A Bittersweet Time in the Garden

I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus.~ Henry David Thoreau

Just as the Farmer’s Almanac called it, this autumn has been on the milder side. It’s not to say we haven’t experienced our first light frost – that happened the weekend of October 17th and 18thand again the other night. Having Mother Nature remind you of the impending change of the season during a warm autumn can shock crops – depending upon what’s still in the garden and what you have done to prepare for extending the season and fighting a little frost.

Peppers ripening on the counter

The beautiful autumnal colors of reds, oranges and yellows sprinkled through the beds in the form of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and marigolds up until mid-October. At that point we decided to harvest the tomatoes and let them ripen indoors. We always choose to do this at the end of the season for 2 reasons: 1. Tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine and 2. Too many people, including us have left them out too long and Jack Frost has nipped them and that’s that.  This year due to the cool temperatures throughout the summer we still had tons of hot peppers fully developed but had not yet changed from their green color.  It’s not as well known, as there is some debate depending on what you read, as to whether you can finish ripening green peppers to their colorful counterparts once it has been picked. I had always thought that you could not do this; however, I have discovered that peppers that have started to change colors can be picked and they will continue to ripen of  But I have also read that as long as they are mature in size, given time, green peppers will finish ripening off the plant, according to Big Stone Bounty.
f the plant.

tomatoes ripening in bins


We’ve known this about tomatoes but not peppers – this good info. Of course, pulling any fruit off the plant before fully ripened results in lower nutritional content and they aren’t as sweet as their fully ripened counterparts, but I think anything from your own garden is way better than from anywhere else. Plus I usually only do this at the end of the season when I am worried about impending frost.

Peppers ripening in a bag with tomatoes

I’ve also read a lot of conflicting data about whether or not peppers react to ethylene gas or not. Ethylene gas helps stimulate the ripening process in many fruits including tomatoes. I’m currently conducting my own experiment to see if the peppers I put in the paper bag with the ripe tomato and ripening tomatoes accelerates the process of ripening the green peppers vs the ones one the counter on a dish. We have so many green tomatoes that I have been using unused earthworm bins that have holes on the bottom to layer the green tomatoes so they can ripen. The aeration helps the process. All the cherry tomatoes are in three bins and then I have a platter full of standard-sized heirloom tomatoes stacked up.


Cold frame is up

There can be so much to do to get ready for winter, particularly if we get a winter as snowy as last year. Once again the Farmer’s Almanac Winter Forecast confirms our fears that we could be in for a doozy. To finish readying the garden beds for winter, we need to be sure any remaining tender crops have all been weeded out and pull any weeds that may have crept in over the summer.  By doing so we remove any possibility of leaving behind vegetation which may add to the promotion of disease. We put a cold frame over part of one bed where we are currently growing some broccoli – our broccoli in the past has been attached so I tend to cover it up to provide a little added TLC to give it more of a chance. We put another cold frame upon a bed of lettuce, carrots and arugula.  The hay/straw mulch still needs to be put down and I need to gather some pine needles for the asparagus bed.  


Yesterday during a break from the computer, I went out and pulled the entire bed of remaining bean, cucumber and morning glory vines.  All of which will be dumped in the woods since I worry about the morning glory seeds taking over.  In a few days I’ll harvest some more herbs – the mint, rosemary, sage and thyme should be trimmed back – as should the oregano.  I will leave some long and wild for the birds and bees to continue to enjoy. There won’t be too many days left where the weather will allow me to be outside and to me there is nothing better than working out in the garden.

