Winter in the garden

It’s been a wet winter so far and winter isn’t even officially here till winter solstice on Dec 21st. The picture above was at the beginning of the last snow that came in on Nov 21 and ended up dumping 10 inches of snow with 16 inch deep snow drifts. The place has been a muddy mess as it melts but the plants sure love the moisture and for that I am grateful.

I’m still cleaning out my garden! Got caught off guard with the first snow storm in early October. The picture above is from that storm before the cleanup. The soil looks great in the veggie garden now that all the snow has melted inside the garden. It hasn’t frozen solid yet so pulling the old crops has been easy in the moist soil but time consuming and I want to get it done before the soil freezes. Last year I waited till spring to clean out the garden but feel that it just makes more work in spring for me so I work now when the days are nicer before the ground freezes. I was out of town for half of November, hence the late clean up.

I feel like hibernating with the short days and low light. ZZzzz!

Veggie Garden Finito!

Three boxes of green tomatoes (now ripening inside), Butternut squash, Pink Glass Gem corn harvested Oct 9

The veggie garden is done for the season. Harvesting was intense since the first freeze came about a week earlier this year.

Onions and sweet potatoes and other crops (not pictured) harvested this past Sunday

I harvested the last of the warm season crops like corn, tomatoes, raspberries, squash before the very first hard freeze on Oct 10.

Then this past Sunday, Oct 20th, I finished harvesting the last of my cool season crops-carrots, fennel, kale, onions, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage and sweet potatoes (more on sweet potatoes later). All are inside now. I have so much produce, I brought in some tables to put everything on. I’ve been sharing much of the harvest with friends.

I will clean up the dead vegetation before the ground freezes which will be sometime in early December.

I once waited to clean up the garden in the spring but found it was too much work, what with adding amendments in the soil and planting a new garden, so now I do it in the fall.

Winter is Coming! (tomorrow nite-October 10)

As they kept saying in Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming” and it is coming here tomorrow night. Low temperatures tomorrow (Wednesday) will be 24°F and Thursday night will be 27°F. I’ve been harvesting everything I can before the cold hits. Afterwards is too late.

Most of my garden is done but here are some crops that may still need harvesting. I will pick my winter squash now and put it in the house. While winter squash likes it cold, it does not like the temperatures below freezing and can be ruined if they freeze–they should last months in the house.

Pick any green tomatoes of decent size and put them 2 layers deep in paper bags. The bags will keep the tomatoes in the dark. Then put a slice of apple in the bag (it releases ethylene gas, a natural ripening agent) and close up the bag to speed up the ripening process. Check the bag several times a week and you can move them to your kitchen table once they turn color. They are never quite as good as sun-ripened tomatoes but still 200% better than store bought and you may have home grown tomatoes into November.

Harvest all other warm season crops like beans, peppers, eggplants, corn, cucumbers, summer squash and melons-if they are not already picked.

Harvest onions if you still have any.

Cool season crops like broccoli, kale, cabbage, arugula and other leafy greens may survive but will need winter weight row cover over them to protect them from the below freezing nights. Take off in the day and recover at night when freezing. You can get row cover (winter weight) at some of the local nurseries. Just call around.

Beets and carrots should be ok but should be harvested before the ground freezes rock hard in December.

If you have lettuce, I would pick it as it will freeze. You may be able to save it with row cover over it, but it is chancy.

Herbs can be cut and dried in your house.

Of course if you have a cold frame, your season could still be extended if you cover the plants inside with row cover.

So pick everything you can today and tomorrow and don’t forget to disconnect your drip systems so they don’t freeze either. Get busy!

2019 Garden pics!

Here are some pics of my garden this year. Now that we are in September, I wanted to capture it in all it’s glory before it’s gone. I’ve worked hard tweaking out the infrastructure with new framed beds and weed barriers and wood chips in the paths this year. Having retired from the Santa Fe Farmers Market two seasons ago has allowed me to do more in the garden. I also added some perennial fruit like raspberries and blackberries since I don’t need space for 125 tomato plants anymore! By mid-October or sooner, it will be toast with the first frost so might as well enjoy it while I have it. I have an abundance of flowers this year that I grew for my edible flower class and besides being beautiful and edible, they attract many beneficial insects and pollinators. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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.

