Friday, October 25, 2013


We had our first frost this morning, so it's time to say a sad farewell to the summer growing season! The next few weeks will be all about cleaning up in the garden and spreading compost and mulch, planting garlic and  preparing things for next spring. Unfortunately, accompanying that first frost is my first head cold of the season too, so my energy level is pretty sluggish at the moment. No matter, the freezers are full and the jars of tomatoes, applesauce and sauerkraut are gleaming, and there's still fresh harvest to be had from the garden, including these roots:
 I have three beds of carrots still growing which are quite small, but tasty. Some local voles have discovered them and I find some are missing daily, but they've left a few for us. The radishes are still healthy and producing some bulbs which are less mild than the spring ones, but still enjoyable to crunch in a salad. And there are plenty of parsnips! This year is the first time I've had success with them, which makes me extremely happy. Tonight I decided to make a great recipe with the parsnips and carrots that a friend gave me a few years ago. It's a medley of the two root vegetables roasted with a bit of butter, water and dill and really tastes delicious for all its simplicity!
 I play around with the quantities to suit what I have on hand, but the basic recipe calls for 1 and a half cups each of julienned carrots and parsnips, a tablespoon of water, two tablespoons of butter, dillweed (I use a tablespoon of fresh or a teaspoon of dried) and half a teaspoon of salt. Put it all in a covered casserole and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Done!
This goes well with any main course and it seriously highlights the great flavor of the roots, especially the parsnips. More frost is coming tonight by all reports and this recipe suits the chilly evenings we're getting now when comfort food is what a body needs!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Harvest Monday

Each Monday Daphne's Dandelions hosts Harvest Monday where gardeners link posts about their latest harvests. It's a great way to be inspired wherever you grow and in whatever season you are!
This is a true autumn week around here. The trees are really beautiful and the days are cool and crisp but quite dry. This morning we had a temperature of 35F, so no frost, but the closest brush with it yet.
 Above are the very last of the tomatoes, save a few Matt's Wild Cherry that always linger on till frost. The brown dirty looking pods are dried Scarlet Runner Beans that have a very pretty purple bean inside. The last of the trombocino were picked, as well as a few Brussels Sprouts and a bowl of Gold Marie Vining beans.
 In the middle picture are some roots: carrots (very tiny, I haven't mastered growing good carrots yet) some parsnips, a good sized handful of French Breakfast radish and the last large beet from my very first planting in the spring. It is a golden variety as you can see. The later plantings of beets never did produce bulbs. I don't know why, but this is always the case for me even when the planting is just a few weeks after the first one.
I'm still harvesting small amounts of green beans and those Chinese Red Noodles are the very last ones from the vines. There is one Jimmy Nardello pepper and one bell pepper of unknown variety. What a difference a year makes! Last year I had loads and loads of peppers, but this year a mere handful. The trombocino squashes you can see by comparing them to the green beans are very tiny, the immature ones that I picked because the vine was dying, so they weren't going to get any bigger.
What is left in the garden? A surprising amount, though it's coming in slowly. There are plenty of Brussels sprouts, parsnips, leeks and kale. There is some lettuce, arugula and tatsoi, bok choy, kohlrabi, carrots and a tiny bit of chard and spinach. There is cabbage, but unfortunately most of it is unusable due to bug damage. My fall peas were a disaster. They sprouted and started growing well but stopped at about half a foot tall, blossomed a bit and shriveled up and died. The same with the fall spinach. I usually do well with it, but this year most of the large bed I planted sprouted and disappeared.
Despite the setbacks I have almost harvested as much produce as I did in all of October last year, so I will certainly surpass that total with ten more days to go in the month. I still have a lot to learn about Fall gardening, but every year I've seen some improvement so optimism reigns around here!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Product of Twisted Genes??

