As many of you reading this may know, we had snow very early this year, on September 8th. Generally we don’t get our first snow until closer to Hallowe’en, but something went weird and we got a big dump of it early, so early in fact that we had not even had a frost before it hit.
This ruined some of the plants I had yet to harvest from outdoors, I lost all of my corn, my pumpkin, dill, sunflowers, hollyhocks, and a few heads of lettuce that were buried in snow and forgotten about when the others were rescued. What I didn’t lose is a shorter list, but one with an ending that was better than I had expected.
After the snow had melted, and I was busy cleaning up the damage, I noticed a few things. First, the biggest cabbage that I had (the only one not decimated by caterpillars) grew tremendously in the cooler weather that followed for a week or so after the snow was gone. It almost doubled in size in a week, and was easily the largest cabbage that I have ever grown. I left it until September 29th before finally picking it; I then lost almost half of it to cabbage loopers who were hiding under the outside leaves going to town chewing up the inside. Even after that, I had a good sized cabbage that was nice and sweet, as it turns out frost (or temporary snow) makes the cabbage taste sweeter, I had read this, but never knew it to be true. Now I know it is absolutely true, and I don’t think I will pick a cabbage before frost again, it tasted that much better.
Besides the cabbage, the only other things I hadn’t lost to the snow were the carrots in the front yard square foot garden. I still had three squares planted and though the tops had been pushed over under the weight of the snow, they looked healthy, so I kept them in the ground until October 3rd. Then I harvested 65 of them, including some of the largest carrots I have ever grown (see below for a picture of the biggest).
They were also the sweetest carrots I had ever grown, despite their size, they taste like baby carrots. As it turns out, carrots also taste sweeter after they have had a frost. I had never seen this mentioned anywhere else (not that I had looked for it) but I confirmed it with a friend of mine who said that they never harvest their carrots until after a frost in their garden because it makes them taste much better. This will now by my practice, as I found it is well worth the wait, though I have a sneaking suspicion that a few of those carrots will get pulled up and eaten early due to my lack of patience for wanting to taste them. I will try to keep that under control for a bigger payout in the end however.
As you can see from the picture, on the same day I also harvested the last green bell pepper, the last nine chili peppers (they were still green) and the last eleven tomatoes from the greenhouse. They could have remained out there longer and left to ripen on their own, but I had decided not to use the heater in there once the fall garden went into it, and it was supposed to get below freezing that night. Without a big enough heat sink, I wouldn’t have been able to keep them out there without them getting hit hard by the dropping nighttime temperatures.
Also in the picture is the first harvest from the fall garden, 28 radishes, they were small to medium sized and could have been left in longer, but I wanted to replant them and get a good start on the second harvest. It is a good thing I did too, as they are growing much slower this time around, due to lower temperatures and less sunlight per day. You can read about the fall garden here.
I think that I learned more from this harvest than from any other I have ever had. Not only was it the first time I had ever harvested so late (I always used to pull anything I couldn’t cover once the frost hit), but I also learned a few things that I had looked into were actually true.
I had read about the cabbages being sweeter after a frost, but I had no idea that the carrots would be too. I was confident both would survive the snowfall we had, but I didn’t think that the flavours would be that much better. I guess what I’m saying, is that the snow in early September wasn’t so bad… This time. I wouldn’t want to see Mother Nature make a habit out of hitting us like that every year though.
Cabbage Looper photo courtesy ForestryImages.org