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!

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Growing Season for 2016/Fall Harvest

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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

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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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