Who wants walking onions?

onion-bed-fullFive months ago, I was excited that our onions were finally walking.

Now our onion bed is packed — and that’s after giving some away in the neighborhood and beyond.

Right now they feel more like green onions on steroids. But come summer, I figure every green stalk you see will give off at least three bulbs and we will have dozens of shallots. I’ll know how those people in Asheville were feeling when they put out a bowl of onion bulbs for the taking. Be sure to stop by and claim some. Or I can bring you some.

My Thanksgiving weekend dilemma

Planting these was a daunting task
Planting this big bag of bulbs was a daunting task

I bought more daffodil bulbs.

Yes, I know we have hundreds (likely 1,000+, since they keep naturalizing) already in the yard. Yes, I know I didn’t need more.

I tried to resist. I resisted the offer of two bags of 50 mixed bulbs for $12 at an area garden center. I resisted an email fall clearance offer, though after some internal debate. I resisted when a friend emailed about it, suggesting we go in on an order. Everything 35% off! But when he repeated the offer and said he was ordering the next day, I took another look. Not just at those listed in the email but all the daffodils on the website. And when I saw the mixed assortment of “double” daffodils — fragrant, frilly, showy — well, I caved.

Irrresistable, right?
Irresistable, right?

The smallest pack was 50 bulbs. But I’d already fallen off the wagon, so why show restraint now? I figured I’d get 100 and worry about where to plant them later.

Fortunately, my friend missed that part of my request and only ordered 50 for me.

I picked up the bulbs on Thanksgiving morning and just stared at the size of that bag. What had I done? Where would they all go? I didn’t know where the other bulbs were, just that they were all over the flower beds. And I’d moved some in the spring from a back bed that hasn’t worked out. At least then I could see where I could squeeze them in. But after all that, did I have any space left?

Just some of the daffodil bulbs I dug up and found new homes for in the spring.
Just some of the daffodil bulbs I dug up and found new homes for in the spring.

No time like the present to do a bit more “editing” of the beds .. thin out some, move some others. And yes, try to find room for daffodil bulbs.

I had some early success, but then it got hard. I’d dig — and slice through some bulbs. (I hope they can heal.) Time to be more careful. I would find a spot — and tuck in one, maybe two bulbs. This was slow-going. I eventually got about 30 in the ground and had no idea where to put the last 20. I really didn’t want to create a fresh bed, and I didn’t want to put them in a section of the front beds where I’d rarely see them. Could I put them in one of the raised vegetable beds for the winter and transplant them in May or June, when I could see the gaps? That might mess up the spring peas, or the tomatoes or …

But maybe somewhere else where they could later be moved? I settled on a spot in front of our garden bench, visible from the kitchen window. It nicely connected a flower bed and a lemongrass plant that just expanded and expanded over the summer (and now is indoors) on one end and that weigela we’d planted in the spring on the other. (Yes, the bench will likely get squeezed out as the shrub grows.). Plus it was an excuse to clear out some mock strawberry (a pointless effort, I know, but it made me feel good). The bulbs will stretch along the length of the bench and beyond, look pretty in the spring and yet be easy to transplant.

Done!

When I’m tempted again next year, I should read this again and just keep saying no. Unless, of course, I’ve created a new bed in anticipation.

This is the last harvest of the year. No, this is. Actually, there’s one more.

I thought this was pretty much the last of the garden produce, aside from the odd tomato (and then the lemongrass stalks I harvested while transplanting the plants into indoor pots for the winter):

october-harvest

But when we cleaned up the tomato bed in late October, we ended gleaned plenty more, some with more appealing looks than others, plus a few more peppers:

tomato-gleaning

The fall peas, planted in August, were still there, and we’d noticed the white flowers. But we’d given up on any actual pods. Guess the Brit planted too late, we said. No bees around to pollinate, we decided.

november-pea-flowers

And then we spotted this, while mulching leaves for the compost bin. I think there may be about three pods.

november-pea-pod

Lesson learned. Plant in July if there is room in the bed. Otherwise don’t bother.

Greens from the garden

It’s Dec. 6. We had a dusting of snow just before Thanksgiving — thankfully it didn’t stick. This week will be the last time the township collects leaves and yard debris until March, so we did our best to send them off with a few big piles (and that’s after the really big pile of leaves turning into compost behind the forsythia at the back of the yard).

But what’s still growing in the cold frame?

