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.

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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.

Spring Planting, and the Search for Sun Golds

We are finally beginning to sow some seeds. It feels a bit late to be starting to get seedlings going under the grow lights, but somehow time keeps getting away from us. That, or the urge to attack all those white flowering weeds in the flower beds (never mind the lawn) that I have finally identified as bittercress. (I fear that will be a long battle, but that is another tale.)

leeks, tomatoes and more

So Sunday night I cleaned out all the old plastic planting cells and trays in bleach and water, hoping to kill anything bad. Tonight we started filling them up. Two sets of nine planting cells were packed with leek seeds, one Musselburgh and the other a Scottish heirloom from somewhere. (Two empty seed packets –yay!) If they all come up, we’ll need a new bed!

We’re planting only four cells per set of nine in the rest of the tray. I was only supposed to put in one tomato seed per cell, so don’t tell the Brit that I didn’t always stick to that rule! One went for Ramapos, another for Brandywines, yet another for black cherry tomatoes and a fourth for the unnamed orange golf-ball sized ones that add a nice mix of color to a summer salad. I finally used up all the gardeners delight cherry tomatoes. That’s already five varieties of tomatoes (and don’t ask how many other varieties of tomato seeds we have!) We also used up the pimento red pepper seeds (“produces a lot of small squat peppers,” said the friend who gave them to us). Maybe they will be this year’s pyramid peppers … more plants and peppers than we know what to do with!

tomatoes and more tomatoes

After all this, why do we think we need to buy sun gold tomato seeds? Worse, why are we making the effort to search them out when the usual suspects don’t have them? These don’t even have the cachet of heirloom seeds. It took calling a seed seller and asking what stores in the area carried the brand, and then calling them and finding one that was willing to include sun golds in his next order (or so he says, still waiting for confirmation. Paying postage that is more than the price of a packet of seeds crosses my pain threshold).

Botanical Interests, a family seed company with appealing packaging (drawings, rather than photos), gives this description:” Beautiful, plump, tangerine colored fruits are quite simply, very sweet and juicy! Provide support for vigorous vines that easily reach 6 feet long. Allow tomatoes to fully ripen for optimum flavor; fruits should almost fall off the vine when ready. You won’t find these gems in the grocery stores, since for the commercial market tomatoes must be picked under-ripe for shipping.”

Now do you understand? When I grew them a few years ago, I ate them like candy. And we’re not the only ones. We’ll be sharing seeds or seedlings with colleagues, and I’m thinking of a few family members who’d like them too.

Where am I going to find room in the beds for all these tomatoes, plus basil, greens, peas, beans and more? That’s something I’ll worry about in May!

Final Harvest

Last of the 2010 tomatoes and peppers

It’s getting chilly but thankfully the killer frost is arriving late this year. That gave me this weekend to get the last of the tomatoes, peppers and salad greens and to harvest the lemongrass. To think that I won’t be able to pick another tomato for 8 1/2 months…

Essentially all we are leaving in the beds are leeks and Brussel sprouts. May frost make them tastier.

Plotting the vegetable garden

We’ve been a bit slow in getting out the spreadsheet (really high-tech graph paper) and figuring out what will go in each square foot of the raised beds and how many crops we can rotate through each square if we’re really organized and diligent. (I was a bit ambitious last year.) Once again, we’re following the square-foot gardening method, planting more intensively per foot and replacing vegetables with others as they’re harvested. As usual, it’s a bit of a juggling act.

Peas were a big hit in 2008; three rows of them, then, alternating with the beans we also liked. The rest of that bed, which was overflowing with tomatoes last year, will be filled mostly with three types of basil, leeks that we’ve started under the grow lights in the basement and some greens that will get the cold-frame treatment. Can’t talk the Brit out of one square of cucumbers; watch for the glut just from that. Hopefully we can time them with the first tomatoes so a lot of them can be turned into gazpacho.

Another bed will have a mix of greens, beets, coriander, some of that rainbow chard, a couple squares of marigolds and nasturtiums to keep down the unwanted kind of bugs. Okra can get another chance since there are seeds left over from two years ago. The new crop to try will be zucchini. Good thing I have a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread. Even three or four plants could produce plenty of baseball bats if we don’t keep an eye on them.

Tomatoes shouldn’t follow potatoes, which makes it hard to grow any potatoes if two of the five beds will go for tomatoes.  Scratch them, even though we liked last year’s  blue potatoes. Peppers also should be kept away from tomatoes. And they like to hold hands (touch). Put four of the yellow seedlings from our friend among the bed full of strawberries and two rhubarb plants; by the time they really grow, strawberry season will be over.

As for those tomatoes…the big wave of planting will begin around April 1. I’m sure I’ll have a few spares to share.

Will they grow?

We went to the apartment of friends for dinner Saturday night, and she had more pepper seedlings than she knew what to do with. Turns out that she was cutting a yellow pepper about a month ago and decided to scatter the seeds in an oval-shaped pot on the window sill instead of tossing them in the trash. Her window gets lots of sun, and a month later she had loads of three-inch pepper seedlings. We have scored a dozen of them and will see how many square feet are available to them (or whether we, too, will be sharing the wealth). I’m curious whether they really sprout yellow or are hybrids and end up looking like .. what?
The next day we met someone else who, it turns out, was so impressed with some peach-like tomatoes last summer that he saved the seeds. Let’s see if he comes through with a few of them.
I’ve already come up with a way to squeeze them into the 18 spots reserved in the beds for tomatoes: the silvery fir determinate ones will just have to go in pots instead. And yes, that means I am up to 20 tomato plants. (And we just started a few more seeds too.)