3.5 inches of much needed rain
Asparagus ferns

It rained 3.5 inches yesterday and last night – we desperately need it. It’s why I ran outside the day before to deal with the vines since I knew I’d be stuck inside to deal with computer work and filing if the weather reports were right.  There is nothing I rather do less than file, which is apparent since I am finding statements from 2011 in the pile.  The spare garlic, shallots and onions I managed to plant in some containers and the remainder of the two beds I had planted some in last week. We use a ton of all three when we cook and buying them – particularly shallots – can be expensive; so there is nothing better than growing your own.  At this point the garden is ready for it hay/straw mulch in some beds.  I’m still waiting a little while longer before cutting the asparagus shoots down to 2- 3″ and mulching; their ferns are just turning a yellowish brown but most remain green still.  Once we cut them down we’ll mulch with as many pine needles as we can rake up from under our own trees and top off with the hay/straw mulch we use to protect the freshly cut tops from the wind and frost.


Our Brussels sprouts are still coming along – its our first year growing them so there is a learning curve. We had some pests eat away at the leaves at one point during the summer but we planted enough that we only really only lost one to the pests – the rest now have started to sprout their little sprouts which it fun to see. The end of the season list continues with dumping the new compost into the the 12 foot bed we had to empty thanks to the morning glory infestation.  We need to throw down some new compost in a few containers as well before putting the straw/hay mulch down. 

It’s a bittersweet time of year for us. We have worked in our garden as well as in our clients’ gardens all season. Preparing soil, seeding, planting, staking and supporting, watering, feeding, weeding, waiting, watching nature do what she does so well – grow, thrive, produce, feed.  It’s the most satisfying feeling in the world, helping people grow their own food.  But alas, all seasons must come to an end and our business, Homegrown Harvest is coming to the end of our third growing season.  We were thrilled the other day to receive photos from one of client’s boasting about their garden.  It’s the best feeling in the world when you have one of your clients send you pictures of her garden thriving or her standing there with a Cheshire cat grin holding a huge platter of homegrown vegetables. We are truly blessed!

As the season winds down we can take solace knowing that the garden may be still but underneath the soil, wonderful things are taking shape to fill our palates next season. 

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. ~Alfred Austin


If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal – that is your success. All nature is your congratulations, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. ~ Henry David Thoreau

The End of the 2014 Season

I wrote this blog entry back in early October in a notebook. However, life got in the way of me sitting down and entering it; a resolution is to be more diligent in keeping up with writing and actually posting.

Garlic Planting Season

September has been cool and wet in our neck of the woods of SWCT, much like the summer was.  The first six days of October has proven to be both wet and cold; two inches of rain fell over the weekend and I woke to chilly 48 degrees. The marigolds don’t seem to mind the frigid temperatures and they continue to brighten our garden with reds, oranges and yellows.  Many people this time of year find themselves turning to chrysanthemums, but our marigolds have minimized our need to buy mums. The pink petunias as well have continued to thrive nicely into October.  In New England this is the time of year (October/November) to plant garlic. We decided to experiment with a few different varieties this season, after learning that there is a whole world of garlic of varying tastes and spiciness to them that I had never heard of or seen. I thought garlic was garlic but just in the way you can’t say if you’ve tasted one tomato, you’ve tasted them all; the same goes for garlic.

IMG_0007
Charley our gnome

Allicin: Mother Nature’s Insecticide

When I select seeds and starts for our gardens, I always look for varieties that are easy to grow in our zone (6), that will be prolific and delicious of course. Siberian garlic is an example of a wonderful cold weather prolific producer we planted this fall. It has a warm medium to strong flavor delicious in any dish. It is high in allicin content, the highest of any garlic. Allicin is an organosulfur compounds that enhances circulation; normal cholesterol levels; and boosts the immune system. Plus has a variety of antimicrobial properties.  Garlic is natural defense system from insects and fungi; enzymatic-ally producing allicin when it’s chushed.   It is Mother Nature’s insecticide. However, allicin is not found in all forms of garlic – it is primarily found in the raw state.

