Saturday, October 29, 2022

Reflecting back on the 2022 edible garden, planning for the 2023 garden

Saturday, October 27, 2022

October is the ideal time to think back over the spring and summer gardening season and capture what went well, what didn't and what you want to do for your garden next year while the garden season is fresh in my mind.  I like to capture what varieties did well, what I planted too much or too little of, including the specific names before I forget.  I am forever trying to make the garden more productive and enjoyable.  I also like to make notes of what I want to learn more about over the winter.   

Here are my reflections on this year's garden............

In general, the garden did well in the spring, was very slow to start producing summer veggies, and my fall and winter seed starting was not stellar.  We actually had a real spring for the third year in a row.  Usually, the season changes from winter to summer like a flick of a switch.  This year, we had a couple of months of actual cool temperatures before the 80's kicked in making it another banner greens season.  

This year, I was again gardening exclusively in the back ornamental bed because we were still working on the addition to our house.  This garden is in mostly shade with a hickory tree next to it so production of sun loving crops are greatly reduced.  I found out last winter that hickory trees are like walnut trees and likely the reason that the summer crops didn't do well in the garden bed next to it.  I planted the summer lovers in large pots this year and the tomatoes in a new bed by the addition.  

There were high points and not so great turn outs for the season.  Just your typical edible garden season!  

The good
  The cultivated dandelions, figs, raspberries, bay laurel, lettuce, sorrel, Egyptian walking onions, basil, eggplant, Ancho pepper, cayenne pepper, sweet pepper, cucumber, celery and Trombetta squash did well.   Greens were the standouts in the spring and Red Malabar spinach and Trombetta squash in the summer.  

I grew Red Malabar, Chinese Multicolor Spinach amaranth and African Nunum basil last year and they did very well.  This year, I didn't need to plant any seeds as volunteers were everywhere, in many pots and the garden bed.  The other re-seeding stand out was red romaine lettuce in late summer.  I am still transplanting them as they grow into covered pots for winter salads.

There were 2 new heat tolerant, sweet tasting mustards that did well in the garden that I will do again next year, Chinese Giant Leaf mustard and Komatsuma Tendergreen mustard.  The giant leaf mustard has gone to seed so I am hoping for spring volunteers.  The tendergreen has not gone to seed so I will put it under the portable greenhouse to see how it does through the winter for harvesting. 

I only planted 2 eggplants this year in a large pot and that was enough for fresh eating.  I would have needed another 1 if I wanted to put away baba ghanoush for the winter, but I still have some left from last year.  

I had one Trombetta summer squash planted in the garden bed and that was plenty for fresh eating plus having many winter squash in the cellar.  Its vines went both directions 20 feet.  It requires a lot of space.  The vines were disease free again this season.  I'll continue to grow them for their versatility, productivity and disease resistance.   

 I planted my 2 Bush Slicer cucumber vines in a pot this year.  I had plenty of fruits for fresh eating and 8 quarts of pickles.  There were a few volunteers that appeared, too.  These gave me enough to put up 10 pints of dill relish.  For cucumbers, I'll grow them in the ground if there is room or in a pot since they do well in either.  

The Ancho pepper plants, the sweet pepper plant from saved seed and the cayenne pepper plant I overwintered inside all did fairly well in pots.  The Ancho and sweet peppers were both slow to fruit, but were filled with fruits.  I was able to make a pint of chili powder from the Anchos to use for cooking over the winter and many pints of frozen peppers to use in salsa for game days.  The chili powder was fairly mild again this year.  Likely the effect of being in a shadier, cooler spot than years past.

I grew early Urizun Japanese winged beans in a pot this year and they did pretty well.  I started harvesting beans in mid August.  They have a beautiful blue flower.  They are good eating fresh or cooked.  I'll grow them again next year.

My raspberry plant did well.  It's an ever bearer and it gave berries through summer and fall.  The fig tree is loaded.  They started ripening in late August and there are still fruits ripening.

The okay
I tried growing Heavy Hitter okra, green beans, and cucumbers in pots this year.  I will grow okra and green beans in the garden bed in the future.  They just weren't very productive in pots. 

The green beans in a pot did okay.  I went with Blauhilde purple pole beans that are resistant to fungal disease.  I didn't see any disease during the season.  I had enough to put up a few quarts of frozen beans.

