This week I have been planting fall garden beds. The timing is about right, here in Zone 5, for putting in beets, carrots, turnips, snap peas and cold-tolerant greens, such as kale, chard and Winter Density romaine lettuce. I’ve planted everything with our Super Hoops in place to hold our All-Purpose Garden Fabric, which will protect against pests as the plants develop. I can easily switch that out for a heavier GardenQuilt Cover when the temperature drops. Last winter, my co-worker, Ann Whitman, harvested spinach and leeks from her garden all winter long because she covered it with Garden Quilts and Frost Covers. I love that idea!
July 29, Garden Harvest
Are you remembering to harvest your vegetables? I know that seems like a silly question, but the first year I had a garden I think I just looked at it and smiled for months, without ever picking anything. I didn’t realize that harvesting vegetables is actually an important chore, just like watering, fertilizing and monitoring for disease. Part of the reason that I consider a daily or weekly garden harvest to be “work,” is that you may actually have to hunt for your veggies; don’t assume that they are all immediately visible to the eye.
Many plants thrive when their fruits are picked early and often. Great examples of these are cucumbers, green beans and eggplants. What’s more, small plants often have better texture and taste than overgrown ones. Each time that a vegetable is harvested during the growing season, the plant can put its energy into producing more fruit. The flip side of that idea is that plants whose fruits are not picked will slow or stop production; they assume that the end of their life cycle is near and that the task of setting seed has already been accomplished.
To be clear, not every vegetable benefits from being picked. The flavor of some veggies improves with exposure to colder weather. Carrots and Brussels sprouts, for example, become sweeter after a frost. However, if you plant root crops, such as carrots, close together and continually thin them, you can enjoy great flavor all summer while still saving plenty for sweeter eating in the fall. There is certainly a bit of a dance involved that you learn as you grow.
You, as the gardener, have the power to give your plants the correct signals in order to get the most out of them. Pick early and often for a more abundant garden harvest — and remember to share your photos with us in our Harvest Photo Contest. The deadline for entry is Oct. 13. You could win a Gardener’s Supply Gift Card!