any heirlooms or open pollinated plants.  Not only does it save you money, but it also gives you the plants that do the best under your garden and zone conditions.