The Christmas Speckles lima beans have several pods on them.  As soon as they turn brown, I'll pick them.

I interplanted snow peas, Oregon Sugar Pod II, Little Purple Snowpea, Avalanche, in the pots with the eggplant and peppers.  Avalanche never sprouted.  The other two and did decent.  I won't try Avalanche next year, but could the other two or the variety I have had grown in the past.    

The bad
The broccoli, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes did not do well this year.  I didn't do a good job of keeping the garden deer and rabbit deterrents refreshed over the summer so they kept getting ate by critters.  

I planted all our tomatoes in a new bed, 30' away from the hickory tree.  It is on the north side of the house, but gets good sun.  My husband tried his hand at growing them.  He likes to water every couple of days and uses fertilizer at least weekly.  Unfortunately, our tomatoes were not very productive.  Over half of the plants died and the rest didn't look bushy.  The varieties we planted were Chocolate Pear, Big Boy, Red Pear paste, Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, and yellow storage.  We had enough for fresh eating and were able to put away several quarts in the freezer, but not enough to can sauce.  That's okay, though, because I have many jars of sauce left from last year.

The sprouting broccoli came back again this year.  It grows robustly and the greens taste great in salads.  The only drawback to it is the worms that come starting in July.  I should cut them off at the first of July and start them again in the fall to miss the worms, but I don't the heart to so I just spray with BT, a natural pesticide for worms and caterpillars.  Radish plants are supposed to repel cabbage moths so I'll try those next year with the volunteer sprouting broccoli.

I didn't have the best luck in starting lettuce and spinach in pots this summer and fall.  Luckily, I had enough red romaine and oak leaf re-seed themselves that I can fill the pots for winter harvesting.

Next year's garden
We are hoping to finish our landscaping before next summer.  We will be putting our mixed edible and ornamental garden bed back on the south and west sides of the house which gets much better sun and is well away from any hickory trees!  We saved the garden topsoil so we could put the organic rich soil back so we are not starting from zero.  Fingers crossed!

Here is my garden plan for next year:
Blauhilde pole snap beans and Christmas speckles lima beans around one trellis
Urizun Japanese winged bean (either in a pot or the garden bed)
Red Burgundy okra (in the garden bed)
5 tomato plants-large paste (Italian Red Pear), slicers(Cherokee Purple and an orange/yellow), a small fruit (Chocolate Pear) and a storage tomato (Yellow Keeper or other)
2 eggplant-Casper or Rotanda Bianca, Rosa, Shiromaru, or Amadeo (in pot)
1 bush cucumber (in garden bed or pot)
1 summer squash-Trombetta since it is resistant to vine borer, disease and squash bugs
1 winter squash-Spaghetti
Perennial onions-potato onion type
Potatoes in the potato boxes
Snow peas in pots with peppers and eggplants
Dragon Tail radish in pot by sprouting broccoli
Hilton Chinese cabbage (2-1 green and 1 yellow)
New Zealand and Malabar spinach in pot (1 each)
Lettuce (Royal Oakleaf, Grand Rapids, Butter King, Bronze Beauty, Celtic, Forellenschluss, Giant Blue Feather) and spinach in pots
Greens that stay sweet in summer-Orach, Amaranth, Chard-Perpetual Spinach and Fordhook, Chinese Multicolor Spinach, Purple Stardust Iceplant, Komatsuna, Giant Leaf mustard
Herbs-Dill, Basil (Nunum, Genovese, Cardinal), Cilantro, Lion's Ear, Rosemary, Parsley, Sage
Sweet and hot peppers-check at end of winter to see what I need
No cantaloupe, watermelon, beets, heading cabbage or broccoli
Flowers-zinnias, alyssum, marigolds, Cock's Comb, peach hollyhocks, Pride of Madeira, blue morning glory, Love Lies Bleeding

I have to be stern with myself about what I will not plant.  In the past 2 years, I planted much less than usual and had plenty for fresh eating and preserving.  My eyes are always bigger than my space or need!

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Quick tip-make homemade pickle relish

Freshly canned pickle relish
Sunday, October 23, 2022

I still have a few cucumbers on the counter.  I have been surprised by how long cucumbers will last outside of the refrigerator.  I found a new way to preserve them that is fairly quick and easy with no pressure canner needed-just make some pickle relish!