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

Cold nights are here-protect you plants!

Atomic Red and Cosmic Purple carrots harvested last week

 

Here it is Friday, November 17 2017 and I was just remarking that except for the one cold night that killed off all the tomatoes in September, how warm it has been. If it wasn’t for that one freezing night, we’d still be harvesting tomatoes!

Well it changes tonight getting well below freezing and will continue to be cold with temperatures in the mid-20’s at night and low 50’s in the days for about the next 5-6 days.

All the warm season veggies have been done for a month but I still have a few cool season crops out in the garden like Lacinato kale, Voiletta bok choy, Florence bulb fennel, Atomic Red and Cosmic Purple carrots, Detroit Red beets and Argentata chard. Since I want to keep them going as long as possible, I will put winter weight row cover (.9-1.0+ mil weight) over the plants to protect them until the temperatures get above freezing at nights. Also I have lettuces and spinaches growing in the unheated greenhouse and will cover them as well. Of course an option is finish harvesting everything and call it a season!

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Garden officially done for 2017

The garden officially finished on the night of October 9. There were a few cool season crops that did fine in the 27°F temperature-mainly beets, carrots, kale, and bok choy but all the warm season crops are done. I think this was early for a first frost. I write it down so I can review the frost date next year.

I did cover the lettuces in the greenhouse with winter weight row cover but it was actually unnecessary as the temperature was above freezing in the greenhouse and they are looking great and loving the cooler weather.

Now that it’s done, I’ll have time to share some gardening experiences and new crops I tried this year. I will be posting in the next few weeks some of the highlights of this year in the garden.

I still have to clean out the garden and put it to bed. AHHH CRUMBA!

But first I think I’ll go flyfishing one last time this year before it really gets cold…

 

Cold Weather Continues in Santa Fe

This past weekend was pretty decent weather wise but is due to change again midweek with a big cold front coming in. Yeow! The nights will be colder with temps dropping in the teens again. This winterlike weather has caught me off guard although I don’t know why! It’s certainly time for colder weather here but I guess I was lulled by the wonderful, warm days we had in November until a few days ago.

My garden does not look like this. This was last year's pic after it was cleaned up!

My garden does not look like this—it is a mess this year! This was last year’s pic after it was cleaned up!

So knowing this, I rushed out to the garden last week and started pulling up all the dead tomato plants. I have to pull them before the soil freezes or I won’t be able to remove them until spring. Last Thursday, I yanked the last of them out—37 dead tomato plants in their cages, sprawled everywhere. Not a pretty site! But at least the roots are pulled out of the ground. I still have to take the plants out of the cages and clean up the ground and add compost. Ay, caramba!

It is best to clean up our gardens in the fall earlier (listen to your own words, Jannine) and remove any dead plants and debris so they don’t harbor bad bugs for the winter. I am really late this year but it will get done.

I also harvested the last of the carrots, beets, kale and leeks last week so the garden is officially kaput although clean up will continue next week.

After the garden is cleaned up, I will tuck myself inside with the new catalogs coming in and dream about next season’s garden!

Growing Season for 2016/Fall Harvest

fall-harvest-crop_nov-2

Fall harvest in 2016-tomatoes, beets, carrots and kale are just a few of the vegetables still being harvested here on my micro-farm

This has been a most remarkable growing season this year. In fact, I can’t remember in all my 21 years here of weather like this. After two months of unseasonably hot summer weather at the beginning (when the tomato blossoms dropped because it was too hot) and then two months of very cool summer weather (when the tomatoes didn’t want to ripen because they need heat to ripen once they are set) we now have been in an unbelievably wonderful fall. Nice and warm in the 70’s in the day and cool but not freezing nights.

But all this is going to change very quickly now that we are in November. Weather prediction is for it to change to colder weather. Like duh, it’s NOVEMBER dude! Of course it will get colder! My fruit is done-apples (we made hard cider!), apricots, grapes, strawberries and raspberries are done here. Most of my warm season crops are gone (cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, corn, etc. except the tomatoes, my favorite crop!)