Baby greens.

dec 6 2014 003

Our hardiest flowers

These were the final holdouts of 2013 and still in bloom last weekend, despite many frosts. They are shriveling up, but even that biting rain and cold just before Thanksgiving hasn’t been able to quite finish them off and turn them black.

This low-to-the-ground black-eyed Susan’s microclimate is tucked behind a clump of ornamental grasses and by the garage downspout. Nearby black-eyed Susans were caught by the first frost a month ago.

last black-eyed susan of 2013

The pair of asters was protected by other perennials that had died back. I wouldn’t have found them if I hadn’t been doing some fall clean-up. Like the black-eyed Susan, they are on the small side. Unlike it, these didn’t have that pop of color.

aster in November

Finally, I found a couple of vinca flowers in a shady bed on the north side of the house, in a narrow strip between the air-conditioning unit and another wall of the house. And the flowers are even lower to the ground than the other examples. All the hostas on the other side of the air conditioner have died back, of course.

Vinca

Now it’s time to wait for the lenten roses that share that space to give us some winter color.

Gleaning

sign at a pick-your-own apple farmMy third type of harvest, and my good deed for Thanksgiving to boot: Gleaning apples in support of New Jersey Farmers Against Hunger.

The Brit and I were part of a relatively small group of volunteers who descended Saturday on a pick-your-own apple farm in northern New Jersey. The farmer said he’d had a great year, but there were plenty of apples still on the trees and yet more good ones on the ground. The goal was to collect enough apples for other people to pack into mixed bags for food pantries to hand out for Thanksgiving. So the apples didn’t have to be the perfect “fancy” grade that you find in a supermarket. We were told to also take those with a bruise that could be cut out and used for pie or apple sauce. Here’s to hoping the recipients don’t turn up their noses at something less than perfect!

Apples on a treeCan’t reach the apples on the tree? Some people used an apple-picking tool that kind of looks like a lacrosse stick. Painfully slow. The rest of us learned to give the tree a strong two-handed shake that would send the apples falling to the ground, where they generally survived (some did crack) and we’d recover them. Quick, but the downside was a few bops to the head from falling apples. One woman decided her basket could serve as an ad-hoc helmet, but I just took the hits.

basket of apples

It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and we filled basket after basket, dumping them in turn into giant bins that hold more than 1,000 pounds. We only started to flag in the final half hour. Still, we harvested about 15,000 pounds of various varieties of apples in under three hours — a record for one gleaning there, the farmer said. And we didn’t finish. There’s another gleaning planned for Saturday.

If the apples don’t get picked, they’ll just go to waste.

And it’s still shocking how many apples already are being left to rot on the ground to turn into compost by spring. Imagine what you could d if you had a cider press!

Bonus for us volunteers: We all went home with a bag of apples. I went for the green-gold Crispins (sweet and crisp) and the red Winesap, a tart and firm heirloom variety. I made some apple crisp, but it’s time to start looking for some more imaginative recipes.

pallets of apples

Last harvest

The forecast for tonight is a low of 34 or 33, and tomorrow night’s low is supposed to be 33. Winter is closing in on us, and it is getting too cold to risk some of our vegetables. And our Portuguese hot pepper plants were just bursting!

So out I went into the cold (it feels colder than 48!) and harvested three dozen of those red peppers. Those alone filled a good-sized mixing bowl! And that’s before the unripened ones, the last of the deep green jalapenos and the ripe orange and unripe light green habaneros.

A bowl of red hot peppers

I’m not sure how we’re going to use them. Freeze them? Try to make a red hot pepper jam? A recipe I saw uses more sweet red peppers than hot ones, so I won’t blow off my head — I hope. Or maybe I’ll try this one? Apparently I can also use green peppers, or maybe I’ll try those that didn’t finish turning red and which one store sells for about the same price as green. There is no shortage of hot: We still have part of an earlier crop in the fridge and had a friend dehydrate and grind others.

I also picked up this carrot — or should I say carrots that have grown together into one mass? Not sure how we’ll eat this!

mega mangled carrot

In, too, came a lot of citrus-y basil for some quick pesto.

The red Swiss chard can handle a light frost, so I left that. I harvested a few greens but I’m hoping the rest can handle any coolness. For good measure, I took an old blue tent cover hanging around in the garage and threw it on top of the caged bed to protect the plants just before nightfall. Sorry about the poor lighting!

covering a raised bed

Just a shame about all the yellow flowers on the last of the tomato plants. They will never get enough time to turn into fruit.

Now to find time to start planting next year’s garlic harvest.