When roasted Siberian garlic deliciously caramelizes, its delicate mild flavor compliments without overwhelming.  A perfect addition to stir-fries, dips, sauces, soups where you are looking to add a subtle hint of garlic.  Originally from Europe and used in traditional European and Russian cooking, Siberian garlic made its way to Alaska in the 19th century. Legend says it was traded off the docks for fresh veggies, probably making its way across the Bering Strait. It’s an easy to grow hard neck garlic in the maple purple stripe family. A medium-tall plant, it produces large bulbs and beautiful purple flowers making a lovely addition to any garden.  Bogatyr is also in this family. This rich flavored garlic is extremely robust and great in Italian dishes. I look forward to having this in our sauces!  Chesnok Red is one of the best baking garlic around; mouthwatering sweet when baked. Rounding out the garlic bed we also included Elephant, Music, California Early and Late Italian. All milder than the easier mentioned varieties but add just as much to the culinary cues of the kitchen.

When planting garlic cool temperatures are the best conditions for planting.  Look for a sunny site, preferably in a raised bed rich with compost.  Break bulbs into separate cloves, the plump ones are best for the garden – save the smaller ones for containers or to force chivelike foliage.  Set and space cloves two to three inches apart in all directions.  Along with the garlic, we planted other alliums like onions and shallots that like other bulbs do best when planted in the fall.

IMG_0001
Our garden.

December Entry- Getting up to date and ready for the snow

It’s difficult to believe that despite the calendar and the fact that many parts of the country have been buried under snow; 6’+ in Buffalo a week before Thanksgiving – it’s still fall. Autumn, that beautiful time of years where Mother Nature truly can put on a spectacular finale before closing the final curtain on the season.  The winter solstice doesn’t begin until December 21 – over two weeks away. We put a straw/hay blended mulch down on top of the bed that are seeded or perennials to protect from the expected harsh winter snows.

Just as the leaves were turning dazzling shades of orange, yellow and red, the trees and shrubs begin to shed their glory; there is a part of the garden that is just getting started. As I have discussed above, early fall is the perfect time for planting garlic bulbs, onion and shallot starts. They start to grow just a little in the ground before going dormant for the winter months.  It’s like they hit the pause button until the spring thaw warms the ground once more, kick starting their growth in to overdrive.  Many vegetables benefit greatly from spending some time in the frosted ground – it tends to bring out the natural sugars and makes things like peas and carrots sweeter.

IMG_0002
Winter Brown Lettuce under the glass bell cloches.

The other day I walked out in to the garden and checked on the things that we had seeded in late summer that we have been able to enjoy for a few weeks now.  First there is the dwarf bok choy that we look forward to throwing into some stir-fry this weekend. We would have already had some but our 11-month-old puppy, Marley Sage Mulch can add bok choy to her list of last names. On numerous occasions she got into the raised bed and munched away at the crispy ends of the vegetable managing to eat up three plants.  We were able to save a few others but have had to wait to make sure the plants would survive.

Today another walk through the garden I see in one raised bed that there is plenty of kale that is ready to enjoy. The arugula should be cut so we can make some pesto and the Golden Acre cabbage looks delicious.  I check the progress under the stray/hay we put down as mulch to protect from the expected harsh winter.  Underneath the yellow multiplier onions is nestled next to Italian late garlic with Artic butterhead lettuce on the other side. Music and Elephant garlic sit next to the Giants of Colamar carrots at the garden party. The exotic Sante shallots and French red shallots mix with California Early and Siberian garlic. Finishing the bed up with Bogatyr and Russian red garlic coupled with Russian Red torpedo and Walla Wallas onions.

IMG_0005
Golden Acre Cabbage

Finally I walk through the gate of our Maine Kitchen Garden where under a cloche Marvel of Four Season lettuce and Paris Market carrots are growing.  Under the glass bell cloches it’s easy to see the leaves of the Winter Brown lettuce. We also seeded a number of overwintering carrot varieties like Meridia Hybrid and Giants of Colamar; a few varieties of greens such as Giant Winter spinach and Winterwunder looseleaf lettuce that we will be able to enjoy in early spring.

As the holiday catalogs continue to fill our mailboxes with cards and catalogs, the first of the seed catalogs have also started to come in sparking the beginning thoughts, dreams and discussions for next season.  We wish all our readers and followers and very joyous holiday season and a bountiful New Year!