Winter is here early

Fall harvest-tomatoes, Tahiti Butternut squash, Bradford watermelons and Craupadine beets

I just heard last night’s snow was the earliest on record for Oct 14th in Santa Fe. The weather apps have said it was going to be 27°F last night. Woke up this morning to a light snow, ice and the temperature was 24°F here. Harvesting has been intense the last few weeks. Why is there always so much to pick in the end? The only annual crops left are a few kale, beets and cabbages outside in the main garden and greens in the greenhouse and cold frame. I’m not sure how they fared as I wasn’t able to go out and check today, and in truth, with 34°F for a high, I was in no hurry to see if they made it. They were covered with winter weight row cover with the hopes they make it and I will check tomorrow. I was more concerned the barn animals were ok with this first cold snap and made sure all the heaters in the water tanks were working and the chickens had their heat lamps on. I guess winter is here.

Tips for Ripening Green Tomatoes

Get Ready for cold weather. We’ve been waiting all season for our tomatoes to ripen. What do we do when you know that a hard frost is going to hit and you still have lots of green ones on the vine? After ripening green tomatoes inside, I’ve had tomatoes into November and then I’m done. I won’t eat another tomato till the following season-July or August. A long wait but consider me a tomato snob as the store-bought tomatoes are never very good.

Tips on ripening tomatoes inside:
-Become a weather bug-we should check the weather for when the first freeze will arrive which historically comes mid-October here in Santa Fe.

This week Sunday through Monday is forecasted to get pretty cold at night–down to 34°F. This is not freezing (32°) but I will check the weather again on Saturday to see if it changes and if they predict a freeze or not. If it stays above 32°F, I will leave them as quite often we can squeeze out a few more weeks of decent weather for them.

-Pick em before the freeze-Pick all decent size green tomatoes and ripen inside. Leave the little ones. Ripening green tomatoes will never taste as good as sun-ripened tomatoes but they are still much better than store bought tomatoes. If you pick after the freeze, they will be ruined.

-Sort the tomatoes-Sort from rock hard green to almost ripe and put them in grocery paper bags and fold over the top. That way you don’t have to go through each bag every day and pull out the ones that are ripening sooner.
 Put them 2 layers deep.

-Use a slice of apple-In the bags with the green ones, I will put a slice of apple in the bag to help encourage ripening. An apple releases ethylene gas (the tomatoes produce this as well) which helps the ripening process. That is why you fold over the bag to help trap the gas that both the tomatoes and apple are releasing.

-Check bags every few days-When they start to change color, I pull those out and put them in other bags where they are all similar in the ripening stage.


-Leave them stem side up-they won’t rot as quickly.

-Almost ripe tomatoes-When your tomatoes are almost ripe, to increase flavor, pull them from the bags and place in a warm spot in your house a couple of days before you want to use them.


-Storage-Be sure to store them in a room that is at least 55 degrees. I made the mistake once and they didn’t have much flavor and many didn’t ripen at all. If they won’t ripen or aren’t flavorful they were probably stored in too cool a place or perhaps they were too small to begin with.

-Green tomatoes-Lastly you can always pickle green tomatoes or cook with them!

Better gobble up all the ripe tomatoes that you can! Soon the season will be over and we will be longing for flavorful ripe tomatoes again!

 

 

Remineralization-For Better Vegetable Gardens

Last winter I read about remineralizing gardens and how it’s not enough to add compost every year as minerals will eventually get depleted too as the plants use them up. I’ve been adding compost to my vegetable garden for ten years and have created a fairly rich soil but have never added minerals or trace minerals to my whole garden. So this season I decided two things-add something to remineralize the soil and get a soil test to see how my soil was. I haven’t had a soil test done in about 4 years so I knew I was long overdue especially since I garden so intensively.

The test results showed my soil was good except it was low in manganese, sodium and iron and medium for copper, boron, salt, magnesium and potassium.

So I researched out what product I should add and I decided on AZOMITE. Azomite is a rock dust mined from Utah and is actually an ancient deposit of aluminum silicate clay and marine minerals. It is a rich source of available potash (0.2%) and over 70 trace minerals, including calcium (1.8%), sodium (0.1%), and magnesium (0.5%). I bought online a 44 lb bag of micronized (consistency of flour) Azomite from Peaceful Valley Farms Organic site but they are not the only source-Amazon sells it in smaller size bags. After I added my usual 2-3 inches of compost in the spring while prepping the beds, I sprinkled Azomite on top of each garden bed and and gently turned it over in the top four inches of soil. I also read you can top dress your plants after you have them in with it. So for my strawberry plants, I just sprinkled it on top of the plants and watered in.

Here is my strawberries in April. It is just coming back from winter but was struggling

The results are amazing-WOW! is an understatement.

Strawberries grew 14″tall with the addition of Azomite this year

I don’t think I’ve had such a lush garden ever and I’ve had some amazing gardens. My strawberry beds went from struggling last year (part of that was the drip system wasn’t working very well but part of it was it needed something) to the tallest, happiest, most fruitful plants.

The main thing I’ve done differently this year is add Azomite. Now I know we’ve gotten some good rains in August which can only help a garden but all the plants in my veggie garden have gone ballistic growing and producing veggies-it’s like a frigging jungle.

