Monthly Archives: October 2014

My Last Outdoor Harvest of the 2014 Season

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.

Cabbage Looper

These little jerks ruined most of my cabbages this season, but one was just too strong for them.

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).

Biggest Carrot 2014

This was the biggest carrot to come out of my gardens ever. I think there were one or two that may have been even larger, but they broke while I tried to pull them out. That’s a quarter for reference.

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.

Harvest October 3 2014

Not a bad haul, especially almost a month after the first snowfall. Only the carrots were from outside though, the rest came from the greenhouse.

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

Fall Garden Update 1

This will be the first update on the fall garden that actually has some substance to it, to see the first small update, look at the bottom of the original post. It has been just over a month now, and things have changed quite a bit in the ol’ greenhouse, in preparation for the fall garden to take it over.

Right now, the fall garden is mostly spread out on the floor, out of the way, but in no way does it have a permanent spot. I have taken out the iris (it had bugs all over it), beefsteak tomato, the melons, and all of the peppers, but the corn, gladiolas, marigolds (which will be taken out soon) and Tiny Tim tomatoes remain for now, each taking up valuable space away from the containers for the fall garden. That and I need to pull up some quack grass that has managed to grow up through the tarp on the floor.

Once all of the plants are moved, or removed as they die off, and the weeding is done, the fall garden will take its place close to the south side of the greenhouse under two miniature greenhouse domes. Inside the domes, with the plants I will be placing two 4L milk jugs painted black, and if I can get my hands on some, a 5 gallon pail with a lid on each, also painted black. If I can’t get two of those I will continue to use the ones that I already have with the plastic soil bag as a makeshift lid.

Enough about what you will see in the next update however, let’s get onto what has happened so far with the lettuce, spinach, and radishes that make up my autumn garden.

The green leaf lettuce has not done so well so far. I am not sure if the soil mix I used (just worm castings and potting soil) is too heavy, or if it doesn’t like the nutrient mix in it, but only two of the seven pots have sprouted. To make up for this, I have started some more inside and will be transplanting them out there as soon as I can get them hardened off. That has been the only problem so far though, as you will see.

Fall Garden Green Leaf Lettuce

Out of the seven pots, with two seeds planted in each of two holes, I have had only three lettuce sprout in the greenhouse. There is more planted in the house though.

The spinach is coming along nicely, all of the pots sprouted, and when the greenhouse heats up too much, I move them outside by the north wall. Here they get light that has been filtered through both sides of the greenhouse and a bit extra shade at certain points in the day from the corn inside. I am a little worried that it might bolt if it gets too hot inside during the later growth stages, but hopefully the water jugs will help to regulate the temperature.

Fall Garden Update Spinach

The spinach sprouted well, out of the six seeds planted (2 per pot) four sprouted and three remain after I removed the extra.

Last is my first harvest in October ever! Before this year, I just let the frost take everything outside, or picked everything before the first heavy frost, but as this has been a year for not only expanding the garden areas (building new beds, and a greenhouse), it has also been a year for experimentation (early radish planting, growing potatoes in bags, and this fall garden) and I have managed two harvests late in the season. The one we are going to talk today is the red radish harvest from the fall garden; I will touch on the other one in another post soon though.

I got 28 small to medium sized radishes out of the long white planter on October 3rd. I could have left them longer so they were bigger, but they looked delicious and I got impatient. I went out this morning and replanted them, so I hope to have more in about a month, maybe longer if I let them get bigger this time.

Fall Garden Oct 3 Red Radish Harvest

The red radishes got a little bit chewed on by some bugs, but it didn’t bother them much as I harvested some good sized ones a little after a month of growing.

The fall garden has me very excited, by this point in the year, we tend to be out of garden fresh vegetables, and so extending the season is a huge bonus. I don’t know how long I will be able to grow in the greenhouse domes inside the greenhouse for (greenhouse-ception?) but I will be happy if I can get it into late November. I could make it much longer, but I will not be using the heater in there from now on, as in lower temperatures it just runs constantly and uses too much power. That and I want to see how well the jugs of water work to regulate the temperature on their own when the temperature drops.

I might however, if we get an unusually cold night early on, fill some of the jugs with warm water if they for whatever reason couldn’t warm up during the day, but I don’t see that happening.

I have also started a Pinterest account for the site, there isn’t much on it as of this moment, but I will be adding any pictures I add to the site or on any of the other social media accounts to it, and anything else I find that I want to share. You can click the new social button on the top right of the site, or just click here to go to it.