Our 2022 garden: surprise beet harvest!

While working on the wattle weave bed in the old kitchen garden, I had to go around the beet bed constantly. Our beets did not do well this year, and in the end, I hadn’t bothered harvesting anything. It just didn’t seem worth it.

While working on the other bed, however, I sometimes had to stick a spade or garden fork into the ground to have them out of the way for a while, and a few times that meant sticking them into the beet bed.

Which is when I noticed that some of them actually looked useable.

So I harvested them.

This was all I got, out of the three varieties of beets planted in that bed. They’re so small, but my daughters like them at this size. They’ll be able to use them for maybe one or two meals.

Which is a heck of a lot more than I expected to get out of that bed!

At this point, we’re not sure if we’ll grow beets again next year. We’ve only been gardening for three years here, but each year has been worse than the one before. Perhaps we’ll try again, after we’ve built up the soil more and have better raised beds. If we do grow beets again next year, I think we’ll only do one variety, and save trying multiple varieties for the future. It’s hard to know which of the ones we tried are types we like, when we’ve yet to have a really good growing year for beets.

I’ll take what we can get for now, though!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: harvesting sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)

Yes, here we are, Oct. 9, and there’s still things to harvest!

Well… half a harvest.

I’d been leaving the sunchokes along, and this is how they look after being hit by frost, then rain, then more frost. This being Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, I decided to go ahead and harvest some of them to include in our meal. There were ten of them planted, and I decided to only harvest the nearer five.

I was a bit surprised by how they looked. A lot whiter than I expected, but that may be because they never got to reach their full size during this crazy growing year we had. This bed is right next to where some of the longest lasting flooded areas in the yard this spring. The bed was slightly raised, which was probably the only thing that saved them.

There wasn’t a lot to harvest, and I also made sure to rebury at least one of the largest tubers under each plant, for next year.

As for the plants, I did a chop and drop. I’ll add more mulch to this bed before things freeze over, too.

To prepare them, since they were so fresh, I basically just scrubbed them. I’ve never tasted sunchokes before. These are supposed to be edible raw, so I made sure to try a piece. I don’t know how to describe the taste, other than “mild”. There’s nothing else I can compare it to in flavour.

I added them to the other vegetables that I tossed with olive oil and seasonings. I liked them better roasted. They take on other flavours very well. Roasted, they have a very smooth texture. All four of us liked them, which seems to be a rare thing!

If all goes well, we will have a larger harvest of them next year. 😊

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: harvesting carrots and turnips.

It was a chilly night last night, with temperatures dipping below freezing. As I write this, we’re at 3C/37F – just under our predicted high of the day.

It was actually very pleasant out there!

With a few frosts already past, I decided it was time to harvest the carrots.

This is all of them.

Plus the Purple Prince turnips – the only turnip variety of the three we planted this spring, that survived. Barely. Their greens were constantly munched on by insects. I’m not sure why I even bothered to harvest them. They’re so small, a lot of them got left behind in the bed, then still more went into compost when I trimmed their greens. Not much of a harvest there.

I’m surprised by the Uzbek Golden carrots, which were from a free seed packet. A lot of them were much larger than I expected.

The Black Nebula carrots where more difficult to harvest. Even with several years of amendments, the soil still gets pretty compacted, and these guys get long. It took quite a bit to dig them out!

Well, that didn’t take long… 😅

We are expected to dip to -4C/25F tonight, so these needed to be set up indoors to cure – and the only place we had available in the sun room was covered with tomatoes, still.

Thankfully, they are all laid out on screens.

I was able to stack the screens with the tomatoes and gourds, then lay out the trimmed carrots. After a day or two, we’ll brush the dirt off and go over them. Several of the biggest Uzbek Golden carrots have split, but the Black Nebula look like they were a slug favorite. Quite a few had damage at their tops. The size variety among them is pretty surprising. Quite a few of them are really big around! From the photos, I expected long and narrow.

