It has gotten cold by Memphis standards, and by the end of this week, it will get cold by every one else's standards (low of 4 degrees). With the cold obviously all the usual plants have gone dormant for the winter.
Most people think you can't plant in the fall in the vegetable garden, but they are wrong. Garlic makes a great through-the-winter crop. You want to plant it long enough before the ground freezes to let it establish, but it will bee a small bit of green in your garden through the harshest winters. It will stay small until the thaw, but will then grow to its mature size around June. Here gardener Peter Richards shows how to plant garlic.
Well, we had several nights of very cold temperatures and this time we did not try to protect the garden. It froze and all the warm season plants died.
Before the freeze I went through and picked everything that was growing. That included a lot of green tomatoes.
In the south there is a reason for fried green tomatoes. The tomatoes slow down in the summer because of the heat. They start setting fruit when it cools back down again. The only problem is that it does not have time to ripen. So, fried green tomatoes. I am not from the south, but I know some people who are, and they snapped up all the green tomatoes.
This is what the pre-freeze harvest looked like:
Tomatoes (6.13 lbs) consisting of:
48 Green tomatoes
6 Yellow or red tomatoes
16 Green cherry tomatoes
2 Red cherry tomatoes
13 Eggplant (3.34 lbs)
3 Cucumbers (0.73 lbs)
1 Romaine (0.11 lbs)
The three remaining basil plants (1.03 lbs)
It All Looks so Sad Now, But There are Still Plants Growing
I always have mixed feelings about the first freeze. On the one had I am sad to see the garden go, but on the other I am glad it is done so I don't have to do as much work.
Through all the dead there are still quite a few plants growing. We have two lettuce plants that we harvested a month or so ago that are coming back. We also have two kale plants that should grow all through the winter. Finally, we have broccoli and cauliflower plants that are starting head, so that should be coming soon.
The garden looks much better after cleaning out all the frozen plants. It kind of reminds me of how it looked in the spring when it was just getting going.
Sweet Potato Harvest
Lettuce is out already
We have harvested a number of other vegetables since the last post:
3 more eggplant (1.51 lbs)
1 cantaloupe (.71lbs)
1 watermelon (2.1 lbs)
2 cucumbers (1.02 lbs)
15 tomatoes: 8 full size, 7 cherry (1.84 lbs)
There are still quite a few tomatoes on the vine and we are expecting several nights of hard freeze this weekend. This will probably be the end of the tomatoes and other cold sensitive plants.
It seems that fall has arrived (fingers crossed). The weather has gone from highs in the upper 80s and humid to highs in the 70s and dry. The plants seem to be enjoying the change of weather and the ones that don't like the realy hot weather are getting back to producing again.
He had Dr. Lelia Kelly, a retired Mississippi State Extension Specialist, on Family Plot and she showed us an easy way to dry basil at the end of the season. You just cut off the whole plant and hang it up. Here is the video of what she did
When she was done we went and trimmed the other three plants and total we got 0.654 lbs of basil. I am amazed at how much we have harvested off of just four plants in this growing season. So far we have harvested 2.71 labs of basil, which is more than a typical family would use in a year.
Well the hot weather has continued, but the last week has let up some. The harvesting has been going well. The tomatoes have almost come to a stop except the cherry tomatoes (22 harvested over the last few weeks for .34lbs). This is expected in the heat of summer when they don't set any new fruit. In the last week or so the large tomatoes are starting to set fruit again so hopefully we'll get a fall harvest.
The pepper plants have also been producing. I have picked 11 peppers for 1.83 lbs in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, two of the three pepper plants had wilt so I had to pull them out. There is no cure for wilt and it is passed from one plant to another by feeding insects so hopefully the last plant does not succumb.
Also in the last couple of weeks I have harvested 2 cantaloupes (1.9 lbs and 2.8lbs) and a watermelon (5.7lbs). They were good to eat. There are a few more small cantaloupes, but I do not see any more watermelons growing.
The cucumbers are producing well. I have picked 16 more for 12.06 lbs. They seem to be coming in all shapes and sizes. The plants don't seem to understand what is their trellis and are climbing all over the tomato cages and other plants in the garden. In most of the other pictures of the garden today you will see cucumber leaves. I also harvested two more eggplant for .96 lbs.
Planting Fall Crops
Okay, enough of the bad news. On to the good news.
The peppers are producing, and I have picked 7 of them weighing 1.2lbs. There are still many small peppers that are growing on the plants so we should expect many more.
The seedlings of the fall vegetables are growing well. After putting them under a grow light for a couple weeks I moved them outside under a shade cloth. Now I am having to defend them from the bugs. They are hungry. I'll be planting them in the next few weeks for a fall crop.
The potatoes are up and growing and I have hilled them two times now. From the six I planted I have three good plants. Here you can get a sneak peak at the short segment I did on hilling potatoes.
The cucumbers are producing, and I did not even notice one of the growing cucumbers until it was almost too large. So far I have picked 2: one large and one small. There are many more on the vines so there should be quite a few.
