Year of the rat

This year I have had a rodent problem in the garden, two years ago it was an ant problem. Now the ants are under control but the mice and packrats are out of control even though I continue to trap them and I’ve gotten a lot of them. I’ve never had a problem like this before in my veggie garden but luckily I have had a super productive year.

Actually next year, 2021, is officially ‘The Year of the Rat’ in the Chinese Zodiac but it might as well be this year. The mice and rats have been eating holes in many of the veggies.

Rat damage on a Cherokee green tomato

Tomatoes-My tomatoes have been hit hard but thankfully I have lots of them. I think rats are destroying some of my tomatoes and on other tomatoes there are little bites so I think they are mice-either way I can’t sell them. I’d be thinking, “I will wait one more day to harvest some particular tomato”, and then the mice/rat gets it first so I’ve had to resort to taking them a few days early and let the tomatoes finish ripening inside the house. I have too many tomato plants to completely wrap each plant to keep them out. Very frustrating.

 

 

 

Pepper damage

Peppers- I have to cut out part of the peppers that has been eaten too. They eat a hole at the top of the pepper and get the seeds. They don’t seem to care if the peppers are still green or red. So I’ve resorted to tacking down the pepper bed with some hail netting and using 2″ x 4″ boards to keep the netting snug at the bottom on the ground so they can’t get under it. So far so good.

 

 

 

Butternut squash-Then there are the butternut winter squash. They are almost ready to harvest. I’m waiting for the skins to get that beautiful butterscotch color. Well some mouse has been attacking them too. They nibble small holes in some of them. So I’ve resorted to completely wrapping each butternut squash in pieces of row cover to keep them from getting them.

 

I have not been able to plant any lettuces in my lettuce shade garden this season either. They first ate all my Fava beans last spring and so I have had to forgo growing lettuces in that area. Instead I’m going to plant the lettuce that I’ve started this fall into my covered coldframe up by the house. In a few more weeks I’ll also plant lettuce in my greenhouse (it’s still to warm inside the greenhouse to put them there but I am ready when it cools down more).

So it looks like either trapping them or wrapping your plant up tight to keep them out works. I would never use poison as we have a cat that also hunts them and our neighbor’s dog too. They could die from eating a poisoned rodent. Plus birds of prey like hawks would die also.

I have heard from other gardeners in this area that they too have had rodent problems this year. How about you? Have you had problems with rodents in your veggie garden this year?

Snow!

Here’s the garden this morning at 7 am. I wasn’t expecting snow but here it is! The row cover blew off the tomatoes in those 60+mph winds last nite but they are so big and dense, I think if I did sustain some freezing damage, it will only be on the edges-the interior tomatoes should be ok.

Some flowers, rhubarb got bit pretty hard but the row covers stayed on the squashes, beans and RASPBERRIES and they seem ok! The snow melted pretty quick as it wasn’t much but it did stay cold all day. Tonight is our first fire in the fireplace. The temperature last night broke a record for earliest freeze in Santa Fe! Hope it warms up by the weekend and we get an Indian summer until mid-October. Am I dreaming?!

 

FREEZE ALERT!

Tomorrow night a freeze warning has been issued for our area in Santa Fe.

It could get colder or it might miss your garden, but to be safe, I will be putting row cover over any veggies/fruits I still want to protect and harvest.

The weather people have been changing the forecast everyday and sometimes several times a day lately. They think it will be above just above freezing but the wind chill will drive down the temperature to feel below freezing and I’m not willing to take that chance after spending all these months growing veggies. If it does go down to freezing, my garden will be protected. I think it will be a new record low if it does hit 32°F as the previous record for our first freeze was in October, but never in September. What a weird year-record heat one day and threat of a freeze the next day!

Medium or heavy weight row cover will give your veggies protection to several degrees below freezing. The problem is, if you don’t protect them, and we get an Indian summer where it turns warm again for quite a while, then the crops could have the time they need to finish ripening before we get more cold weather.

Remember to remove the protection in the morning so the plants can get warmth and light from the sun. I have lost many crops by not protecting them during these early freezes. I will be prepared this time!

What have I been doing?

Wow-it’s been almost a month since I last posted. How time flies! I go from posting a lot in July to not much at all in August. So what have I been doing in the last month?

 

Harvesting!  Harvesting!  Harvesting!!

 

TOMATOES
This year has been a great tomato year vs last year which sucked. When the harvesting starts in earnest, I become headless (but in a good way)! I can’t process the tomatoes into tomato sauce fast enough as it seems everyday was a new bumper crop that needed to be picked and eaten and dealt with (can’t let any of them go to waste)! Plus I’ve been selling some this year. I’ve really loved all those Caprese salads and know they will end in the not to far future.

CUCUMBERS
Most of the cucumbers have been harvested and preserved. I’ve made sweet pickle relish, Bread and butter pickles and cornichons. I tried to ferment some green DILL pickles but failed miserably (I’ll have to get my fermentation friends to help me). The dill pickles were too salty and not crisp like I had hoped. I think I left them in the crock too long and now the cukes are slowing down. Oh well, there is always next year.

BEANS
The green beans, Emerite are slowing down and the Zolphino dry bean pods are starting to dry out so I am harvesting them as the pods dry out and will shell them later this winter. I don’t wait till the end of the season but pick the dry pods as they are ready, otherwise the beans fall out of the shell if I wait too long. I’m so excited as I got them in Italy 2 years ago and last year when I planted them a gopher ate every plant and every plant I replanted. Of course the gopher had to eat my most expensive bean-it was 40 Euros/kilo (that is 47 dollars) over there as it is endangered in Italy and they are trying to bring it back. One thing is the gopher had good taste-it didn’t go after my less expensive beans.

CABBAGES
The Kalibos cabbages are ready for harvest too. All my fermenter friends will love getting one of these for sauerkraut or kimchi! I keep one too but they are so big, one does me just fine and will last for months in the refrigerator.

 

 

PEPPERS
The Corno de Horno peppers and Lava Red peppers are still green. I will wait till they turn red when they will be sweeter. There will be a bumper crop of both of these this year. Nice problem to have!  I’ll have to figure out what to do with all of them! The Jimmy Nardello peppers are turning red (at a reasonable rate for harvesting). The Shishitos peppers have been kicking for a good month.

 

BERRIES/GRAPES
The grapes and blackberries are done but the raspberries are just starting to kick in and will be in full blast harvest mode soon. We are harvesting every 3 days now. It is a fall-bearing raspberry called Polana and it is the best producing raspberry ever for me at my garden.

 

SQUASH
My summer squash is still kicking and my winter squash, Butternuts, are starting to change color to tan and will be ready mid-end of September.

 

 

SHALLOTS
I harvested 2 beds of shallots which are now curing and will store these like onions for the winter. i love shallots over onions as they are sweeter and cost a lot more in the grocery stores.

 

 

CHARD/KALE
And of course, the chard and kale are loving the cooler weather and will go to frost. But they like it hot or cold weather wise. I have too much kale. Anyone want some?

 

 

CARROTS
All carrots are ready for harvest in the next 2 weeks.

CORNI grew sweet corn this year and waited too long to harvest. Bummer. There is always next year…

 

That’s it! Busy as a bee right now!

 

 

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.