Once we’ve assessed their condition, we’ll decide how best to store or preserve them. I suspect blanching and freezing will be the best option for most of the Black Nebula carrots, while the Uzbeck golden will be kept in the kitchen for fresh eating first.

I haven’t actually tasted any of these yet! We did harvest a few Uzbeck golden for meals over the summer, but almost no Black Nebula, because even the little ones were hard to pull. I hope they taste as good!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: dehydrating tomatoes

Yes, we still have tomatoes!

A lot of the tomatoes we set up in the sun room are slowly ripening. There isn’t enough to bother cooking them into a sauce or whatever, but more than we can conveniently eat, so I’ve started dehydrating them in the oven.

It’s mostly Yellow Pear tomatoes that we have, and they are so small, I am dehydrating them on parchment paper. I had two baking sheets full, but when they were mostly dry and quite shrunken, I combined them into one.

That jar is all of them!

Once I’d combined the Yellow Pear tomatoes, I set up a cooling rack and started dehydrating some Cup of Moldova tomatoes. Once the Yellow Pear tomatoes were done, I filled the baking sheet again with more of them. That finished off what I’d picked earlier, but this morning I gathered more ripe tomatoes!

I am considering powdering the yellow tomatoes, and doing some of the red ones in olive oil. Or just powdering the whole lot of them. They’ll take up less space that way. It’ll be a while before they’re all dehydrated, so I have time to decide.

As I’m writing this, I am hearing the wind pick up outside, and the trees are starting to get whipped about. While today’s high is supposed to be 17C/63F, tomorrow is supposed to have a high of only 3C/37F. Tonight’s low is supposed to be 1C/34F, but tomorrow night we’re supposed to drop to -3C/27F.

And yet, we’re still getting fresh tomatoes! 😁

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: harvesting carrots and red onions and cleaning up

I took advantage of the lovely temperatures (and being in less pain) to do some more clean up in the garden. Earlier in the day, my daughter and I drove into town so she could get a new photo to renew her driver’s license, while I popped across the street to pick up a few things at the grocery store. I was thinking of making a cream of chicken soup and was about to buy some carrots, when I remembered…

We have carrots. They’re just still in the dirt.

So I went over to where the chocolate cherry tomatoes had been planted, and pulled up the Napoli (orange) and Kyoto Red (dark orange) carrots – and a single shallot! I also dug up the red onions from sets that were planted with the yellow pear tomatoes.

The new soil sifter came in handy! 😁

I’m actually surprised that we got so many decent sized carrots. The Kyoto Red were pretty small – there were two I left behind because they’re blooming, and I hope to collect some seeds. I used up the last of the Kyoto Red seeds, but I think I still have some Napoli pelleted seeds left. Those really did far better than I expected.

Then there’s that single, solitary shallot!

There were actually two more, but they also bloomed, and I’m waiting for the seed heads to dry before collection.

As for the red onions…

Most of them aren’t any bigger than the sets we planted in the first place. Given how spindly the greens were, I thought they might be rotted out, or at least soft, but nope: they are quite firm. They’re just really tiny. I think they were simply too shaded by how massive the yellow pear tomatoes got.

I was going to take them in and was trying to figure out where I could lay them out to dry a bit, until I thought to check the weather again.

We’ll be having at least a couple relatively warm nights, and no rain is expected. I just spread them out on the soil sifter and will leave them out overnight. Tomorrow, I should be able to brush the dirt off more easily, before bringing them inside.

With that in mind, I think I’ll soak some of those blue grey speckled tepary beans overnight, to include with some our garden’s carrots and onions in my soup!

Once these were gathered, I worked on taking down the hoops in the main garden area, as well as the mesh and supports over the spinach in the old kitchen garden. The spinach is a loss. They germinated, and then got mostly yellow and stopped growing.

With the mesh and netting, I laid them out as straight as I could on the ground, then rolled them up around whatever straight sticks I had that were long enough.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult that is with a yard full of kittens!

The twine I used got salvaged, too, and the shorter pieces came in very handy to tie off bundles of netting, mesh, supports and hoops.

