A Walk Around the Fall Homestead Part 2: The Gardens and Harvest

I had a great time walking around the barnyard with you.  Today let’s walk around the garden and see how the harvest is turning out.

In the strawberry patch the leaves are beginning to turn red as fall settles in, and I have several pots around the edges to catch some of the runners.

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The grape-vine didn’t end up producing any grapes for us, but it sure does look nice vining up the lattice on the new back porch.

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I harvested all the herbs this morning from the container herb garden.  I washed them and laid them out to dry.  Once the water is off of them I will hang them to dry for use this winter.

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This year’s herb garden has been my most successful thus far.  We harvested fresh all summer and have plenty to dry as well.  It included comfrey, basil, oregano, cilantro, coriander seeds, thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary, mint, and dill.  I think that starting the seedlings under lights had a lot to do with the success.  Two of the plants are doing so well, and I liked the old look of their containers so much, that I decided to bring them in for the winter.  We can enjoy fresh basil and rosemary all winter!

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I sprinkled them to kill any ants and bugs living in their soil before I bring them inside.

The pumpkin and squash patch has done very well this year in its new location.

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In general, pumpkins and squash don’t grow well at our altitude and climate.  Our 10-12 week growing season is just too short, and our 40 degree summer evenings are too cold.  But we continue to set up a mound of compost and plant pumpkins and squash on it every year.  Some years we get just a couple of veggies off of it, and some years it does better.  This year we tried a couple of new varieties of small pie pumpkins and some squash called Red Kuri and Gold Nugget that are supposed to do well with our climate.  They all produced (and still are producing) very well. 20150905_103035_resized

I know they look under-ripe.  We have a critter that is enjoying them once they ripen since the area isn’t fenced.  So we are harvesting just before ripening so that we can protect them from the critter.  They will ripen just fine indoors.

Let’s head over to the onion patch.  You can see the onions have gone to seed.  We didn’t actually do anything with this patch this year, these just volunteered.  We are hoping to rebuild this area before next year.

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Last year husband saw some rhubarb going to seed at a job site.  He brought it home and we decided to try planting it this year and see how it went.  As you can see it has done well and we have the rhubarb trough I always wanted.  No harvesting this year though, we need to let it get established.

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Up the hill from the rhubarb, vining on our deer fencing, are some pole beans.  I have only done bush beans until this year.  We decided to try these varieties for drying beans.  So we are letting them go until they rattle and then we will collect the dry beans.  I am not sure how it will all work out with frosts and all, this is a learning experiment for us.

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And I hope nothing eats them, since they are on the inside and the outside of our deer fencing.  Do deer and elk like beans?  What about bears?  I guess we will find out.

Next to the fence by the pole beans are the potato crates.

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This our second year trying to grow potatoes and it has yet again been a failure.  We have decided the crate method and the newspaper and straw method just don’t work in our climate.  So next year we plan to plant them the good ol’ fashioned way, right in the soil.  Hopefully it will work.

Let’s go into the vegetable garden!

The tomatoes are growing like crazy!  Unfortunately, the round, cone-shaped wire cages we used to support them are pathetic and are not supporting them at all.  Many of our plants have fallen over and bent the cone cages right over.  If you look closely here you can see three plants, each fallen over to the left side on top of the one next to it.  You can kind of see the wire of the cages along the top slanting over as well.

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Here’s another one, laid over to the right.

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We have done what we can with some stakes and ropes to help hold up the worst ones.  Next year we will definitely be spending the extra money to get good tomato cages.  But despite the cage issues you can see that the plants are producing like crazy.  They are all heavy with beautiful green fruit!

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Last year was our first year trying tomatoes because we thought we couldn’t grow them in our climate without a greenhouse.  What we found was that we could successfully grow them, but they didn’t ripen before frost.  So we cut them all off the plants right before the frost, with their vines still attached, and we laid them out on a table inside.  Within a month they all ripened and we were able to put up 75 pounds of tomatoes!!!

We expected the same this year, but we have done a few things to try to help them along and have found that we have a bunch that are ripening on the plants before the frost!

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We are excited to be able to harvest some ripe from the vine this year.  We have picked the best from the first ones to ripen and are saving the seeds for next year.  They are in their cups fermenting now.

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Hopefully, between saving the seeds from the earliest ripeners, and starting them under lights in the spring, we will be able to get more plants that will ripen in our short season before the frost.

We are harvesting so many tomatoes at this point that we will start canning them this week.  It has moved beyond our fresh eating abilities – although we have really been enjoying them!

The other thing that is going crazy in the garden right now are the beans.  The plants are heavy with purple beans (and a few green).  We are harvesting a bowlful nearly every other day.

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Last year we froze all the carrots and beans.  While the frozen carrots worked out great for soups and stews, we found the beans to be a very tough texture that we didn’t like.  So this year we are freezing the carrots again, but we are canning the beans.  With the whole family helping we can make quick work of snapping those beans to prepare them for canning.  Then, in the evening coolness, we can up a load.

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It is so fun to see the pantry shelves filling up with jars of home-grown, home-canned food!

The only noteworthy thing left to see in the garden is the seed lettuce.  It has put on flowers, but just like last year I am not sure it will make it to seed before the frost kills it.  I am hopeful, and we will just have to wait and see.

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As you can see the harvest is coming in beautifully this year.  And we have been keeping very busy in the kitchen and gardens lately!

Tomorrow we will take our last walk around the fall farm to look at the projects that we have in the works.

 

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