The Fall Garden

It’s nearly over. The weather is changing and we’re getting our first frosts this week. The leaves are changing and the squirrels are busy all day.

It’s time to look over the vegetable garden and see what needs to be picked and what may survive a few more weeks. Our annual vacation always seems to hit around this time, when frosts and freezes are possible, if not likely, but an Indian Summer can always extend the growing season and make for delicious fresh veggies into November.

What to pick now and what to wait for? Obviously, the cukes, tomatoes and summer squash won’t survive colder weather, and are beginning to falter (finally) so I’ll go for a last round of zucchini bread and maybe fritters. The Early Girls have been booming, and we can only eat so many while they’re ripe, so it’s nearly time to freeze some up for this winter.  Greek salads with cukes, tomatoes, onions and Feta on the way! Our Big Boy tomatoes crashed in mid-August, maybe too dry or too exposed – they never really did well. I pulled the plants and added them to the compost pile a while ago.

The green beans are nearly done anyway. I’ve been eyeing the chard – it’s ready to eat, and the beets are nearly there. Both can survive some mild cold, so I’m not too rushed on them. Same with the carrots and the turnips, in fact I’m told that the first freeze makes the carrots sweeter. We can also pick the tomatoes green and let them ripen on newspaper in one of the windows. Last year, we had ripe tomatoes from the garden on Thanksgiving.

I’m a little troubled by the turnips, not my favorite veggie. They resulted from a free packet of seeds and an extra space in one of the beds. I’ve eaten the greens a few times, but prefer the chard or beet greens. The turnips themselves are enormous, a few are nearly six inches in diameter. I suspect they’ll be okay on a minor frost, but we’ll have to sort them out before too long. We’ve tried my mother-in-laws’ boiled and mashed turnips with carrots, and that was pretty good. Apparently similar to the English ‘neaps and tatties’.

I froze the last batch of green beans, and had some trouble finding a place in the freezer for them among the other frozen green beans, the loaves of zucchini bread and the various greens. I think I spied some tomato sauce from last year on one of the lower shelves, so I’ll need to be sure to label any new batches I add in the next few days.

With the colder weather, the lawn will be mowed less now, so less cut grass goes onto the compost pile. However, with the veggie plants to be added after a freeze, and the leaves from the trees, we should have pretty good compost going for next spring.

We’ve got a few volunteer vines growing on the compost pile. There’s one fruit that seems to be a butternut squash, so maybe it will ripen before it gets too cold. Another vine produced some small white pumpkin-like fruits. The vines have already died, so I’ve already harvested them – ornamentals, I suspect.

Of course, this winter we’ll be able to feast on whatever we can glean before the frosts. If all else fails, we’ll have to get by on the greens, beans and tomato sauce from the freezer, and maybe several loaves of zucchini bread.

I think we’ll make it…

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