We have a few more warmer days, and my priority right now is to get the empty bed in the main garden area prepped, and then plant our fall garlic. When we go into the city next for our stock-up shopping, I hope to pick up more hardneck garlic to plant. It’s a bit too late to order them like we have for the past couple of years.

Once that is done, I plan to work on building up some of the beds in the old kitchen garden. I have ideas for those that I hope will work. If I get at least one of those done over the next few days, that will give us a prepared bed to plant any garlic I pick up later on. There’s still the beets to harvest from that garden, but I suspect those will be going straight to compost.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: sweet potatoes harvested

This morning I spent some time doing some clean up in the garden, taking off the netting from a couple of beds and removing the supports and twine. While I was at it, I decided to go ahead and harvest the Covington sweet potatoes from the grow bags. They did survive the frost, but with the cooler temperatures, anything there wouldn’t be getting any bigger.

This is it. Our entire sweet potato harvest.

They’re smaller than fingerling potatoes!

Now, I know we can grow short season sweet potatoes in our zone. In some of the local gardening groups I’m on, I’ve seen people posting pictures of their very nice sweet potato harvests. The soil in the grow bags looked good; there were lots of worms in the soil, and even mushrooms growing out the sides of the ones that tore; a sign of healthy soil. Like so much else this year, they just never really recovered from our horrible spring. This is actually more than I was expecting to find, to be honest.

Yes, I want to try growing sweet potatoes again. Whether we’ll be able to try again next year, I don’t know yet, but I do want to grow them. They would make a valuable, nutritionally dense, storage crop to help meet our self sufficiency goals.

What a rough gardening year it has been this year!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: harvesting squash and corn

Well, the last of the stuff that needed to come in before tonight is done – at least as much as possible. The girls and I put bottles with warm water under the eggplants in the grow bag (the only ones fruiting) and, since they were right there, with the sweet potatoes, too. The eggplant and one grow bag with sweet potato got covered, but the sheet wasn’t big enough to cover the other two grow bags. The apple gourd also got bottles of warm water placed beside them, but we could only cover two of the three plants, so we covered the two biggest ones. As I write this, we are down to 9C/48F, and it’s supposed to keep dropping until we reach 1C/34F at about 7am. Between 6 – 8 am tends to consistently be the coldest time of day.

While I was harvesting earlier, I went ahead and grabbed a bunch of the Latte sweet corn, too. I don’t think they are quite at their peak, but I think they’re about as good as we’re going to get. There are still cobs on the stalks that were pretty small, so I left them be.

With the summer squash, I grabbed all the little – but not too little – patty pans, and the last of the zucchini.

In the above photo, the six pumpkins across the top are the Baby Pam pumpkins. The others are all hulless seed pumpkins. On the far left are four Styrian, in the middle are six Lady Godiva, and on the right are two Kakai. Tucked in with the patty pans are two Boston Marrow. There are so many little Boston Marrow squash forming, but they are just too small and have no chance of ripening after being picked. I’m not even sure Boston Marrow does continue to ripen after being picked!

The pumpkins are now all set up in the sun room. We cleared a shelf in the window, and all but one of them fit in there. The last one joined the onions on the screen. I think it should still get enough light there.

The hulless seed pumpkins are grown just for their seed, not their flesh. The flesh is probably edible, but there would be less of it than for an eating pumpkin. I will give them time before we crack any open to see what the seeds are like. At least we do have the one tiny, fully ripe kakai pumpkin harvested earlier that we could try any time we feel like it.