I spoke to my 81 year old mother on the phone yesterday. She and my dad, who is 86, live far away from us in Florida so I don't see them often. She was complaining how exhausted she was because for the past several days she'd been busy scrubbing her driveway. Scrubbing her driveway???? Ai ai ai!!! I can think of a million better ways to expend ones energy, but she is probably a product of her German upbringing and I'm sure her mother instilled that craziness in her. You could eat off her floor and feel comfortable about it.
My American grandmother on the other hand could have been featured on an episode of Hoarders. The few times we visited her when I was a child I remember the piles of stuff, taller than I was, that you had to steer through just to get to a useable chair in her house. It was utter chaos.
Why am I writing about this? Because as both a gardener and a housekeeper, I seem to have a constant battle going on between these two sets of genes that are warring in me. I like neat and tidy, but I leave bits of detritus in my wake wherever I go. It's been a lifelong struggle and I can't tell sometimes if I'm winning or losing it. I think in the garden I've moved a small step closer this year in the tidiness battle. I won't comment on the house part of the equation! However...
 This photo actually covers up some of my evil ways, but you can see the wheelbarrow, the tipped over watering can and the hose and sprinkler just lying around. And in the photo below you can see how long the wheelbarrow's been standing there by the rain water that's sitting in it! It's hard to discern, but there's also a tin can just to the top left of the marigolds that had been used to drown squash bugs. Everywhere I look there are little tools and plant containers just where I dropped them.
What to do, what to do? Obviously I have to change my bad habits. My husband is the complete opposite, but after 38 years he has just gotten used to me I guess. I have done a little better this year in terms of garden neatness. At least I got a handle on the walkway weeds and they did not get out of control like they did last year. Not perfect, but much, much better. The picking up after myself is slowly improving too, but has a long way to go. I suspect someday when I'm long gone, those that come behind will be tripping over my tools for years to come.
But on to something a bit more positive than my bad habits. I've enjoyed seeing some of the last of the trombocino doing its best to put out fruits. It is the only squash vine that's still alive and relatively strong.
There are about eight of these little guys trying to grow before the frost comes. I can't say enough of how glad I am that I grew trombocino, because it really produced where my bush zucchinis failed spectacularly. The vines do take over the world though!
It's forecast to get colder next week, but still no frost predictions. I still have kale, parsnips, carrots, green beans, arugula, bok choy, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts growing well. My fall cabbages look like lace they were attacked so badly by cabbage worms. My bad for not covering them. I also dragged my feet planting out my fall lettuce seedlings, so they are quite tiny, but some are planted in window box planters and can be protected, so I may get some salad out of them yet.
I've begun the process of getting things ready for winter by pulling out two of the green bean patches and some of the dead tomato plants. As various beds open up I've been bringing in cartfuls of compost to build up the soil for next year. And in the process, bit by bit I'm picking up after myself a little. Let the battle of the twisted genes begin again!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mid-October Harvest

It's Harvest Monday once again, hosted by Daphne's Dandelions, where gardeners are sharing with each other what good things their vegetable gardens are bringing in each week. And today is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada, so I'd like to wish all my Canadian friends a very happy Thanksgiving, especially my niece-in-law Kelly who is from Nova Scotia!
The garden is slowing down indeed, but still giving a very nice and diverse harvest. We don't have any frost in sight, although I did wake up this morning to a temperature of 38F this morning, brrrrrr. Since my summer crops...cucurbits, nightshades and beans... are either pretty well done for or I've harvested more than enough, I won't mind the onset of frost, which will get rid of many pesky bugs and sweeten up the parsnips, carrots, kale and Brussels sprouts.
 I had a nice surprise in these beautiful French Breakfast radishes! I'd somewhat forgotten all about them, when I noticed a patch of lush greenery and went to inspect it, finding these fully ripe little gems. Too bad the little bit of lettuce I had growing was eaten by critters, as they would have combined into a nice salad!
 I pulled out two of my green bean patches after getting a final harvest from them. There are still two more small patches that are producing until the frost comes. I love green beans, but am getting a little tired of them now. I know, in the winter when we're eating the frozen ones, I'll look back fondly on the fresh-picked beans of summer.
 The lone Long Island Cheese pumpkin sits on the back stairway. It weighs four pounds and is the last of the winter squash to be picked. I harvested about the same number of squash this year, but doubled the poundage as they were almost all much bigger than last year's crop. That is good progress, since winter squash is well-loved around here!
 Friday brought in an overloaded harvest basket! Spread out on the kitchen table are the contents: kale, a bowl of mixed greens (arugula, lettuce, tatsoi, chard, beet greens,) scallions, carrots, radish, parsnips, bok choy, celery, parsley, dill, beans, a few tomatoes, and a long, skinny trombocino. The surviving trombocino vine is desperately trying to put out a new batch of baby squashes before the season ends, but they are developing quite slowly and it remains to be seen if I get any more.
The healthiest plants in my garden are my marigolds. They are incredible this year and I'm so glad to see them blooming away in the garden, a beautiful splash of color in the fall landscape.
I am now in clean-up mode, clearing finished growing beds and putting on a layer of compost as each bed is cleared. I have also to decide where I'm going to plant the garlic for next season and will tackle that job in a few weeks.  Hopefully the garden will be well prepared for next spring once I finally put it to sleep for the winter.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Harvest Monday: I Can't Believe Its a Week Into October Edition