I have been making an egg salad with either tuna or salmon this summer to use the eggs from our hens.  I liked the crunch from relish.  After I used up what I had in the pantry, I decided to see how hard it was to make relish.  The sweet pickle relish was a multi-day effort.  Pickled relish on the other hand was very similar to making pickles which is pretty quick and easy.

The recipe I found on line recommended using a food processor, carefully, to get the cucumbers into relish sized bits.  I tried hard to minimize the processing but ended up with big hunks and close to mush.  The second time around, I went the old-fashioned route and used a knife to dice the cucumbers.

How to make pickle relish
  1.  Get your canning jars, lids and rings.  I chose the pint size since one pint of relish lasts me a few weeks.  You can go smaller or larger, depending on how quickly you will use the relish.  I use Tattler (BPA free plastic lid) or glass lids.  The vinegar in the relish eats at metal lids.  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty

2.  To let the pickled relish taste shine through, the recipe calls for white vinegar.  You can use apple cider vinegar.  Any neutral tasting vinegar will work as long as it is at lease 5% strength.  Make your own apple cider vinegar

3.  Here are the ingredients.  Feel free to adjust the spices to your taste.
8 pounds of cucumbers (peeled or with skin) finely diced
1/2 cup pickling or canning salt (finely ground salt with no additives)
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 tablespoons dill seed
1 tablespoon mustard seed
4 bay leaves
4 cups white vinegar (can use any vinegar with 5% strength or higher)

4.  Wash, peel and dice your cucumbers, place in large bowl, add salt and turmeric, cover with water  and let mix soak for 2-3 hours.  Drain in colander or fine meshed sieve and rinse well.

5.  Add cucumbers, chopped onions, seasonings and vinegar to large stock pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

6.  Remove bay leaves and fill hot pint jar with mixture, leaving 1/2" head space, making sure all bubbles are removed.  Screw on hot lid and place in pressure cooker or pot large enough that pint jars are covered with at least 1" of water.

7.  Bring canner/large stock pot to a boil, process for 15 minutes.  Wait 5 minutes before removing.

8.  Remove jars straight up from pot; do not tilt.  Allow jars to fully cool for a full 24 hours.

9.  Gently remove ring and test seal by lifting jar by seal, while supporting jar with other hand.  If seal holds, relish can safely be stored in the pantry.  If seal does not hold, relish should be placed in the refrigerator.

If you like a "warmer" spice mix, substitute the mustard seed and 4 bay leaves is 2 cloves, 1 teaspoon of dry garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of caraway seeds, 1/4 teaspoon of peppercorns, 1 bay leave and 1 cardamon seed pod.  Put the cloves, caraway seeds, peppercorns and seed pod in a muslim bag to make them easy to remove after cooking along with the bay leave.

For spices, get creative with what you enjoy!  

The vinegar and processing per the instructions are critical for food safety.  The acidity must be high enough to use the boiling water method.  For low acid foods, pressure canning is required for food safety.  For more detailed instructions on canning, Sites & resources for canning.  For options on the jars, see my blog Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty

Saturday, October 22, 2022

What's happening in the late October edible garden

Lavender in late fall
Saturday, October 22, 2022

Well, we had record cold through the Midwest, setting record low temps across the country for this time of year.  The summer veggies are done until next spring.  Does that mean the end of the kitchen garden?  Nope.  There is still much in the garden to enjoy!

The cold season crops have survived the first twenties of the year.  Kale, lettuce, onions, mustards, chard, carrots and herbs are nice and green.  All cold season crops get sweeter when the mercury dips.  Cold season crops for your edible garden

Now is a fun time of year to experiment in the kitchen with all the fresh herbs that are still available.  Parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, bay, lavender, chives are all hardy herbs into January.  I have had many Christmas dinners with herbs fresh from the garden.

You can also bring tender perennials like rosemary and bay into the garage or house for the winter.  Other veggies I bring in are my hot pepper plants, goji berry, moringa tree and citrus trees.  I have kept them in our unheated, insulated garage with a 4' grow light over them.  We have an unfinished basement now so that is where most will go under grow lights while others will sit in front of a sunny window in the house.

You can also take a look at all the tomatoes you have put up in freezer bags.  If you have more than you know you need, this is the perfect time of year to do some water bath canning.  I go through and any left over from last year, I make into sauce.  Time to make homemade tomato sauce! 