We planted so many different winter squash, and it was such a horrible year, I’m thankful we have as much as we do. Hopefully, next year, we will have better growing conditions. I made the mistake of calling my mother before I started this post, and talking about our garden. I mentioned that our beets did not do well this year. She started lecturing me on how to grow beets, and how they need to have the soil loosened around them, etc. I told her I knew how to grow beets (this is not our first year growing them!); they just didn’t do well this year. We didn’t even get greens worth eating. My mother then launched into how she always had such big beets, and always had such a wonderful garden (this after she’d mentioned to be before, that some years things just didn’t work) and how she only grew the “basics” and everything was just so wonderful – and the reason my beets failed was because I don’t garden like she did, and that I shouldn’t be gardening “from a book”. Whatever that means. I reminded her that I tested the soil and it is depleted. We don’t have good soil here anymore. She got sarcastic about that, and basically made it like my not having a perfect garden like she did was because I’m not doing things her way. As she got increasingly cruel about it, I called her out on it. I told her that just because she can’t understand something like soil science – which she doesn’t need to – that didn’t make it okay for her to be cruel to me over something she knows nothing about. Nor would I put up with being treated like that. I even asked her, why couldn’t she try being kind for a change? Maybe say something like “I’m sorry to hear you’re having problems”, instead of basically saying “I’m better than you.” She went dead silent, so I changed the subject, and the rest of the conversation went okay. Then she cut the call short because she saw the time, and her program on TV was started, so she had to go.

My mother is pretty open on what her priorities are. 😕

Ah, well. It is what it is. I’m just so thankful she is no longer our “landlord”, and that my brother now owns the property. There was a point, before the title was transferred, that we briefly but seriously considered moving out because of her.

Funny how something as ordinary as gardening can bring out the worst in her, though.

The weird thing is, when I spoke to my brother after he’d visited her to talk about the roofing estimates, apparently my mother had lots of positive things to say about how well we’re taking care of things here.

I guess that doesn’t include the garden! 😄

Well, I guess I should go see what I can do about that corn! 😊

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: harvesting dry beans, onions and tomatoes

Well, we decided to start bringing things in. Tonight and tomorrow night, we are supposed to reach lows of 1C/34F

While our one eggplant that is producing is small enough to give protective cover, that’s pretty much it. The rest is just too much or too large to be able to cover adequately.

The shelling beans were simply ready to be harvested, so I worked on those first.

These are the blue grey speckled tepary beans, and the are so tiny! I haven’t tried to open any pods yet. It was almost but not quite raining as I picked these, so once I got them inside, they went onto a screen and are laid out to dry thoroughly indoors before I start shelling them.

Then it was time to pull the Tropeana Lunga onions.

They are SO much easier to harvest from the high raised bed, than the onions in the low raised beds. I had to dig most of those out, because the soil is so compacted. Not here! These came out easily.

Check out that chard. Not a single leaf to harvest!

I had this wire mesh door on the picnic table under the canopy tent, where I was able to cure onions before, but with the cold temperatures, I set it up in the sun room. It is supported by a couple of saw horses over the swing bench, giving the kittens plenty of space to go underneath and have their warm and cozy naps!

These onions are a very thick onion, in the stem and the greens. They are very much like the Red of Florence onions we already harvested, but with even sturdier stems.

Next, I worked on the red tomatoes. A few of the ripe ones had been partially eaten, while others had holes like this.

Some of the holes were even still occupied!

Slugs are remarkably voracious!

This is all the red tomatoes. In the bin are the Cup of Moldova, and on the side are the Sophie’s Choice. There were very few Sophie’s choice, overall.

While I was working on these, I got a surprise visitor.

Rolando Moon showed up! I haven’t seen her in weeks! She let me pet her a bit, but mostly hung around and hissed and growled at the kittens. Except for when she suddenly showed up with a big mouse in her mouth. One of the kittens became VERY interested in her at that point. Rolando Moon can be aggressive, so I did step in, which allowed the kitten to make a jump for the tiny bit of mouse that was left. He promptly inhaled it and was sniffing for more, but with Rolando being the way she is, I carried him off.

Do you know that it’s really hard to harvest tomatoes while there is a kitten perched on your shoulders, and it refuses to leave? 😄

Next, I worked on the Chocolate Cherry and the Yellow Pear tomatoes.

There were SO many yellow pear tomatoes!