Good Harvest Monday everybody! We are having the remnants of a tropical storm passing through here today, so although it looks like October, it feels more like a muggy day in June. The rain is welcome though, since we've been bone dry for weeks. The harvest, which had slowed way down picked up a little today, not least because I was finally able to get into the garden in between raindrops and other activities.
 This is the view directly out my front door. We are quite surrounded by woods and as you can see, the autumn leaves are falling fast. We'll soon be raking them up for the compost piles.
 The garden is at the foot of our hill and looking rather raggedy, but the marigolds are huge and blooming profusely which gives it a cheerful look. I missed them last year when I dropped the ball and never got any of my little marigold seedlings planted out. This year they are really wonderful. And the harvest is still coming in. I hadn't checked my green beans in a week, because the plants looked so sad, but when I did today I ended up picking two more pounds of them. Many of them were a bit larger than I generally like, but they'll get eaten anyway. The big ones work well in soups.
 We're at the tail end of the tomatoes. Most of the plants are all but dead and I'm picking them off the vines more green than red, but they've been ripening well indoors. This morning I took several bags that had accumulated in the freezer to make into tomato sauce which were then canned. Although the plants were diseased early, and I'm far from where I want to be in the tomato production department, this year I canned as many stewed tomatoes as needed and had enough to make quite a few jars of sauce and even one batch of salsa. That's a first for me and I'm very pleased about it. If I sound unreasonable in my expectations you have to understand that I always plant between 45 and 50 tomato plants so what I harvest is really not much for the amount that are planted out. The problem has always been the limited sunlight and disease.
 Every time I think the Gold Marie Vining beans have to be about finished they hand me another pound of beans. This has happened several times in the past two weeks and I've been giving them away. The Chinese Red Noodles on the other hand really are at the end of their road and we will miss them. I also harvested the last of the Hakurei turnips, smallish because insects had skeletonized their foliage, and I pulled a few of the fall carrots to see if they were developing at all. It seems that I may get some after all if the voles stay away from them, which is iffy.
There's no frost in sight for our area yet so there should be time for some nice harvests ahead. I have yet to have a really good fall garden. This year while I finally learned to get those fall brassicas planted at the right time, I failed to protect them from marauding insects. So the fall cabbages and broccolis look nice and large, but they've been ravaged, which is a real shame. I always seem to forget that the insects in fall can be and are even worse than the summer ones and I'm less on my toes about it then. Well, something learned again!
While it seems that many of my veggies underperformed this year, those that did well must have really done well, because I have harvested over 200 pounds more than last year's total which was tallied at the beginning of December. I hope that means I am becoming a better gardener. It certainly means that the soil is slowly but surely being improved and the bit more sunshine we're getting since D took some trees down has made a big difference. He plans to take some more down for next year which will be great.
Now to head on over to Daphne's Dandelions to check out all the great harvests everyone else out there is bringing in. I hope you gardening bloggers know what a great source of inspiration and instruction you are! I have learned so much from all of you!