Garden Journal – 2nd and 3rd Week of October

Garden Journal – 2nd and 3rd Week of October

“Old Man Winter” Pays an Early Visit

The “Killing” frost arrived two weeks early this year.  That put me into panic mode, harvesting the very last tomatoes, peppers and eggplants as well as fennel, early carrots, beets, radishes  and raspberries.  I also put up two low tunnels to protect some tender greens and the last planting of carrots.  Now that the first frost is past, it’s time to tackle the end of season “to do” list.

THE LOW TUNNEL THAT CONTAINS OUR LATE SEASON LEAF CROPS INCLUDING NEWLY PLANTED MACHE AND "RED kITTEN" SPINACH

THE LOW TUNNEL THAT CONTAINS OUR LATE SEASON LEAF CROPS INCLUDING NEWLY PLANTED MACHE AND “RED kITTEN” SPINACH

 

 

The End of Season “To Do” List

Take down the last tomato supports
Sanitize the tomato beds with copper fungicide
Add soil Amendments to last season’s legume beds
Plant the garlic, surround it with a fence and fill with leaves
Plant Mache in one of the low tunnels
Plant “Red Kitten” spinach in one of the low tunnels
Prune, fertilize and support Brussels Sprouts
Pull the zinnia plants and compost
Prune old raspberry canes.
Finish cleaning up the garden

Sanitizing the Tomato Beds

After taking down the last of the tomato trellises and rolling up the “agricultural cloth” carpets that I use to hold moisture and suppress weeds, I sprayed all of the beds where I grew tomatoes this season with copper fungicide.  Hopefully, this kills enough of the early blight spores so that they won’t migrate to adjoining plant beds.  I’ve been fighting blight since 2006 and try to give myself every advantage.  This end of season treatment is one of my rituals.

Time to Show the Brussels Sprouts Some Love

I’ve been ignoring the Brussels Sprouts a good bit until now.  Since the “killing frost”, I have begun pruning, fertilizing, supporting and harvesting my “Sprouts”.  We wait until after the first frost to harvest because the frost changes the chemistry in the plants enough to moderate the bitterness.  Brussels Sprouts have become one of our primary late fall crops in recent years.  We like to feature them at Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as the occasional weeknight meal.

THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS PATCH

THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS PATCH

I drove a heavy duty stake into the ground for each plant, tied each off in a couple of places, pulled off the lower leaves and harvested some Sprouts from the bottom of the plant.  In a week or so, I will cut the growing tip off the top of half the plants to encourage more Sprouts to plump up to harvest size in time for Thanksgiving dinner.  At Thanksgiving, I will top off the rest of the crop to encourage maximum harvest for Christmas dinner.  I love Brussels Sprouts because they extend the growing season.  There is something quite satisfying about trekking out to the Garden on a cold Winter’s day and returning with a bowl full of fresh Brussels Sprouts.  It makes the day a bit more special.

I also fertilized the plants with some Neptune’s Harvest 2-3-1 fertilizer.  I will try to get out there once a week to feed the plants until Thanksgiving.

Planting Mache and “Red Kitten” Spinach

Another one of my end of season rituals is to plant my mache seeds for harvest in early March.  For some reason, this veggie actually thrives in cold weather.  I densely seed a 4′ x 3′ rectangle in one bed that I cover with a low plastic tunnel for the Winter.  I will water it regularly until Thanksgiving and then leave it alone to do it’s thing over the long Winter.  It is such a welcome sight to pull up the side of the tunnel in early March and be greeted with a lush emerald carpet of Mache.  This strategy is an easy way to get an early start to the growing season ahead.  This will be my fifth year of planting Mache in October.

MACHE AS IT LOOKED IN EARLY APRIL

MACHE AS IT LOOKED IN EARLY APRIL

Last season, I planted some “Red Kitten” spinach to fill a void in my low tunnel.  I have to admit that I had low expectations.  What a surprise to find that the spinach had actually survived the worst winter in my lifetime.  Once the weather began to moderate toward the end of March, the spinach filled out quite nicely and we enjoyed about three weeks of daily harvests.  This is another highly recommended crop for any of you wishing to extend your growing season.  I purchased my seeds at “Johnny’s Selected Seeds.”.

RED KITTEN SPINACH IN THE GARDEN IN EARLY MARCH

RED KITTEN SPINACH IN THE GARDEN IN EARLY MARCH

Soil Amendments in the Legume Beds

Since about 1996, I have been practicing a crop management technique known as “the four crop rotation”.  One of the main tenets of this gardening approach is the addition of soil amendments in the legume (beans, peas) beds at the end of the growing season.   These include rock phosphate, green sand, ground limestone and some organic matter such as compost or a green manure such as “hairy vetch”.

The legumes set nitrogen in the soil during the growing season preparing the way for the nitrogen loving leaf crops the following season.  The rock phosphate requires about a year’s time in order to break down so that it can be absorbed by the fruit crops (tomatoes, peppers, cukes, melons, eggplants, etc) that will follow the leaf crops.  The green sand will break down in two years, just in time to feed the root crops that crave the potassium contained in the green sand.  If you’d like more information regarding the “four crop rotation” please go to the search bar on my home page and type in “The four crop rotation”.  There you find a post that I wrote in 2010 that explains things in detail.  In my opinion, this is the way to go for the home gardener.  Simple, easy to follow and it works.