Meanwhile the fall harvest continues with tomatoes still ripening (at least this week) and all the cool season crops are kicking it and should be for quite some time if I cover them with winter weight row cover. The kale is going gangbusters, cabbage is ready, onions and potatoes are ready to harvest, carrots and beets are ready to be dug out too and chard is busting out all over.  My broccoli and escarole I planted in August at my fall garden class are almost ready too. Then pantry is bursting and the refrigerators and freezers are overflowing too! Enjoy what we still have left of this season!

Chickens enjoy some lettuce

lettuce-bowl-w-chickens

In August a made a lettuce/mesclun bowl. I should have thinned it out so I could have cut and come again the greens but didn’t. If I had thinned it out, I would have gotten some great greens. So I gave the lettuce bowl to the chickens this morning. They gobbled it up! Glad to share.

Extending the Season-Making a Low Tunnel

low-tunnel-2016

These broccoli transplants were put in on Aug 24, 2106

I taught a class in late August on Planting for a Fall Harvest where I showed the students you don’t have to have a Greenhouse to extend the season. You can also have a cold frame or even simpler is what I call a low tunnel. Now with the cold nights, you definitely need something over your new fall transplants.

low-tunnel-before-row-cover

Here is the frame of the low tunnel before row cover-just fencing material curled into a u-shape ready for plants underneath it

I like to make my low tunnels out of 2″ x 4″ fencing or even concrete reinforcement wire.  I just open up the fence roll, cut off enough so it will be curved above my plants and turn it upside down on the soil.

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row cover over the low tunnel protects crops at night

Cover it with winter weight row cover (1.0 ml).  I put rocks on mine to keep it from blowing away. Now you have a secure low tunnel that will protect your plants during the shoulder season that is closing in on us quickly. What is a shoulder season? It is the time of year when the temperatures can drop quickly at night near freezing and then heat up in the day. The temperature shifts can swing wildly during the shoulder season. We have a shoulder season in spring and fall. By making a low tunnel, you can extend the season and grow vegetables like spinach, arugula, kale, lettuce, bok choy, mustard, mesclun, radicchio and other cool season crops much later. Fall is a great time to plant cool season crops and it’s not too late if you get transplants now. It might be too late if you start from seed unless it’s lettuce. Try to pick varieties that are cold tolerant.

What’s with all these green tomatoes?

tomato_green tomatoes

I’ve lived here for 21 years and have never seen the tomatoes ripen this late. In fact the majority of them in my garden are still green. I have a few sungolds and black cherry tomatoes and one Pink Berkley Tie Dye and a couple of red ones ripen but that’s it-the rest are still green on the vine.

tomato_healthy plants

The plants are big and healthy. So what’s happening here?

Problem #1
The first problem was we had a hot June (except for one weekend) and an unbelievably hot July here with day after day of 92+°F. Why does that matter? Tomatoes won’t pollinate themselves over 92°f-they drop their blossoms, which is commonly known as blossom drop. They will keep producing blossoms but won’t set them producing tomatoes until it’s cooler. So we lost a whole month, putting us behind schedule.

Problem # 2
So once the monsoons thankfully came in, it got cooler and now we have green tomatoes in various stages of ripening. But suddenly, it got even cooler. So much so that it is starting to feel like autumn in August with temperatures dropping at night into the 50’s and daytime temps are much lower in the 70s. So although the tomatoes can’t have extreme heat to set fruit, they need heat to ripen. With cooler temps, it takes longer for tomatoes to turn red, or yellow, or black or whatever color they should be when ripe.

Normally I show up at the Farmers Market middle of August with 6-8 boxes of tomatoes that then increases to 15-20 boxes every week.

tomatoes_first harvest

Here is what I have now. Only 2 little bowls of tomatoes, getting a bowl a day-hardly enough to go to market with.

Now it is a race to get some tomatoes to ripen before our first frost which usually comes in October but one year it came in early September. Let’s hope not this year!

Last year I decided to slow down and take a little time off (farmer’s burnout) and that I might not go to the market as much nor grow as many tomatoes either. I have 40 tomatoes this year (lost three to curly top virus) so now I have 37 compared to 125 tomato plants last year. I guess I made a good choice as I’m not sure how long into Sept it will be before I have enough to go to market if at all before a frost.

