Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monthly Harvests, Catalogs, Books, and Hints for Beginners

Winter: When the leaves look cold in December, I put neighbors' bagged leaves over carrots planted in April. Then all winter I brush snow off the bags and and pull the carrots. Similarly for parsnips, salsify (G), and Jeruselum artichokes, but there are fewer. Kale survives outside; just break off and thaw inside for February salads. Grow sprouts inside. Harvest Chinese cabbage from the cold frame every 3-5 days from January through March.

March: Collards may look dead during the winter, but revive and can be eaten again. Pak choi and lettuce planted in January may sometimes be taken from under the floating cover or cold frame, but may wait until April. Finish eating the carrots and parsnips before they become stringy. Harvest lettuce planted on a windowsill in January.

Mid-April: Fresh lettuce salad and stir-fry pak choi, both planted in a January warm spell under floating cover or overwintered in a cold frame. Gourmet Blend lettuce (B&F) planted every 3 weeks from April to Sept. yields a continuous varied harvest until December. Summer variety packets are more prolific in summer. Collards continue. Arugula can substitute for lettuce or complement it in a salad.

Late May: Hakurei turnips (F) and maybe some radishes. Sugar Ann Peas planted early in March. Also broccoli started indoors in February and planted out in April. Nursery broccoli plants are available too late, but nursery plants for tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and eggplants are fine. If I pick and discard bitter broccoli all summer, it becomes sweet again in the fall. It has a large yield for Thanksgiving, and typically some in December. Strawberries.

Early June: Sugar snap peas. In 1986 I froze 150 servings and served many, but most years provide a more modest yield. Peas freeze easily in the kitchen refrigerator. Peas, beans, spinach, and brocolli keep well frozen if you blanch them (that is, boil them for three minutes) before putting them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. Labeling dates may help, but isn't essential.

Mid-June: Basil for pesto; pesto freezes well. Basil deters insects from tomatoes and pesto is delicious; I plant lots of basil! Nufar basil (J) resists wilt and is very large, so it is faster to clean. It tastes the same to me as standard basil.

Late June: Zucchini, usually beginning June 26! Since squash bugs destroy these by August 8, I plant new seeds in late June for a September crop. Sweet 100 and Early Girl tomatoes may begin in June. Blueberries begin and various varieties yield throughout the summer. Ancestral and heritage raspberries begin and are abundant in July.

Mid-July: Sun gold and jubilee yellow tomatoes (B). Roma bush beans freeze well. Successive plantings yield continuing crops. Concord seedless grapes. White peaches. Early corn (P) planted under floating cover in mid-April begins. Staggered plantings can yield until October, but the squirrels usually steal my corn after July. For more plentiful crops, fertilize it by hand (i.e. take some pollen and scatter it on the silks) and hide each fledgling ear with a paper bag if the animals are naughty. Arugula gives a fine salad if the heat or the woodchucks take the lettuce.

Late July: Peppers that I chop and freeze. Before freezing eggplant, I dip slices in an egg-milk mixture, then in Italian flavored bread crumbs, and fry so they come apart easily for eggplant parmesan. Climbing summer spinach (Malabar) is abundant now until frost. Plant kale, 2-season hybrid Chinese cabbage (B), and collards.

August: Burpee hybrid beefsteak tomatoes (B) make good sauce for freezing and provide ample eating while other tomatoes take a heat break. Abundant fall-crop heritage raspberries.

September: Frostbeater soybeans(B) (or bought ones) in whole wheat pita with fresh tomatoes, pepper, cucumbers, and lettuce. Pole Roma and/or lima beans grow where peas once climbed. Pears and then apples, first red delicious and then mackintosh, all on dwarf trees. Native plums (G) come about the same time as the pears.

October until below 20 degrees: Lutz or yellow beets, Chinese cabbage, collards, and rutabaga. Kiwi (G) Before the first mild frost I pick all the basil and Malabar spinach, gorge on it and freeze most.

November: Just before frost, pick, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Freeze extras. Put unripe tomatoes in layered newspaper in the basement to ripen, sometimes into the holidays.

Free Catalogs
(F) Fedco Seeds is a cooperative that has no color in its catalog and no phone-ordering service. However, it offers enormous variety at phenomenal prices. Get a catalog at either 207-873-7333 or P.O. Box 520, Waterville, ME 04903-0520
(B) Burpee: 1-800-888-1447, the old stand-by with a glorious color catalog. Their telephone answerers assure me they do not carry any genetically engineered seeds;
(J) Johnny Seeds in Maine sells cold-season vegetables and cold frames.
(C) Cook's Garden 1-800-457-9703, a family-run newish establishment;
(G) Gurney's: 1-605-665-1930;
(P) Parks: 1-864-223-7333, the only source for Malabar spinach, which climbs gloriously all summer until frost, but they don't carry it every year;
(S) Stokes: 1-716-695-6980;
(-) Territorial Seed Company: 541-942-9547
(A) Gardens Alive: 812-537-8650;
(-) Gardener's Supply Company: 800-863-1700
The last two carry the extras for organic gardeners that make organic gardening successful

I especially recommend:
- John Jeavons' "How to Raise More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine,"
- Ruth Stout's "Gardening Without Work: for the Busy, the Aging, and the Indolent," and
- Eliot Coleman's "Four Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long."

Hints for beginners:
Plant tomatoes, beans, and peas. Double dig repeatedly, digging compost in deeply. If you don't have compost, use some other organic matter like dead leaves, but this is not as satisfactory because it takes good things from the soil as it decays. I did this spring and fall for three years, and my soil was indistinguishable from my current rich, friable soil.
Mulch profusely with grass-clippings, chopped leaves, wood chips, and partially rotted compost. If you have plenty of sunshine and compost, try zucchini.
The second year try lettuce, Chinese cabbage, chard, and other leafy vegetables, perhaps broccoli.
Wait until the third year for root crops. Keep frozen cooked soybeans in your freezer to mix with rice and stir-fries. Consult your local library for many good gardening books. Fine new books are appearing all the time. I learned by listening to old-timers and to my guests at my open gardens. No individual knows very much compared to what there is to know about growing food locally. Enjoy. And remember that a gardener can bury her mistakes without anyone caring!

1 comment:

Srabasti said...

Hi Pat,
How are you? I am hoping that you or visitors in your blog can help me. My questions are:
1. What are some environmental friendly way to mow one's land?
2. There are lots of small small plants in the lawn and garden of the house that we bought. Now we don't know if they are really flower and fruit bearing trees or just weeds and other wild plants. How do we recognize them? Is there any book/website that we can use?

Thank you,
Srabasti :-) (I missed you at yesterday's maa meeting)