THE GARDEN IN LATE FALL

THE GARDEN AS IT LOOKS IN LATE OCTOBER 2015

Winding Down

I’ve been working hard to tidy up the garden for winter and to tend the greatly reduced population of vegetables still standing.  Honestly, I am looking forward to the break.  Gardening is incredibly satisfying but lots of work.  It’s time for friends, family and football.  I will continue to blog through the Winter months, concentrating more on cooking, entertaining and planning next year’s garden.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

 

Garden Journal – 1st Week of October

Garden Journal – 1st Week of October

The gorgeous weather we enjoyed in September has spilled over into the first week of October.   The rock-n-roll and jazz-funk of Summer has been replaced  with more sedate classical music for company as I harvest late season tomatoes, peppers, fennel, kale, beets, carrots and raspberries.  Ah, the raspberries.  This is the first full year of production for our Fall bearing “Heritage” raspberries.  What a pleasant surprise; tasty and prolific.  One twenty five foot bed has yielded somewhere in the neighborhood of two gallons of berries.  We are about to process our third batch of jam.  We have frozen raspberry sauce and three quart containers of berries for later use.  We are eating fresh berries daily on yogurt, over chocolate ice cream, in raspberry swirl brownies, etc.  Life is good.

THE HARVEST BASKET IN THE FIRST WEEK OF OCTOBER

THE HARVEST BASKET IN THE FIRST WEEK OF OCTOBER

 

Tomato Season Winds Down

I have been gradually reducing the tomato plant population over the last couple of weeks, harvesting both ripe and green tomatoes and pulling plants.  Our kitchen windows are lined with fruit in various stages of ripeness; trophies of another successful season.  It won’t be long before those tomatoes are replaced with Christmas decorations.

A WINDOW DECORATED WITH RIPENING TOMATOES

A WINDOW DECORATED WITH RIPENING TOMATOES

A few Words About Kale

Over the Summer months we don’t tend to eat much kale.  We use it mostly in  juice making and treats for the chickens.  Now that fall is here, we will begin using it in soups and stews.  Right now, we have four plants in the garden;  two Russian Kale and two Tuscan or Dinosaur Kale.  These plants have been in the ground since early May.  They’re not pretty but still producing.

A BIG UGLY TUSCAN KALE PLANT

A BIG UGLY TUSCAN KALE PLANT

A Soup Comes Together

Chicken Soup with Beans and Kale

I’ve been retired now for about a year and a half and since then have been gradually taking on more of the cooking duties.  One of my favorite cooking projects is soup.  As with most of my soups, this one started with a roasted chicken.  Last Sunday, I prepared a “Beer Can” chicken in our Weber kettle grill using a spice rub recipe from “Weber’s Big Book of Grilling“.  After our meal, I removed the remaining meat from the carcass and used the bones to make stock.

GREG'S GARDEN PARTY CHICKEN SOUP WITH BEANS AND KALE

A NICE HOT BOWL OF GREG’S CHICKEN SOUP WITH BEANS AND KALE

In addition, I had some leftover “Vermont Cranberry” beans I had slow cookedfor chili.  Stock, chicken meat, beans;  time to make some soup.  To me, classic soup starts with the trinity of onion, celery and carrots.  I finely chopped one large onion, two stalks of celery and two large carrots; then sauteed them in olive oil.  I added six cups of stock, two cups of chicken, two cups of cooked “Cranberry beans”,  four “Tuscan Kale” leaves shredded, a tablespoon of fresh thyme, a two cup bag of chopped plum tomatoes from the freezer and salt and pepper to taste.  Everything except the chicken and celery came from the garden, which made this an act of love. The smokiness of the chicken stock and the texture of the beans helped to make this soup one to remember.  Catherine loved it.

All the best,

Greg

 

 

 

Garden Journal – 4th Week of September

Garden Journal – 4th Week of September

Weeding the Carrot Patch

The carrots that I planted at the end of July in the planting bed where the garlic had grown are doing well, but were in need of some TLC.  Weeding the bed was overdue.  After twenty minutes of weeding, I can report that the carrot patch is “lookin’ good”.  We will begin thinning/harvesting baby carrots soon, so I really wanted to make sure that the crop didn’t have to compete with the weed population for nutrients.

CARROTS PLANTED IN LATE JULY

THE CARROT PATCH WEEDED AND ALMOST READY FOR THINNING/HARVESTING BABY CARROTS

Harvesting Butternut Squash

This week, I noticed that our one squash plant was beginning to show signs of dying back and the fruit had turned color from cream to beige.  Time to harvest.  I was amazed that there were 15 fruit on the one vine.  Believe me when I tell you that the squash plant was neglected all Summer except for watering and occasional applications of fish fertilizer.  The variety that I grow is called METRO PMRwhich I source from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Can’t say enough about Metro;  strong disease resistance, great production, minimal effort.

METRO PMR SQUASH HARVESTED FROM ONE PLANT

METRO PMR SQUASH HARVESTED FROM ONE PLANT

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