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–A lousy year for tomatoes

This year was a lousy year for tomatoes for me. Other gardeners have said as much too. Except for one raised bed with 8 tomato plants that are my salvation, the other 17 tomato plants in a different section have not produced well.

Why I asked? A couple of things come to mind for me.

First, we got a late snow on May 20th. The first frost free date is suppose to be May 15th here, but not this year. Plus our spring was cold. That caused me to to put the transplant in the ground on May 25th in wall of waters. I could have transplanted them earlier in the wall of waters but I didn’t have the heart to put them out earlier. It’s hard to do when you’ve started them from seeds 6 weeks earlier and it’s cold or freezing outside. I didn’t want them to stress or even die in the cold nights.

The previous year was we had a very warm spring and I was able to get out the tomato transplants in the ground on May 6th-quite a difference 3 weeks can make in a short growing season.

The second thing that comes to mind was we had a hot June where the temperatures were above 92°F for much of the month. Any temperatures over 92°F will cause tomato blossom drop during the pollination process. The plants did flower and then dropped their blossoms. Pollination temperatures are critical for setting tomato fruit-we want the temps to be below 92°F. After they set their fruit, temperature is not a big factor and the fruit will grow.

The third thing is the monsoons were late. They normally come at the end of the first week in July but didn’t materialize until the end of July and then only for a short period of time. The monsoons stopped and it got too hot again for tomato pollination-hence more blossom drop in July.

Lastly, the soil in the beds were not as good where the 17 tomato plants are in. They are in a newer section where the soil is not as rich. This pointed out to me (again) the need to improve the soil with more compost.

Now the temps are beautiful but basically our season has slowed down and will end for tomatoes whenever we get that first freeze which is between now and October 15th. So before that night comes, when I hear a freeze is eminent, I will pick those few green tomatoes and bring them inside to ripen. For tips on ripening tomatoes inside, go to my post here.

It was a disappointing season for tomatoes here in my garden. How about the rest of you? How did your tomato plants do this year?

Mother nature is sometimes not so generous to gardeners!

 

Snake in the chicken coop!

Well, well, well, look what I found this week in the chicken coop! A bull snake trying to eat an egg but I got it before he did! Now I check a few times a day if I’m home to make sure it doesn’t get an egg. I like the snake around the coop as it keeps the mice population down but I guess this egg was an easier meal to catch!

Peaches galore!

This was the a great year for peach harvests. A friend called me and told me they picked over 200 lbs of peaches off of their two peach trees! The tree variety is called Contender, and she bought them from Tooley’s Trees up in Truchas. She invited me to come and get some and I took about 15 lbs of peaches.

I made two wonderful galettes with peaches and raspberries. I used Deborah Madison’s recipe for the galette crust from her Seasonal Fruit Desserts book. Really simple to do and the best crust ever-light and flaky!

I also made 24 jars of peach-raspberry jam with honey–Delicious!

The rest of the fresh peaches were eaten within the week! What a treat!

Garlic Chives

Garlic chives are different than regular chives.  In Chinese cuisine, they are considered a delicacy where they are used as garnish on soups, in salads and stirred fried dishes. You use them as you would regular chives chopping the leaves up for these dishes. They taste like mild garlic vs regular chives, which have an oniony taste. This year they are producing beautiful flowers as well.

I recently tried the flowers instead of the leaves in my Flowers Good Enough to Eat class I had out here at the farm. I tried them with other herbs in a sherry vinaigrette for tomatoes and the subtle nuance in flavor was wonderful. A big plus is how beautiful they are when flowering in my herb garden and they are fairly drought tolerant.

The recipe comes from the late Amy Hetager who was one of the founders of Home Grown New Mexico here in Santa Fe. Here is the recipe for the vingarette and salad: AMY’s TOMATO SALAD

Tomatoes just starting to come in!

I live for my tomatoes out of my garden each year!

Most of my tomatoes are just starting to ripen. There are many more on the vine in various stages of green! So every few days I get a few ripe tomatoes. Just enough for a Caprese salad every few nites. I’m in heaven!

I have many standard tomatoes but a couple of new ones that are suppose to take 70-80 days are already ripening at 60 days. I love them all so far. They may make my all-star tomato list at the end of the season which is really hard to do as I am really, really picky-they must be VERY flavorful. Here are some new varieties that have ripened so far..

New to me is Large Barred Boar (from Wild Boar Farms) which is much larger than their regular Barred Boar with the same great flavor. It is burgundy color with green stripes. It has a really rich complex flavor.

 

Another new tomato is Grosse Verte Rose (from Secret Seed Cartel seed company) which is a dusky pink color and sweet, sweet, sweet and about 12-14 oz big. A winner for sure.

 

 

Tonite I got the first two Cherokee Carbon tomatoes and they look beautiful. No cracks, smooth skin and a cross between a Purple Cherokee and the Carbon tomato. I normally grow heirlooms or open-pollinated varieties but I’m not against hybrids if they taste great. This one is a hybrid and I’ll let you know later how the taste is. They are about 14-16 oz and look beautiful.

Also new to me is a tomato named Santorini from the Greek Island of Santorini. (duh). They were one of the first to ripen and are a smaller bright red tomato with the flavor of an old-fashion tomato. I like them and the fact that they were so early is good too. Sorry I don’t have a pic-I ate them all.

So that’s the report so far on the NEW varieties of tomatoes that have started to ripen. There are many different varieties that are still green and for those of you waiting, don’t despair. With this heat I’m sure they will be ripening soon.

If you don’t recognize these varieties it’s because I try tomatoes from many different places and like to turn people on to new varieties that are awesome! If your local nurseries doesn’t carry them next year, you’ll have to start them from seed.

I’ll post later as I have more to report on. Let’s hope for a long warm fall where all of them will ripen!

 

 

Cylindra and Chiogga beet harvest

Chiogga beets on the left and Cylindra beets on the right

I just harvested my beets I planted in the spring and got 13 lbs! I grew two heirloom varieties- Cylindra and Chiogga.

The Cylindra beet is originally from Denmark although the seeds are available in the states as well. They are a rather long, sweet buttery beet which is great when sliced. It is a dark red and actually grows a little out of the soil so they are easy to see when they are ready for harvest. One of my favorite varieties of beets.

CHiogga beets are striped insideThe Chiogga (pronounced kee-OH-gee-uh) is an Italian heirloom that was establish in the 1840s. It is a round beet that has beautiful pink and white concentric stripes inside and the flavor is sweet as well-another favorite of mine.

I’m going to start more from seed for a fall harvest. Anybody got some great recipes for beets?