If you haven't already, now is a good time to go through your summer garlic harvest, choosing the biggest cloves from the biggest bulbs to plant and preserving the rest.  I peel garlic while I watch TV.  I like to pop the extra cloves in vinegar to preserve them.  Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!   Time to plant garlic!

As even more freezing weather comes our way, you can extend the season for lettuce and greens through the winter by using a portable green house or making your own hoop house.  I have a portable green house I put over my pots with edibles.  I will still have lettuce and salad fixings until spring.  Extend the season with protection for plants

The biggest killer of veggies in greenhouses?  Getting too hot!  Make sure you crack open your green house when the temps get above freezing and the sun is shining.  

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Prep for hard freeze in the edible garden

Fall sunrise
Sunday, October 15, 2022

Well, a hard freeze is forecasted for our area in a couple of days, weeks earlier than normal.  When a hard freeze is in the forecast, it is time to pick the last of the summer loving tomatoes, peppers and eggplants and clean the plants from the garden, give your cold crops a coat to protect through the winter, and bring in your frost sensitive tropicals.

After you remove all the fruits from your summer veggies, you can compost the plants that were disease free, but dispose of any diseased plants in the garbage or burn them; do not leave in the garden.  Only high sustained temperatures will destroy the spores and it is not worth the risk of spreading disease into next year’s garden through your homemade compost.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors

Peppers are one summer loving veggie that has done well bringing indoors for the winter.  They need a sunny area or grow light indoors.  They will continue to flower and fruit for weeks.  Their flowers and red fruits are pretty, too.  Come spring, they will have a one to two month head start on the season.

It is time to put a coat on your potted plants left outdoors for fall and winter harvests.  The best place to locate your plants and greenhouse is close to a wall and on the south side of the house in full sun.  Moving plants up against a wall with southern exposure gives your plants conditions a zone warmer.  Extend the season with protection for plants

I will put my portable greenhouse covers over my pots and Earthoxes that contain kale, celery, cultivated dandelions, spinach, lettuce, sorrel, sprouting broccoli, chard, mustard greens and arugula.  I also put inside the greenhouse along the outside edge, 5 one gallon jugs filled with water and spray painted black.  These will help moderate the temperature inside the greenhouse during the freezing temperatures of winter.
Portable greenhouse covering pots
The biggest risk with a greenhouse?  Overheating!  The sun’s rays are quite hot on a cloudless day.  I open the flaps on the side of my greenhouse when it is sunny and in the 30’s.  I will open the front door flap when it gets into the 40’s.   In the 50’s, the cold crops really don’t need any protection.

The crops that do well in early spring are the ones that do well over the winter in a greenhouse.  Winter edible garden.  

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Time to plant garlic!

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Garlic has been around for thousands of years and is rich in lore.  It has been reputed to repel vampires, clear the blood, cure baldness, aid digestion over the ages.  It originated in Asia, was cultivated in Egypt and has been a Mediterranean staple for centuries.

Today’s studies have shown garlic is 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 straight into my mulched flower beds and had great luck.  Their flower in spring is quite striking as well.

There is soft and hard necked garlic.  For storing, soft neck garlic is the ticket.  Soft neck garlic can store for months.  It's stems can be braided, too.  It is also the strongest flavored.  Hard necked varieties can be milder, have larger cloves, is easier to peel, and more cold hardy.  Garlic connoisseurs say hard neck varieties have rich and complex flavors.

If your winter weather is too mild, hard neck varieties will make small heads.  If you live where zoysia and bermuda grass thrive, soft neck garlic is the best choice.  You can always buy a sampler pack and try different types to see which grow best in your garden conditions.  

A good bet for finding which grow best in your area is to visit farmers markets and see what varieties are offered locally.  Locally grown garlic can also be used for planting in your own garden. 

I gravitate toward hard neck garlic for our Zone 7 garden because it is so much easier to peel than the soft neck garlic I have tried.  Elephant garlic is also a staple in my garden because the cloves are huge!  Elephant garlic is actually in the leek family but has a strong garlic flavor.  I usually try a new garlic variety advertised to give huge cloves and easy to peel about every other year.  I always save my best cloves from the summer to plant in the fall.

