Gardens are constantly changing. This year’s garden observations late summer into fall show the garden’s progress and change since my post in mid summer. Observations can often give you some helpful organic gardening tips.
Garden Observations – Fall Tomatoes are even Better!
As mentioned in the last Observations post, Big Beef (which has been my most dependable tomato for decades) has been a disappointment this year.
It’s not my saved seed, as was proved by the feedback of a friend in Illinois that I shared seed with. He wrote:
“Every one of your big beef seeds I planted germinated! The seedlings grew well. The tomatoes are nice, round and delicious. I was really supprised how many tomatoes the plants are producing. We have had so much rain here…. but they held up and did not split. “
There will be no saved Big Beef seed from this year, but I have plenty of seed from prior years.
All through the summer Carbons were good tasting, but had lots of seed cavities. Those produced in October have been spectacular and with very few seed cavities. The taste has been even better than earlier in the season and fruit is just beautiful.
Dafel is producing abundantly and has been excellent all season, but even more so now.
The taste puts me in the mind of tomatoes I ate right from the garden when I was a young girl.
Dafel is a hybrid but I’ve been selective and saved seed long enough that I consider my seed open pollinated. (The seed I planted this year was from 2012.)
The plant tends to “spread out” when it grows, so rather than stake them like I do other varieties, I allow them to sprawl.
Usually don’t like tomatoes lying on the ground even with a heavy layer of straw under them because of slugs. My Dafels get minimal damage from slugs – if any.
The little cherry tomatoes that Bill always snacked on, volunteer for me each year. They make great back ups. If something happens that your regular tomatoes are not producing (early or late in the season), I’ll bet your cherry tomatoes will be. AND in my garden they usually get through a frost or two before they stop producing.
A surprise from the garden was a very large cherry tomato that volunteered. It definitely was not a cross of any tomato varieties I’ve grown. It’s beautiful and more importantly it’s delicious. Has more of a regular tomato flavor than do the small sweet cherry tomatoes.
Needless to say, I’m saving seed!
Peppers have always been one of my best crops.
I usually start seed in late March or April and transplant to the the garden when the weather is warm enough. They stay small until about late July. Only then do they start growing like crazy. The plants become giants and are loaded with peppers.
This year (as I mentioned in July Observations) I wanted to see how late I could plant and get the same results. I transplanted May-started seedlings into the garden in late May and in June. A few were left in containers and not transplanted until the first of August.
All plants had healthy growth and produced fruit but not as in prior years. Plants are half the size and fruit production is half or less. In past years I’ve needed three to six stakes for each pepper plant; this year only one or two stakes per plant is adequate.
Evidently pepper plants, in order to produce their best, like being started early — even though they sit there and don’t get transplanted until the weather warms. Next year I’ll go back to my regular schedule for peppers.
And just to make sure my conclusions are right, I’ll hold a few seedlings back for late tansplanting and see if I get the same results as this year.
Peppers turn red when they mature. They’re much sweeter and more delicious than green ones. In past years my peppers started turning red in September, and were abundant by October and November.
Since fruit production this year took longer, I’m not getting as many red ones. That’s the heart breaker for me.
Had it not been for the Sheepnose variety I’d have had only about 3 red peppers thus far.
My Favorite Pepper Variety (Best Tasting)
I don’t like to grow hybrids because they don’t have as much nutrient value. I make an exception with Carmen from time to time because they’re so delicious when they turn red.
This year I noticed the fruit is different (not as big and not as long) as when I grew it some years back. My conclusion is that the seed I purchased was mixed with another pepper somewhere along the line. Not surprising. It’s getting harder and harder to get good seed.
As you already know, when you save seed from a hybrid you don’t know what the results will be. It may be just what you want and then again, it may not be.
That’s another reason for making sure you grow mostly open-pollinated varieties. You can save seed with confidence for the following year.
Extending the Season
Based on the weather forecast for our area, peppers should fare well on the plants until the end of November.
