Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter rye, straw, tomatoes, URL for CNNJ newsletter

Judy told me yesterday that her winter rye has germinated. Oops! I haven't even scattered mine. Defensively, I thought, "But I'm not finished harvesting there yet!" I went out with two containers this afternoon. There were still plenty of little tomatoes to harvest. I dove under the pear tree, up which they are growing. The neighbor referred to my "tomato tree." I saw one worth eating. Not bad -- not like summer, but worth savoring for Thanksgiving. There's another! It was even better. There was one higher than I could reach. I pull the dead vine down. The tomato looked even better than the other two, but when I tasted it, it was overripe.

I may still have some peppers on the vine on Dec. 4 open garden. It pretends to be thriving where I ordinarily plant winter rye by now.

Winter rye, in case you aren't informed, is the third way to nourish your soil along with compost and mulch. It is available in any garden center.

It is also time to distribute straw over the strawberries. I've been getting lots more berries since I have been mulching in winter with straw -- as the name implies we should do.

The newsletter of the Cornucopia Network of New Jersey is now available, along with some old newsletters on the CNNJ website:


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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Slow Frost and Tomatoes

Recently, after 30+ years of gardening, I've been feeling remarkably
inexperienced. Is this year different or am I simply more observant? Or a combination? This year the "frost" is coming far more slowly than I realized before.

When I picked and picked on Halloween, I wished I had picked my basil two weeks earlier as one of my neighbors did. I would have picked much more, I'm sure, because too much of it was already gone. I had wondered two weeks earlier, but how was I to know?

Halloween was definitively the last day to pick Malabar spinach, but the rest of my picking came to naught. We ate at this evening's dinner two small green tomatoes I picked then (two weeks ago), now turned red in the kitchen. They tasted fine, but not wonderful. More are turning red than rotted, but I'm not sure I could have told which was which two weeks ago.

One day about a week ago we had had a serious frost, according to the white on the lawn and cars.

The eggplant plants turned black, so I picked the remaining eggplants. Most of them were little, but we had some of the tiniest for dinner this evening, and they were fine to eat. So now I know I don't have to worry about picking eggplant before the frost; just wait until the morning when it's obvious the plants are dead.

Many of my pepper plants still look, at least, like they are alive, and the peppers seem to be acting like summer as far as I can tell: I think they are still growing and ripening. I think I'll take the same approach to them as for eggplants.

Then there are tomatoes. The plants have been GRADUALLY dying, but there is one, under the peach tree, that still has green leaves. It's borne only one fruit this year, and it is the only "large" tomato that is still in the garden.

I have many more small tomatoes this year, partially because I planted so many to protect the pea plants from woodchucks, but partially because they have just been more prolific than usual. I'm still harvesting tomatoes as fast as I can. I then sort them into groups: those ready to eat (several containers of which are in the frig); those colored but not soft yet, most of which will ripen nicely (if the past predicts the future); one container of those turning color; and two or more of green tomatoes. I'm not wrapping them, and it does seem that they some have moved up the status ladder.

The past couple of days amid picking small tomatoes from dead vines, I have found myself groveling among the mulch under the tomato plants, picking up dropped small tomatoes. Some look ready to eat except for the dirt, and when I taken them inside and was them off, they taste fine! Of course, no tomatoes we're eating now are like the yummy ones in the summer. The phrase "vine-ripened tomato" has new meaning to me this week. Still, slowly ripening tomatoes on or off dead vines are tasty enough to merit considerable labor in my present schedule. Perhaps children could do this harvesting for someone whose schedule is more pressured. Anyway, if the ripe tomatoes keep in the frig, Fred and I will be having garden tomatoes, if not exactly vine-ripened, for many weeks to come.

Yum! Gardens are fun.


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