A week or so ago I noticed that the plants were starting to turn a little yellow. Most of a time in a raised bed this is because the nitrogen has washed out of the soil. I put about a tablespoon of nitrogen around each plant (not the sweep potatoes, they will grow only foliage with nitrogen fertilizer) and in the week since they have turned back to a happy, healthy green.
Also we picked cantaloupe for the first time. We got two melons, but unfortunately one of them got over ripe and had to go to the compost pile. They go from un-ripe to too ripe very fast in the heat. Luckily, the larger one was not over-ripe and it weighs in at almost two and a half pounds. There are a few more growing so we should get some more.
We also picked a whole bunch more basil (1.5 lbs) and some tomatoes (1 large, 7 cherry). Overall it was a big harvest and makes a nice picture:
The other plants are doing well. The cucumbers have started growing rapidly up the trellis that was installed last week. The bell peppers are still growing and he largest ones are about 2-3 inches long now. Also, there are two watermelons growing, one of each variety. I have not mentioned the sweet potatoes in awhile. They are continuing to grow well and are vining all over the place as they tend to do.
It's hard to believe it is late July and time to be seriously thinking about fall crops. I started the broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce this week. I started them indoors so they could get a good start in the cooler weather of inside before I move them out later in the year. There realy is not much to see here. Just a tray of dirt. I did label them with strips of milk cartons so I would know which plants were which.
I picked the first squash of the year. it was a little small, but ready. It weighed about a quarter pound.
The onions have cured and were ready to be cleaned. There was one rotten onion so I threw that out. So out of 18 planted we have 16 usable onions weighing 4.77 lbs. Some have fat necks and will need to be used soon. (I have already eaten one.) The rest can store for awhile until I am ready to use them.
The tomatoes are still going. I picked another another 24 tomatoes (15 full size and 9 cherry) for 3.52 lbs.
Other Garden News
A couple of other things to mention about the garden:
We have a couple of watermelons starting to grow. They are about the size of a quarter now.
There are 4 or 5 fruits starting to grow on the egg plant. They are about the size of a quarter too.
The peppers are finally starting to set fruit. We have probably a dozen small peppers on the three plants.
I pulled out four of the six bean squares. They were not doing anything. The two squares I left had flowers still on the plants so I left them.
I have doubled the water. While the ground was slightly moist I figured it could be wetter. The peppers were looking ever-so-slightly wilted in the afternoon and the watermelon is starting to fruit and it needs water. I had been running a single watering cycle for one hour at 5AM. I added another hour at 1PM so the plants would get another drink in the heat of the day.
It has been several weeks since I last posted about the garden. Nothing realy has been going on other than the plants growing. But now we have some updates.
The Onions are Pulled and Curing
We have pulled the onions. The tops died back most of the way so it was time for them to come out. We got 17 onions out of the 18 we planted. Pretty good. We laid them out to dry and cure on the cement pad that is under the big satellite dish. It stays shaded most of the day. In a few more days they will be ready to clean and use or store. Most of the bulbs have the narrow neck that is good for storage. If they have wide necks you should use them soon because they will rot first. As a side note, if you put nitrogen fertilizer on them after they start to bulb they will tend to get wide necks and won't store.
The Cucumbers are Up and Growing
Whats up With Some of the Other Plants
The beans were a bust. I don't know exactly why. From the 54 plants we planted we got about 15 beans. Disappointing. The Japanese beetles have been enjoying them, but that should not have affected the beans that much.
The peppers have not set fruit yet. We have some flowers, but no fruit. We planted pepper plants from the same tray in the in-ground garden and they are producing just fine.
The eggplant is starting to flower so maybe we will have some soon.
The cantaloupe has a fruit on it that is getting close to ripe.
The watermelon is growing, but no fruit yet. I am mad at the landscapers. They have weed-eated the ends of the watermelon vines. Overall the landscapers have done more damage to out gardens this year than all other causes combined. Grrrr!
Square Foot Garden
This year we are trying out square foot gardening. We will be growing a 4x8 garden and seeing what happens and finding out how much we can grow in such a small space.
Here is what is growing right now in the Garden:
(click the picture to zoom)
We hope to follow this plan to be able to maximize our harvest. (click to zoom)
Our Harvest So Far
5.50 lb Radishes (32 plants)
1.09 lb Spinach
0.70 lb Turnip Greens
0.58 lb Turnip Roots
1.71 lb Mustard Greens
3.71 lb Peas
1.12 lb Green Lettuce
0.83 lb Cauliflower (1 head)
3.74 lb Basil
3.96 lb Carrots (46)
0.11 lb Green Beans (bust)
24.17 lb Tomatoes (225)
4.77 lb Onions (16)
0.53 lb Summer Squash (2)
8.69 lb Eggplant (25)
9.40 lb Cantaloupe (4)
9.90 lb Watermelon (3)
21.19lb Cucumbers (34)
3.17 lb Peppers (19)
0.58 lb Oak Leaf Lettuce
1.20 lb Romaine Lettuce
8.45 lb Sweet Potato (6)