According to Game of Thrones fans everywhere, winter is coming. And while this may mean snowmen, Christmas decorations and mulled wine for some, for the keen gardener it can mean fingernails bitten to the quick and sleepless nights worrying about cabbages.
Well, maybe we wouldn’t go quite that far – but after all the effort you’ve put into your vegetables, you won’t want your hard work to go to waste for next year. Fear not – we’ve got a guide on how to make sure that your vegetable garden is both ready for next year and useful throughout winter. Here’s how…
First things first, take in all of the vegetables that are ready to be harvested and make the most of them. Make sure that you cure and store your produce properly, and you might just end up with a stash that will last all winter long!
After you’ve collected all of your delicious vegetables but before you get started on the chutney, it’s time to clear up your yard. If you’re tempted to put this job off, think of it as a treat for your future self when you’re planting more vegetables in the spring. You’ll be glad you put the groundwork in when May rolls around! While you’re there, prepare perennial vegetables for survival by removing old foliage and stems.
Make your garden useful throughout winter
Though it may seem like all plants are dead in winter, there are a few vegetables that will actually be ready for harvesting when it’s very cold outside, so with a little preparation and clever planting you can make your garden produce food until late in the season.
Carrots are actually sweeter when harvested after the frost. Plant them around late August or early September and cover them with straw for a little insulation.
Plant kale and collards in mid-August and harvest young leaves from October onwards.
It’s best to plant Spinach around four to six weeks before the first frost of winter – again, cover with straw, then harvest in late winter or early spring.
November is the ideal time to plant overwintering onions.
Don’t have space in the pantry for all of your produce? Don’t worry – your garden can act as a fridge. Bury cabbages, with their roots still attached and a marker in the soil above so you don’t lose them, and dig them up when you fancy bubble and squeak. Potatoes and carrots will also keep when buried in the garden, but add some straw over the top to protect them.
Give your vegetables lots of compost and a layer of mulch, for nutrients and protection. And, while the soil is a great protector for vegetables – especially root vegetables – it won’t hurt to give them a little water before a big freeze, when it may be difficult for your plants to reach water. However, be wary of over-watering, which can lead to cold, soggy roots and very unhappy plants.
Plant a cover crop
You may not be using your whole garden to grow overwintering vegetables, so to keep your soil ship shape and ready for spring it’s a good idea to plant a cover crop such as buckwheat or rye. These plants will suppress weed growth, feed bees and keep soil in place, then they’ll act as a ‘green manure’ for your garden by breaking down and providing your soil with lots of lovely nutrients.
About The Author
This guest post was written by Ricky Peterson. Ricky is a keen gardener and loves spending time outdoors, he works at Swallow Aquatics, who sell various pond and garden supplies. Ricky also likes to travel and loves hiking and climbing.
The end of this summer I planted a bunch of carrots one afternoon and I unfortunately pretty much forgot about them. Without proper thinning I ended up with quite a few short and/or twisted carrots which I decided would be perfect to make some fermented ginger carrots.
Step 1: Clean and peel carrots. Peeled and cut the ends off of the carrots and set them aside.
Step 2: Shed the carrots. With a food processor this speeds up the process significantly but you can also do this with a hand shredded or even some good knife work. The smaller the carrots the faster the fermenting process will be. After slicing place carrots into a bowl and mash them a little bit to get some carrot juices flowing. (personally I use a piece of wooden dowel) Finally toss in 1-2 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger.
Step 3: Fill with brine and wait. In a separate container mix 1 quart of distilled water with 1.5 tablespoons of sea salt and mix until dissolved. Pour over brine over carrots and cover jar with some cheesecloth. Typically with fermenting I would have to construct something to keep the vegetables from floating to the surface but I have found with carrots they are pretty good about sinking to the bottom on their own.
You can let them ferment on a warm counter for a few days or up to a week and a half. Then move them into your refrigerator where they will continue to ferment at a much slower rate until all are consumed.
My seed collection from my Winter Luxury Pie pumpkin I purchased a few years back finally paid off and I was able to produce a couple of decent sized pumpkins which should provide me enough pumpkin goo (canned pumpkin) to make plenty of baked goods this fall. For those who have not made their own pumpkin goo the process is very easy…even easier this year with my new food processor (no need to add bit of water to help my struggling magic bullet I have used in the past)
So with about a gallon of pumpkin puree on hand I froze about 3/4 of it by spooning some into silicon muffin cups, freezing for a couple hours, adding to freezer bag and repeat.
