Friday, September 21, 2012

Planting and Preserving the Fall Garden

Our warm-- even hot-- weather kept up for a really long time, but this week we went from 90 degrees and warm nights straight to chilly nights and cool days. Sigh. I guess fall truly is upon us. I'm glad it's held off as long as it did, even if it is my favorite season. I'm just not quite ready to let the heat go. This morning it is warm, but the ground is wet- some of the first precipitation we've had in two months.

We've been making an effort to get the fall crops and cover crops planted earlier this year than we managed last year. I think last fall the cover crops went into the ground in October, which meant that they barely grew at all. This time hopefully we've got them in in time to get established and growing before the really cold weather hits. I had a nice afternoon yesterday, pottering around the garden, harvesting, planting, pulling up spent plants, and generally tidying things up. Matt was home and feeling under the weather, but he got up for an hour or so to give the chicken coop a good clean and do some much needed maintenance on the henhouse and the rabbit cages. It was nice to be working together, but separately, to make our little homestead more tidy and productive.

All of our cucumbers got powdery mildew this year, and I hardly got a Straight Eight off this vine that wasn't too bitter to eat. The scarlet runner beans here did wonderfully though. This bed still contains two rows of fall carrots, and most of our basil. This bed has been constantly growing things since we moved in over a year ago, so this winter it's going to get a rest. We'll just mulch it with straw and rabbit poo, and give it several months to get some new nutrients built up. 

This bed has chard and green onions, plus one tomato plant. It is also now growing fall greens- collards and kale. Yesterday I planted all of the remaining space in red clover, which is a good nitrogen-fixing cover crop and will grow low under and between the other crops. 

The old garlic bed is doing a great job with the carrots and turnips so far, and yesterday I planted more turnips into the empty spaces, for a later crop. According to the seed packet, in our zone we can plant turnips periodically throughout the winter, so I think we'll give that a shot and try and have a rotation of them throughout the cold months. 

The "empty" space in this bed has been seeded with bok choy and a cover crop mix (clover, field peas, and vetch), and the back under the trellis is more kale and spinach. I've been doing battle with the aphids on the cabbages and broccolis. I lost one full head of broccoli by the time I noticed the infestation, but now I've been essentially power washing the plants with the hose every day, and I seem to be winning the battle. 

 I picked the remaining apples yesterday, and now we have probably at minimum thirty pounds of them. I had thought they were good eaten fresh, until Dad brought some of his early apples along last weekend. I had forgotten just how delicious they can be! Oh well, I know that ours make excellent pies, and that is going to be one of my projects for today: mixing up bags of apple pie filling to freeze.

 We're still only getting ripe Asian pears here and there. I have a good guage for how to tell if an apple is ready to pick, but have no experience with these. Online sources say when they come easily off the tree, and so far only a few have done so, but the skins on them still seem really thick and tough. Anyone have any other tips?

Yes, it's definitely looking autumn-y.

We haven't eaten a single rhubarb dessert all summer, but this plant has been flourishing. Maybe we'll have a crumble sometime this weekend, just to do it justice. 

Proof of impending fall, courtesy of the lilac bush by the mailbox. 

But this is Portland, so of course the roses are still blooming :) 

And the baskets of goodness are still coming in. I dug one of our parsnips, and we had it for dinner all sliced and fried up in butter. Yum! Lots of scarlet runner beans are drying out upstairs now, a big bag of hot peppers and another one of beans await processing in the fridge, and our one solitary leek has been harvested. I think we'll have potato-leek soup tonight. A good meal on a gray day. 

I'm home alone today, my last free Friday before I go back to school next week. I slept in, and am having coffee and toast as I write this. I am planning to enjoy one last day or two of housecleaning, canning, and listening to archived episodes of "This American Life," before returning to the world of graduate school. We already have as many pickled hot peppers as we'll eat this year, so I'm going to try making hot pepper jelly. Then there are the apples to deal with, my desk to clean out, and hopefully I can get a batch or two of dry beans cooked up and into the freezer. Our routines are about to change dramatically- Matt starts a new, full-time, permanent job (!!!!) on October 1st, and I'll be gone three evenings a week at class, so having lots of  food prepped and in the freezer will serve us well.

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