In most years I’d still have at least 100 or more fruits turning red on the plants by then. Taking time to cover and protect them when below freezing temperatures were forecast was worth the time and effort.
This year only several dozen peppers remain on the plants. (I’ve been eating at least 3 per day for more than two months.)
When temperatures are forecast to go below freezing I’ll harvest those remaining. The ones that are turning red, I’ll leave on top of my chest freezer in the mud room/porch. Smaller green ones I’ll store in the vegetable bin in the frig. That should take me through at least another 2 to 4 weeks in fresh peppers.
Lettuce seedlings, the first planting and the second planting, are looking great. And I’m harvesting every other day from the first planting.
The third and last planting of lettuce just germinated a few days ago. I’ll transplant those towards the end of November.
Cabbage is a different story. And it’s in the row immediately next to the thriving lettuce seedlings!
The January King variety that I was most looking forward to (because of its ability to withstand below freezing temperatures without protection) totally disappeared. Too late to start more.
The seedlings from the seed that volunteered from the core of a store bought organic cabbage also disappeared rather quickly.
And it didn’t take but a day for something to eat most of the Early Jersey and Columbia seedlings.
Not quite a dozen remain. A few have grown in the spite of whatever bug feasted on them.
As puny looking as the seedlings are, I know from past experiences that all is not lost. They can easily do better than expected when conditions are right. And this is one winter I’m really hoping they’ll pull through for me.
Peanuts are not ready yet. Still have not checked below ground.
If the lush top grow is any indication, they should be great.
Bill was the one who loved eating peanuts. But if things get scarce this winter, these legumes will come in handy. They’re rich in healthy fats, nutrients, and protein.
I’m planting garlic starting today. Hope to plant at least 100 cloves. More if room allows.
I eat a mixture of chopped raw vegetables everyday. Whatever I have I add to the mixture.
From harvest in late June or early July into January I have fresh garlic to add.
It’s one of the best things you can eat for your health. It’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial and is good for just about everything that might ail a person.
Advance Warning Tip About Ordering Garlic in 2021
While writing this post I received a personal email from Troy Greenberg owner of GetGarlic.com.
As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, his “kids” have grown up working this family side business. So much so that for the most part they could run it by themselves.
BUT – as with all kids, some are graduating and leaving home.
That leaves fewer hands for all the work involved.
Thus, Troy tells me they’re planting less this year. Only what those who remain can handle.
As some of you know many growers sold out of garlic this year in record time. And that included GetGarlic.com.
Bottom line – make sure you order early to get the garlic you want.
I’ve harvested only a few radishes. Not as many as I’d like. The weather should be to their liking in November, so we’ll see what happens.
Spring radishes always do better for me than those planted in the fall.
Herbs have various phytonutrients that you may not find elsewhere. Using them is advantageous to your health as well as your taste buds.
This is a beautiful perennial that can take just about any change in temperature nature throws its way. It’ll look just about dead in drought years and then renew itself when the weather changes. At times when there’s no lettuce in your garden, sorrell is a good fill-in, but with a lemony flavor.
I mulch but sometimes mulch disappears from the sorrell. They still do ok.
The year I was out of commission I lost my sorrell plants. Don’t know what happened to them since I couldn’t get to the garden.
Started more from seed. Planted 6 seedlings in the spring of 2019. Lost 3 within a month. The other 3 are still going and looking great.
Thyme is easy to start from seed. Just plant in a jug as I’ve instructed in various posts. Here’s one.
I keep several plants in the garden. They get large and thick. Approximately 2 feet by 3 feet. They last into the second year in my garden. When the branches start dying back you can cut them back and see if the plant will renew itself. Or you can take cuttings from the branches still “green”. Or you can start from seed again. Whatever is easier for you.
This fall mine seeded in the paths. Yeh! No work for me!
I’ll soon transplant one to another location. The others I’ll leave in the path over the winter (with some mulch) and transplant to another bed in the spring.
If you like your potatoes sliced, tossed with a little oil, and roasted, sprinkle chopped thyme on them before cooking. I think it adds a nice flavor.