I only used around half the bag in my 3000 sq foot garden, so a little goes a long ways. I will sprinkle the other half in next year and will get more for my perennial plants and fruit trees as well for next year. Once done, you won’t have to keep replenishing it every year but every few years, I’m going to add Azomite again.

Butternut winter squash-doesn’t attract squash bugs

Here is a winter squash that doesn’t attract squash bugs. I’ve grown the very sweet Waltham Butternut, an Italian variety called Rogosa Violina and this year a variety called Tahitian Butternut-all don’t seem to attract squash bugs, at least in my garden. And I grew these because I had read they don’t attract them.

In the last post, I talked about Rugosa Friulana, a summer squash that doesn’t attract squash bugs, so now we have both a winter and summer squash that don’t attract these pesky bugs. Try these two types next year for more carefree squash!

Rugosa Friulana Zucchini-doesn’t attract squash bugs

Rugosa Friulani

I’m trying a new variety of zucchini this year called Rugosa Friulana. It is a yellow, warty zucchini. It is growing 5′ away from my favorite green zucchini, Costata Romanesco. Both are Italian varieties. I thought I’d grow both and compare them.

COMPARSION

BUGS
I covered both plants with row cover after planting by seeds in late May. Male blossoms always appear first with squash, and then the female blossoms (with their little fruit attached at the base of the flower) appear. After the female flowers appear, I uncovered them both so the bees could get in to pollinate them. By keeping them covered early on, I avoided the Squash Viner Borer which appears earlier in the season and is gone by the time the female blossoms appears.

-The Costata Romanesco attracts squash bugs and I pick the adults and eggs off of the plant.

The Rugosa Friulana DOESN’T ATTRACT SQUASH BUGS! That fact alone will make me grow it again.  It’s only 5′ away Costata Romanesco, so you’d think it would attract the squash bug but it doesn’t. How thrilling is that!

PRODUCTION
-The Costata Romanesco started producing zucchini 2 weeks ago-mid-July

-The Rugosa Friulana just produced the first fruits now-Aug 7. Not that much difference.

Costata Romanesco

TASTE
Now comes the taste test. I sliced both and sauteed them in olive oil with only garlic salt.

The Costata Romanesco tends to have less dense flesh and has a sweet nutty flavor. When you slice it into discs, it has beautiful fluted sides. It has always been my favorite.

The Rugosa Friulana has denser flesh when you cut into it (I like that) and has a slightly different flavor (hard to describe but kinda nutty too). When you cut it into discs, it also has ruffly sides from the warts. I like it just as well.

 

So if you only want to grow one zucchini plant, you might consider Rugosa Friulana– very flavorful and squash bug resistant.

Both are really good but just knowing Rugosa Friulana won’t attract squash bugs  makes me want to grow it again. What a pleasant surprise!

 

Fall Vegetable Gardening starts in August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to believe it’s already August. We’ve had plenty of hot days and hail storms to contend with this summer here in Santa Fe.  With August, temperatures should start to drop and daylight hours are getting shorter. This means August is a great time to plant a fall garden with some cool season crops, just like the ones we planted in Spring.

We are just starting to harvest our warm season crops like tomatoes and now we should think about starting our fall gardens. No rest for the wicked! Now some people are too burnt out to start more plants but some of the best crops do well in fall with cooler temperatures.

The day length is about 2 minutes shorter every day in the garden and fall crops may take a little longer to mature so get them in soon. This month you can still plant by SEED, many cool season crops like carrots and beets (plant these by seed right now as they take a little longer) Other cool season crops like lettuce, mesclun, chard, spinach, scallions, radishes, peas, arugula, bok choys, mustards, and other Asian greens can be planted throughout August by SEED. When planting by seeds, look for those varieties that have shorter ‘days to harvest’ on the packet. Pick something that is around 60 days or less to harvest so you’ll get a chance to eat some of the crops you’ll try before a freeze sets in, usually in October.

Other crops that do well, like broccoli and cauliflower and some cabbage should be started with transplants that you can get at a nursery. And if you procrastinate, you can still plant by buying all of the crops listed above as transplants up into early-September and enjoy some great crops. I’ve already planted peas (again-right on top of spring’s crop), and spinach and lettuces by seed. I already have enough bok choy, chards and beets growing from spring to take me into fall for those crops.

Here is a FALL PLANTING SCHEDULE for you to print for Santa Feans in Zone 6a:

FALL VEGETABLE PLANTING SCHEDULE

Harlequin Bug Control

Harlequin bug. Photo courtesy Hobby Farms

I’ve got a lot of questions from people about an orange and black bug attacking their food crops. It’s called a Harlequin bug and it is a bad one for our vegetable gardens. You need to hand-pick them off right away as they can decimate your  vegetable garden. They particularly like crops like cabbage, broccoli and mustard but will attack squash, beans, corn, asparagus, or tomatoes. I pick them off and put in a bucket of soapy water just like for squash bugs. Funny But I don’t remember them in years past but they are here now. Some people are reporting picking off hundreds of them! So don’t wait, get on it NOW.

Read more at Gardening Know How: What Are Harlequin Bugs: How To Get Rid Of Harlequin Bugs https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/insects/get-rid-of-harlequin-bugs.htm