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 in spring.  The stems resemble onion greens.  The hard neck type garlic has a flower, or scape, with a cute little curl in it.  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.
Hardneck garlic scapes
You can tell the difference in the two by looking at the flowers.  Leeks and soft neck garlic have a onion type flower (below) while hard neck garlic has a curly scape flower (above).
Elephant garlic flower
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 (that is the flat end, not the pointy end), 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 sprouting in winter
Garlic is ready to harvest then the tops begin to die off in the early to mid summer.  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.

Store bought conventional 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 and if you like the taste.  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.

If your stored 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.  This is my go-to preservation method.  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!  
Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!

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!

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Frost checklist for the edible garden

Fall frost
Sunday, October 9, 2022

With frost in the air, summer loving veggies are coming to the end of their season.  Veggies like tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, basil, and peppers do not like cold weather.  It is time to harvest the last of the summer veggies and get the cold crops the protection they need to continue producing through fall and winter.

Basil turns black when bitten with frost.  Harvest all remaining basil when they call for low temperatures of 36 or below to be on the safe side.  I make lots of pesto and freeze.  Makes for a super quick and tasty meal any time.  I have a couple basil volunteers in pots.  I'll bring those inside for the winter and put in a sunny location.  You can also take cuttings from a plant, put in water to get the roots growing and put in a pot for the winter.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

I planted Trombetta zucchini again this year because I didn't have any disease or pest issues with it last year.  It is still going strong.  For this type, you can harvest while the skin is still green and fruits are smaller for zucchini or let them grow huge and use them as winter squash.  I picked some when they were green 2 months ago and put them on my kitchen counter.  They are a golden color now and show no signs of going bad.  Great to know that these squash are excellent for storage as well as fresh eating!.  You do need alot of space for these.  My one plant has spread 15 feet in each direction in the garden bed with multiple vines reaching 5' wide.  They are very productive and rambling!  Definitely my new go-to summer/winter squash.  Growing zucchini and summer squash

Cucumbers are still producing in my garden.  Cucumber info and tips for growing  If yours is still producting, you can harvest what is on the vine and put in the fridge to use for salads or smoothies for fresh eating or make pickles or relish.  I canned both this year.  Grow your own smoothie and juice garden  Quick tip-make homemade pickles with extra cucumbers 

The peppers are still producing.  They handle cooler weather better than the rest of the summer veggies.  I’ll wait until it is going to get below 28 before I strip off all the peppers still on the plant.  See Peppers are for every taste and garden and  Preserving peppers  for growing and preserving info.  For my favorite hot pepper plants, I usually bring indoors to overwinter.  They will continue to flower and fruit for weeks in the unheated garage and have a jump on production in the spring.  Peppers, tomatoes and eggplant are all tropical perennials.  This year, I am not bringing any of them indoors except my Chipetin ancient and Cayenne pepper as I have plenty of the others in the freezer or made into chili powder.  I've had the Chipetin pepper plant for 6 years now.

I'll follow the same approach for tomatoes.  When it is going to get below 32, I’ll take off all tomatoes left on the vine.  The best way to get them to ripen is to wrap each individually in newspaper and store in a dark location.  They will slowly ripen.  Won’t be as tasty as off the vine, but better than what you can get in the store.  Last year, I had ripe tomatoes through February.  Or you can do fried green tomatoes A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!  You can bring in your favorite tomato plants to an unheated garage, too, to see if they will overwinter.  I haven't tried overwintering tomato plants.

I am still getting a few tomatoes.  I typically wait until it is nice and chilly to start canning.  I'll take all of last year's frozen tomatoes and make into sauce for the winter.  I like waiting until it is cooler before canning!  This year, I have plenty of sauce left from last year which is a good thing because our tomato harvest wasn't stellar.  Should have enough frozen and canned to last until next season.  Preserving the tomato harvest

I had only one eggplant this year that produced well this year.  It was my fault.  I let the morning glory plants run wild and they shaded out my other eggplant pot.  Typically, we have great luck growing our eggplant in pots.  Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden  I really only need one pot of eggplant for what we eat fresh.  I have not found blanching and freezing preserves the taste of eggplant.  The best way I have found to preserve them is to make a dip called baba ghanoush and freeze it.

I'll harvest the snap pole beans when it is calling for a freeze.  I just snap them and put in freezer bags for preserving.  The lima beans I'll wait until the pods turn brown before removing them from the vines.

