Sunday, August 21, 2011

What to plant now

The following inquiry merits more than a private response.
"What sort of vegetables/fruits I can plant right now so that I would be able to enjoy them till the light frost or even during the winter?"

It is always time to plant lettuce. I sowed some this week, hoping that humans will be able to eat it. Arugula is similar.

I also planted bush green beans (Roma) this week. The books say it is a good time to plant peas, but I've not had good success with a fall crop. Perhaps a bush pea would work. Hmmm... I should try that next year. I gave away my extra bush pea seeds after sowing what I needed this spring. I guess I won't be so generous next year!

I plant to sow Chinese cabbage seeds for winter tomorrow. For years I have successfully harvested Burpees two-season Chinese cabbage all winter long from my cold frame, but this year's catalog doesn't offer it. I bought a similar seed from Fedco, and will try both in the cold frame this winter and see how it goes. We had fresh stir-fries twice a week all winter LAST winter. (!!!)

Pac choi would also probably be a good planting now outdoors. I suspect that it isn't too late for collards. I have some promising-looking plants now, but youngish collards usually survive the winter under floating cover and can be harvested in March.

The arugula and turnips that I sowed three weeks ago seem to be thriving. A generous neighbor delivered some fresh grass clippings today, and I mulched them carefully along with my carrots and parsnips.

I will soon start parsley and basil to harvest from my kitchen greenhouse window all winter long.

It's a fine time for planning for the future. As always?


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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Surprises after two weeks away

We had two delightful weeks visiting friends and relatives and enjoying MathFest in Lexington, KY. Last evening we returned home, and I quickly surveyed the surprises awaiting me in the garden. There are always surprises, but what they are is always a surprise.

Perhaps the nicest this time was the size of the eggplants. I raised them from seed, radichio from FEDCO. The first I saw and picked was 10" long and 4" in diameter! We had a couple of eggplant parmesan dinners before we left, but those eggplants were nothing like this. Today I saw some that were even larger in the thicket. They freeze well after I dip them in an egg-milk mixture and then flavored bread crumbs and pan-fry them in preparation for eggplant parmesan; that promises to take lots of time in the next week.

The most unhappy discovery was the lack of small ripe tomatoes on thriving bushes. My neighbor who I gave permission to harvest them while I was gone said there were many a few days after I left, and then none. My daughter-in-law said she saw chipmunks climbing up their supporters and eating them. Does anyone know how to control chipmunks? I never worried about them before. Today another friend in Montclair said she saw birds eating her small tomatoes from the tops of bushes. I remembered the tape that presumably keeps birds from my peas by its vibrations, and put some on the tomato cages this afternoon. Then it occurred to me I might think
of something similar to protect raspberries from birds. Hmm.. Lots of work in prospect.

That there was no lettuce was hardly a surprise. The woodchuck(s) had invaded the inner garden and done its thing. The arugula and turnips I sowed three weeks ago are doing fine, but the beets are not visible, and there is only one 1" lettuce plant from that sowing. The beans I sowed between the apple and peach trees grew nicely but are mostly nibbled to the stem.

One of you wrote that she read that pinwheels discourage woodchucks. Have any of you experience with this? Does anyone know where pinwheels can be purchased locally?

Our basil is proliferating more than ever. We had pesto last evening and will many more times in the next nine months, as my time permits. It appears there is an endless amount of basil, but that appearance is deceiving, of course. I know I don't have an endless amount of time.

I discovered that this year's peppers when red enough fall off the vine and rot on the ground. This didn't happen before, probably because I have picked all peppers as soon as they turned red. I picked both red and green yesterday and today, so our salads are not bad, despite the lack of lettuce and tomatoes. We have some cucumbers, and lots of carrots.

Carrots? Early in the evening before we left a neighbor brought us a barrel of excellent grass clippings. I mulched carefully the young beets, turnips, and arugula, and then painstakingly mulched and thinned the carrot patch. This requires GOOD grass clippings. I had about a 9" diameter bundle of carrot "thinnings" when I was finished. Carrots substitute for fresh tomatoes in the winter, and I guess they can in August.

Oh! Another surprise was six small yellow tomatoes on the vine that volunteered in the compost heap, to which I had magnanimously given a cage. Hardly any sun, but very good soil seems to produce tomatoes. Actually, the good soil isn't really needed either, judging by the vines in front of my house. Maybe I will be Harvesting tomatoes again from the main source if I can figure out how to deter my competition.

One more surprise: I harvested my first supersteak tomato today and it was 6" across. It is now cooking down for sauce in this evening's eggplant parmesan.

It's a wildly growing year. I hope your growth compensates for the thievery in your garden. I think mine almost does, but still I would be glad for less thievery!


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