Finally the Garden is cleaned up-Nov 23

Nov garden 2015

The garden is CLEAN! Here I am siting on the bench on Nov 23. How desolate it looks compared to the picture below in summer. I put all the dead tomatoes and squash plants in the trailer to haul to the dump. The reason they go to the dump is tomatoes and squash are prone to diseases and I don’t want to use them in the compost piles if they don’t get hot enough to kill pathogens. I don’t want to be spreading diseases in the garden. The rest of the garden is in the compost bins which are now overflowing. I will make some more compost later this week when it is warmer. The winter weight row cover in the pic is covering the last little bit of my garden that is still alive-the kales. I have Russian Red kale and Winterbor Curly kale. Unbelievably they are still alive even with the bitter cold nights with temps dipping in the teens. The other thing you see are my strawberries to the right which are quickly going dormant.

garden bench summer 2015

Here is the garden in the summer. I miss it already.

Kale

winterbor_russian red kale

Russian Red Kale on left and Winterbor Curly Kale on right doing well with the cold nights

This year I grew 3 different varieties of kale-above is the Russian Red and Winterbor Curly kale growing together

lacinto kale

Lacinto kale (also known as Dino kale) It is the dark green in front of grape vine

Here is the Lacinto being shaded by the grape vine with carrots growing in front

Of the 3 varieties, Winterbor Curly Kale is my favorite and it is the most cold hardy. I started growing them the last week of July just before the Home Grown New Mexico Tour I was on. I had some holes in the garden so I ended putting some kale there. The Lacinto was partly shaded by a grape vine so it did not receive full sun. The Lacinto got heavily attacked by aphids. I sprayed all of them with water to help keep the aphid numbers down. But the Russian Red and Winterbor were planted elsewhere in the garden. I put them next to some tall tomato plants on one side and some tall sunflowers on the other side so they never got full sun either. They do well in our hot summers with some partial shade. They were not attacked by aphids. All three are still doing well. I’m not a great fan of kale so I’ve been looking for recipes that make me want to eat it. Here’s one wonderful way to eat it.

Kale Chips– you can use any variety of Kale to make this. This is now my favorite way to eat kale-dried! Kind of like potato chips but way more nutritional. Here’s a great simple recipe.

Kale Chips recipe courtesy of http://www.somastudio.net/2013/02/crispy-kale-chips/

Crispy Kale Chips
This kale chip recipe is easy to make and is so tasty you’ll want to make a double batch!

Ingredients:
2 big bunches of kale
1/2 cup raw tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wheat free tamari
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tpsp maple syrup
optional 1 tsp of chilli flakes

Instructions:
Rinse, de-rib, and rough tear the kale into a giant bowl.
Put all the other ingredients into a food processor or blender and mix until smooth or use a hand blender
Pour the mixture over the kale, and use your hands to toss it all together. Squish Squish! Get it good and covered.

Oven method:
Spread the kale out evenly on lined or oiled cookie sheets. You want them to be as ‘dehydrated’ as possible, instead of baked.  250º for 4 hours (ish). Every oven is different so you’ll need keep an eye on it and be your own judge. Just remember that too much heat will change the flavor.  Don’t overcook them!

Here is the recipe in PDF format for printing:
Kale Chips recipe

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MORE METHODS

Dehydrator method by http://www.giantveggiegardener.com :
Spread the kale out evenly on the dehydrator trays. Set temperature 115°F° or lower for about 4 hrs or more. Chips should be dry and crunchy when done. Every dehydrator is different so drying time may vary. This is still considered raw food done this way.

Raw food is food that is dehydrated at 115° F or lower to be the most nutritious and not lose vitamins. Above that and you start losing the nutritional value.

Here is some visuals of the process:

kale_squishing

Put cleaned, dry kale in bowl with the recipe ingredients below and squish with your hands so kale is well coated.

kale_putting on trays

Put on dehydrator trays

kale_drying

Dried Kale chips

kale_dried in jars

Store in jars or zip-loc baggies-I like storing in jars as the pieces don’t break up so much.

 

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