By Cam Mather
As the days and nights get colder, we are in a race against time to harvest the bounty of our garden. It’s a balancing act… we don’t want to harvest too early and perhaps miss some of the late growing season, but if we leave things too late, it means losing some of our yield to frost and cold damage.
Our first night of frost this year was on September 18th, which is exactly the same night we had our first frost last year. We actually had 3 nights in a row of frost and then things warmed up again and we had a week or two of more moderate temperatures.
We lost a lot of our basil crop this year. Normally I pull it all just before our first frost. I separate the leaves from the stems, wash them all in our salad spinner and then puree them in our food processor with just a bit of olive oil to turn it all into a paste. I put the paste into zippered food bags, flatten them and store them in the freezer. When I want some basil for soup or a recipe, I break a chunk of the frozen puree and pop it into the pan!
This year our first frost hit without warning. The tops of all of my basil plants got nipped. Basil is a very tender plant! Luckily I was able to salvage the bottom leaves that had not been nipped and I was able to make a few bags of puree.
Before it got much colder I went out and harvested our peppers. We grew a variety of peppers this year, but due to the cold and rainy month of July, it wasn’t a good year for peppers. Most of the peppers didn’t begin growing until August. Here’s a picture of some of our peppers, showing the varieties that we grew;
We tend to concentrate on growing things that store well, like onions, potatoes and garlic. We grew about 3,00 heads of garlic this year, and luckily I’ve been able to find a place to sell some of it. We love garlic, but we won’t be able to eat 3,000 heads!
Our onions did quite well this year. All that rain in July was good for them! Here is some of our onion crop. Notice that we store them in mesh containers to allow the air to flow around them.
Our potatoes did well this year too. Cam always plants one row early in the season. The dreaded Colorado Potato Beetle attacks that first row of potatoes and we work diligently on that one row to pick off as many of them as possible. Then when Cam plants the other rows of potatoes, it’s much easier to keep on top of the bugs as there will be fewer of them. Here’s one wheelbarrow full of just-dug potatoes. We store these in buckets in our root cellar where they are kept cool, dry and dark and they will easily keep until next spring.
Sometimes our garden harvest includes rather unusual items. Last spring we noticed quite a few turtles laying their eggs in our gardens. They seem to prefer the loose soil that is easier for them to dig into. Unless a raccoon discovers the eggs and digs them up and eats them (this happens to quite a few nests of turtle eggs around here!) they hatch in late September/early October.
One day recently I discovered a baby snapping turtle walking across the lawn. Cam found a different one a little later. The next day we found more than a dozen of them scattered across our lawn. All of them were heading towards our pond where they will find food and a place to dig into the mud to survive the winter. All together we found 16 baby snapping turtles and helped them to make it to the pond. I’m curious to see how many of them survive the winter and if we have a huge population of snapping turtles next spring!
Here’s a photo of a few of them. The hose nozzle is included to give you an idea of the size of these cute little snappers!