snow on garden boxes

It’s a sad day when it’s time to say good bye to the garden for 6 months:(  I started the final stages of deconstructing the garden in October when the weather was still nice but snow was lurking around the corner!  All the warm weather vegetables had to come out first whether they were ripe or not – they don’t like the snow!

stash of peppers in crevice

Looks like some critters were caching my peppers along the edge!!

The pepper plants were the first to get denuded.  Since I had already made recipes with the jalapenos, seranos and hatch all I had left were the sweet peppers which I ripened in the window to bright red or orange then cut in half and froze, keeping a few fresh ones in refrigerator. They will be soggy when defrosted like most fresh vegetables so they are only good to use in chili or casseroles.

At the end of October,  just before a our first snow event I spent a whole day pulling and disposing of all the tomato plants filling 2-5 gallon buckets of green tomatoes.  I divided them in two boxes adding an apple in each to give them a kick start to ripen.  The apples will give off ethylene gas which induces surrounding fruit to start ripening.  It worked really well!  I recall seeing the ‘gas room’ where they ripen industrial vegetable productions at ‘Shamrock Foods’ warehouse. Who Knew??

picking the last of the tomatoes

Tomato Plant Deconstruction

buckets of green tomatoes

Green Tomatoes in Buckets

Over the course of 2 weeks all the fruit ripened in different stages; first lightening to a yellow tone then they were put in the window to get natural light which turned them red.  I had enough to make a Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup and another large batch of fresh spaghetti sauce.  I estimate that I had over 120 pounds of tomatoes to process this year, enough canned/frozen items to last for several years!

I was in no hurry to pull the beets, carrots and green onions that were left since they are pretty tolerant to cold temps until the ground freezes hard.  I picked the beets and carrots mid-November and plucked some of the green onions.  I left the remaining onions in the ground for next spring when they will come back to life and will be ready to pick at the beginning of May.  The carrots were plentiful!  I blanched them (in boiling water x 3 min) prior to vacuum sealing and freezing.

freshly picked carrots on ground

Last of the Carrots

The last thing that had to happen before it was all said and done was to plant the garlic.  Like tulips and daffodils, bulbs like to be planted in the fall, not spring.  I bought 6 bulbs (with about 10 cloves each) online and used some bulbs/cloves from my garden as well for a total of about 65 garlic cloves.

I cut back all the asparagus ferns, removed the trellis, disassembled all the watering tubes and buttons, put all the tomato cages away and closed the door for the season!  I did not add any amendments this fall since the soil did so well this year.  It should be good for another season.  I will add compost to individual plant spots in the spring just prior to planting.

volunteer tomato plant coming out of compost bin

Volunteer Tomato Plant Growing out of Compost Bin!

I will continue to add produce scraps into the compost bin throughout the winter; those worms will keep working!

Although I love all the harvesting, I am glad to be done for the season.  It was pretty much nonstop this fall.  Now it is time to use all the good stuff for cooking with all the frozen, canned and still fresh onions and garlic.  It is really hard to buy fresh produce from the grocery again, it is definitely not as good!!  The spring seed catalogs have started coming in but I have no desire to look at them just yet, midwinter is the best time for that!  I will have plenty of time to figure out nexts years’ planting and seed starters.

Some final thoughts for this harvest year:

Next year I will only plant tomatoes to eat fresh, no paste tomatoes for sauce.

I really like the ‘cowboy candy’ (see previous post) – sweet/hot jalapenos.  I was only able to make 3 small jars for canning so I will double the number of plants for next year.  I will also grow more seranos to make more jars of hot sauce to give as gifts; the orange and green sauces are a huge hit this year!

Gourds have piqued my interest this year.  I have never considered planting them since they took up so much room for growing and are not edible.  But now I will plant some next year so I can have a ‘fall harvest display’;  no need to process them, just enjoy looking at them.

Unfortunately as the garden ages (now 10 years) our garden fencing and boxes are beginning to rot.  Bill already replaced the rotted gate this year with new posts and a chain link door that will not warp over time.   We are discussing when and how we should reconstruct the boxes and fencing. Next fall? Next spring? How will we reconstruct? Different size boxes? Higher raised boxes? (I’m not getting any younger to do all that squatting and stooping!!)  It will be a huge endeavor.