Even though this month is busy with harvest there’s a lot to be done to get ready for winter.
First on my priority list is to get my garlic in. Pick a spot with loose, rich soil or as close as you can find. Use the biggest, best cloves you have for seed and in return they’ll give you the biggest, best heads of garlic next summer. Planting small cloves makes small heads.
I know it can be tough to take your best heads and break them up and bury them, but trust me, you’ll see the difference. Also, only use the big cloves from each head, discard any small cloves you come across. Plant them about 6-8″ apart with rows 8″-12″ apart. You can fit a LOT of garlic in a small space. Just put the cloves an inch or so deep, root side down, pointy end up.
Normally I don’t mulch over the winter but even slugs don’t eat garlic and its a lot easier to mulch if you do it before the plants come up. Speaking of which, it may be a while before you see anything happening but the plants are forming large root systems before the top comes out of the ground.
They’ll grow slowly all winter and when the weather warms up they’ll take off, which is a good time to give them a little extra nitrogen, such as chicken compost.
It’s that time of year when it seems like everything is getting ripe and needing to be put up for the winter. My goal is to eat as much as possible from the garden year round so I focus on preserving, primarily canning and drying.
Last week was tomato week. I canned about 40 quarts of chunky tomato sauce made by putting the whole tomatoes in a food processor and blitzing into very small chunks. It saves having to skin them all and the skins just disappear in the final product. Next they get cooked down to about half their original volume by putting them in an open turkey roaster in the oven at about 200F for about 12 hours. The long slow dehydration really gives them an intense dried tomato flavor and by doing in the oven they never burn.
Here’s one of my three favorite melons, Orangeglo. It’s I more of a dark yellow, at least this strain, but the quality is still there. Seeds were obtained from Fedco.
It’s a very productive melon for me, setting quite a few melons an almost all of them were about the same size, approximately 8 pounds each.
The taste of the melon is excellent with good sweetness. I’m not good at describing flavor, I’d just say its good old fashioned melon flavor.
As you can see from the picture, it does have a couple of drawbacks. If you let them get too mature they get soft and stringy in the middle around the seeds. Picked earlier they’re good and solid, crisp all the easy through. Speaking of seeds, there are quite a few seeds and they’re very large. Not enough to make eating a chore but more than some other varieties such a Early Canada.
All in all, one of my favorites, both for flavor and for reliable production in warm years and cold years like 2012. It will definitely be in my garden next year.
I grew several varieties of collards this year and a couple have done well, but one has been a standout.
This is Morris Heading Collards as grown over the summer here in Oregon. It’s a beautiful plant with enormous leaves and it’s been a super producer for me.
I started the seeds in March and put out starts in early May. Our entire area had the worst outbreak of flea beetles anyone had ever seen and all the cole crops were nearly decimated. After the beetles were under control these collards bounced right back and started throwing out lots of perfect leaves. So far I have a couple of plants that are making a cabbage type head, the rest are all looking more like kale.
I guess I needed a reference here but the garden bed is 4′ wide and the plant pretty much covers it.
I’ve been harvesting leaves off this plant for the last month for the Farmers Market but you can hardly tell. They’ve been selling surprisingly well to a mix of homesick Southerners and health food folks who juice them to make “green smoothies.”
It will be interesting to see how they do over the winter. I suspect they’ll keep on making leaves until next Spring.
Right now I’m harvesting watermelons of all kinds. I’ve got 8 or 9 strains growing to see what does well and I’ve found some winners and some losers. It’s been hot so I’ve pretty much been living on melons for the last 10 days or so as I know they won’t hold forever and it’s such a rare treat to be able to enjoy so many wonderful melons fresh from the field. The melons were all planted in the middle of May this year. We had a warm Spring followed by a cold snap and I had to quickly throw some row cover over them to keep them from freezing but they’ve done very well, giving me the biggest melon harvest I’ve had here. Of course part of the success is choosing varieties that do well with short cool summers.
I’ll be doing strain review on all of the melons I grew this year (after I’ve finished eating them of course).