Now is also a great time to divide any perennials you have, whether they be herbs, edibles or ornamentals.  This will give them all fall and winter to put down strong roots.  Perennial greens are always the first up in the spring.  Midwest Perennial Vegetable Garden

It is still not too late to transplant fall crops like cold hardy types of lettuce, cabbage, chard, pak choi, broccoli, kale, parsley, garlic, onions or perennial herbs.  I have my last round of greens growing inside.  As soon as they get their first true leaves, I will harden off on the patio and then transplant to pots.

Now is the time to order your mini greenhouse to extend the season if you don't already have one.  I'll put mine out over the greens in my Earthboxes and other pots to keep the lettuce and greens going all winter when they are calling for a hard freeze.  Preparing for a hard freeze

Portable greenhouse for winter greens

Saturday, October 8, 2022

A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Mr. Frost is a knockin’!

Tomatoes will survive a light frost, but not a freeze.  If you still have green tomatoes on the vine, make sure you pull them before the first killing frost.  You shouldn’t harvest tomatoes from a dead vine.

There are a few techniques you can use to prolong your tomato harvest: 
*You can cover your plants with a sheet when calling for frost and removing when it warms in the morning.  
*You can keep them going even longer if you put a portable greenhouse over them.  Be careful to vent your portable greenhouse very well when it is in the 50’s or warmer and sunny.  It will be a scorcher inside and you’ll have roasted tomatoes.  
*You can bring any potted tomatoes indoors and they will continue to produce in a sunny spot.

There are several things you can do with your green tomatoes: 
*You can make green tomato relish.  I just love all the fun flavor combo’s I see folks coming up with, from spicy habanero to sweet sorghum.  Your imagination is the only limit!  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty
*You can wrap them individually in newspaper and store them some place dark to ripen.  I have had tomatoes keep until February.
*Or, you can go all out and have fried green tomatoes!

I remember my Granny making them each year.  I don’t have her recipe, but you can use a spicy fish breading, like Andy’s Cajun.  You simply slice your tomato, dip in the breading, fry in oil, and enjoy!

Even if you have a small space, you can grow tomatoes in a small garden spot or in a pot.  There are lots of varieties out there developed to stay compact.  Compact tomatoes for small spaces and pots

Monday, October 3, 2022

How to choose garlic to grow

Freshly dug garlic
Monday, October 3, 2022

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, 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 in our Zone 7 garden 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 plant garlic straight into my mulched flower beds and have great luck.  Their flower in spring is quite striking as well.

So how do you choose the type to grow in your garden?  I say there are 3 types of garlic-hard neck, soft neck and Elephant garlic.  Elephant garlic is actually in the leek family but it tastes like garlic and I use it just like garlic in the kitchen.

For storing in the cellar, soft neck garlic has the longest shelf life.  The easiest to peel are the hard neck varieties because they have the largest cloves with the thickest skin making them the easiest to "peel".  Quick tip-”peeling” garlic   Hard neck is also the most cold hardy.  The ones that give you the most harvest for space in the garden is Elephant garlic.  I preserve my garlic by pickling it so I go for hard neck and Elephant garlic.  Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!  
Pickled garlic
There are different levels of hotness in garlic varieties.  Read the descriptions to decide which ones you would enjoy.  I also like to look at where they originated from and get ones that have a similar climate as mine.

Another great place to check for the types that will thrive in your garden is ask local farmers which ones they have found do well.  

I have tried lots of different varieties of garlic.  I now grow the ones I have saved from this year's harvest.  I'll also try ones that are advertised to produce really well.  Just have to always try new things!

If you want big, full cloves next summer, you have to plant in the fall.  The clove puts out its roots and keeps growing over the winter so when spring arrives, the bulb is ready to get to growing!
Garlic in early spring
Garlic will grow practically anywhere, but prefers well fertilized loose soil to get the biggest.  Be sure to save your biggest cloves from your summer harvest to replant next fall.  Even though garlic "seed" is pricey, you really only have to buy them once and then you can just replant year after year.

You can use cloves from the grocery store, but they may be from climates that will not thrive in your garden.  It doesn't hurt to try, though.  Be sure to buy organic.  Conventional is treated so they won't sprout in the store.

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.

Plant the cloves root side down, 1-2" deep and 4-6" apart.  Add compost and fertilizer when planting.  Don't be surprised to see green sprouts pop up in early winter.  This is normal.