Most sources say that Rosemary is suppose to be hardy to about 20ºF. But that’s not all there is to it.
It will depend on how long the cold lasts, what the wind is like, and lots of other variables. In most years my rosemary thrives even though temperatures get below 20ºF.
Before Bill died, we had a long lasting period of extreme cold that this area is not use to. All rosemary plants within 50 miles that I know about died. Including mine.
When I started again I ordered 5 varieties of rosemary in small pots. (I wasn’t sure which I wanted and didn’t want to take time to grow from seed.)
The one that is most robust, beautiful, and with the most flavor is in my front border. To help insure that I won’t lose it again, I take a few cuttings each year and stick them in pots. When they root I keep them outside by my back door in the winter UNTIL the forecast calls for temperatures in the 20’s. Then I bring them in for the night until the temperatures rise.
After wintering over I planted last years cuttings in the garden within a foot of each other. Both grew quickly and looked great as you can see in the picture below.
Suddenly the lower leaves on one of the plants died. My long-time neighbor on one side of me decided to grow corn and squash close to my garden this year. Since I know he uses chemicals, my guess is that he sprayed with one that drifted onto the rosemary plant. Also I’ve noticed another decline in the already dangerously declining number of garden bees.
The pieces of rosemary I “cut and stuck” this fall (if they root) will go in the back borders unless I have to replace one of the larger plants. (And by the way, spring is better for cuttings, but fall can work. I may have stuck these cuttings too late. We’ll see.)
If these don’t root and the big plants winter over, I’ll take cuttings in the spring sticking several in each place where I want rosemary. The one that roots and looks the best I’ll leave. The others I’ll take up and put elsewhere or discard.
I have 3 pieces of dill coming up that seeded from my spring plantings. Having fresh dill in the fall is a first for me! I plan to celebrate with my simple potato salad recipe. Fresh dill is what makes the recipe special.
And by the way, dill is the only herb I know of that tastes almost identical to the fresh herb after it’s frozen.
I take a good sized bunch of dill ferns, place it on a piece of plastic wrap, and roll it tightly. The dill will resemble a long cigar. Put the plastic wrapped “cigar” in a plastic bag and place in the freezer.
When you’re ready to use:
- remove from the freezer,
- cut a piece off,
- re-wrap and re-bag the remaining piece as quickly as possible
- put in the freezer immediately.
- the piece you cut off will be easier to work with if you chop it while it’s still partially frozen
When I plant onions in the spring I plant for sets as well as big onions. (To get sets just plant a clump of seedlings together.)
I use some of the sets for fall planting to give me “spring” onions through December or longer. Some last through freezing temperatures into spring.
If I have sets remaining after planting some in the fall, I plant again in February for early “spring” onions.
A Few of my Late Summer into Fall Blooms
This rose (Easy Going) is in my front fence border. It blooms prolifically through the summer with an occasional rest period depending on the weather.
This year it bloomed not stop. Unless I missed seeing it, there was not a day without a bloom. I’d call that amazing.
Helianthus lemon queen starts it’s bloom in summer and was still blooming for me into October. It’s a great plant and easy to grow. It’ll get 5 feet and can fill in an area if you let it. If your spot requires a shorter look, just cut it back severely before it blooms.
Nice too with Sedum Autumn Joy when it starts turning red.
Bill always got after me about leaving this Rudbeckia so close to the path. But I just never wanted to move the whole plant. I’d never move it now because I think of Bill everytime I pass it.
Dahlias start blooming in early summer. Bloom is heavy in the fall through frost. Dahlias and roses were Bill’s favorites.
This one was started from seed about 2014 or before. I don’t take mine up in the fall/winter as almost source recommends. It always comes back and I’m always glad to see it.
My Favorite Mum
Let me know if you’ve enjoyed this post and if you found it helpful.
If you’re thinking of ordering my book for Christmas – for you or someone else — order now if you can. The mails have been slower and with everything that’s going on — waiting until December might not be such a good idea.
You can order here.
For future reference here are 3 post to help you extend the season:
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