With what I had left seemed like a good idea would be pumpkin pancakes which I made this morning with the following recipe.
In separate bowl combine flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt and stir until well combined.
Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture and mix just enough to combine (over mixing can lead to chewy pancakes)
Heat a griddle or frying/cast iron pan on medium-high heat and pour ¼-1/3 cup of batter into pan and flip when brown and serve.
For whipping cream simply add ¼ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to purchased whipping cream. Or make it yourself with 2 cups of heavy cream, 1 teaspoon powdered sugar, and ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and whip until you have medium peaks.
This weekend we decided to head to our favorite pumpkin patch to get some obvious pumpkins, kettle corn, cider donuts, and about a dozen pounds of u-pick apples.
Now that I have amassed a plethora of apples we decided to make some homemade applesauce. For just a few apples I would just cut the apples by hand but with this many I break out my apple peeler which gets the assembly line moving much faster.
If interested here is the applesauce recipe I traditionally use for my applesauce…not super sweet but with nice hint of lemon.
Add all ingredients into large pot over medium high heat. Cover and bring to boil then lower temperature to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Note: This also works great with a crockpot (high to boil and low for 30+ minutes)
Once the apples get a soft and mushy remove lemon peels and mash with a potato masher. For a less physical approach an egg beater (personal favorite), immersion blender, food processor, or blender (pulsing) can smooth things out real quickly
Good for on year in the freezer and probably good for a couple weeks in the refrigerator…though it has never lasted that long with my 11 year old daughter knowing about it. Great cold but I like it best warm with a bit of vanilla ice cream or a splash of cream or whipping cream.
Kale is a vegetable that is up and coming in American society, both in restaurants and in the home kitchen. My favorite way to prepare it involves flash grilling over my fire pit and a homemade Caesar dressing, but the options are limitless.
Many people think that Kale is best grown in cooler areas, and while this is sometimes true, it is in fact a crop that can grow across a wide range of locations in virtually all seasons. Whether you’re planting from seeds or pre-grown starts, this veggie isn’t hard to grow and provides plenty of nutrition to make the process worth your time.
While you as the grower can decide how technical you want to get when growing kale, there are some basics below in case you’ve never grown anything similar. While the duration of seed to harvest will be determined by a number of factors, here are some tips to get you from start to finish.
1. Preparing the right soil
Kale grows best in moist but not damp soil, with mid-level pH and not too firm structure. The plant likes the ability to have space within the ground, but not too much. This veggie will grow in a plethora of soil conditions, but can become increasingly bitter if placed in compromising conditions.
Take home: Find a good soil and keep it moist. If it’s too acidic, add some wood ash or some other natural substance to neutralize it. You’ll be good to go!
2. Determine ideal positioning in garden by season
While kale can grow across seasons, it’s beneficial for you to consider the position of your planting with relation to the weather. If it’s the middle of summer, find a spot where a certain amount of shade will be offered on a given day. If it’s fall, aim for a spot that will receive constant sunlight. Balance is key for kale!
Take home: Kale grows much more efficiently and becomes more delicious with proper positioning. While avoiding over analyzing the situation, use good judgment and plant it where you think it has the best chance at growth.
3. Focus on keeping the soil moist
Kale really flourishes with moist soil, and it’s imperative that you keep it satisfied. If not, the leaves can become brittle and bitter to the taste. When then plant is just under a foot high, you can begin cutting the leaves off, but be sure to maintain watering all the way through the journey.
Take home: Most plants thrive with moisture. Kale is no different. While this vegetable can and will grow in a variety of situations with a wide range of unique methods, for optimum results, moisture is your ticket to sweet kale.
Regardless of whether you’re aiming to make bulk amounts of kale Caesar salad like me, or simply want to grow a nice veggie for your early fall family reunion, kale is a forgiving plant that will be sure to please the crowds.
Mackenzie Kupfer is a writer and gardener. She’s been growing tasty treats like kale in her yard for many years and likes to spread the wealth of her ventures by sharing wisdom online and veggie dishes at home.