I also harvested the dry King Tut Purple Pea pods, though they were green instead of purple. I’m not sure why I’m keeping the seeds, to be honest. The last Red Kuri squash was also harvested, and now sit with the onions to cure.

I have left it to the girls to work out what to do with all the tomatoes, except for the ones that I will be keeping to save seeds from. The Chocolate Cherry, for sure. I’m told those were the tastiest. Not the yellow pear, though. I’m glad we tried them, but they weren’t enjoyed enough to bother saving seeds from. Both the Cup of Moldova and Sophie’s Choice are rare varieties, so I will be keeping seeds just to help keep them going. We will decide later if we want to stick with them next year, of we want to try other varieties as well. My daughter described both of them as good, but very mild in flavour. I think she and my husband would prefer something more intensely flavoured. We’ll see.

This bed that had the paste tomatoes is now completely empty. That means I can prep it to plant the best of the hardneck garlic I’d saved from this year’s harvest. We will need to get more, though.

This bed had the yellow pear tomatoes. There are still the red onions from sets in there, but I don’t think we’ll get anything out of them. Once those are out, this bed, and the one to the right of it, can be prepped for next year.

The kulli corn in the bed to the left still has no cobs forming, at all.

This is where the chocolate cherry were. It’s the second year we grew tomatoes here, so we will do something else here next year. I’m thinking peas.

There are still carrots in this bed. I don’t know that there are any shallots or onions left. There are two shallots that went to seed, but the seed heads seems to have stalled in development. It seems the same with the lettuce I left to go to seed. I think it’s just been too chilly for them to progress properly.

That’s it for now. Later on, I’ll head out again and look over the pumpkins, and see about harvesting the biggest ones. Pumpkins can continue to ripen after picking, if we can keep them warm, dry and in sunlight. That is a difficult combination to achieve in our household, though!

I also want to put bottles with warm water in them around the eggplant that’s fruiting, and then cover it. I may as well harvest what summer squash there is, too. We won’t be able to protect them from the cold, so chances are, they will get killed off tonight. I might be able to cover the apple gourds. They are the only ones that are immature enough to make the effort. After these 2 expected cold nights, the overnight lows are expected to be much warmer, so if they can survive those two nights, they still have a chance.

Oh, the weather can be a harsh mistress!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: pumpkins picked, and what shall we do?

When doing my rounds this morning, I brought the wagon and some pruning shears to finally pick the giant pumpkins.

Plus a few patty pan squash.

One of the pumpkins still has a bit of green, so they are sitting in a shelf by a window to cure and continue to ripen. They are big enough that the kittens shouldn’t be a problem.

I’ve been closely looking at the other squash that are developing. Especially some of the hulless pumpkins, which are the furthest along. The longer they stay on the vine to ripen, the better, but…

I don’t know if I should just pick them all and bring them in, along with the last of the tomatoes and onions.

Looking at the Accuweather forecast on my phone, we’ll have chilly nights, but not cold enough for frost until well into October. The low for tonight is expected to be 5C/41F, BUT… when I look at the hourly forecast, it says we will reach 0C/32F by 5am tomorrow. Which means frost by morning.

Going online to the Accuweather website, however, the coldest we’re supposed to get overnight is 8C/46F by 8am. Most of the night will be 9C/48F. Not a chance of frost there.

Looking at the forecast on my desktop’s app, it says we’ll hit a low 2C/36F tomorrow night. Cold, but not likely to have frost.

I’m also not seeing any frost warnings for our area, yet.

The problem is, there are no weather stations being used for these forecasts. The closest one is also closer to the lake, so that can change conditions dramatically. Others are to the north and south of us, and far enough away that both can have quite different conditions that we do at any given time. We just don’t get accurate forecasts for our specific area, which makes it hard to plan what to harvest, or allow to ripen more!

Do I take a chance and let things be? As I write this, we are at 16C/61F, and are expected to reach a high of 19C/66F. It’s quite lovely. But those overnight temperatures… those are the potential killers.

Just to throw a wringer into the thought process, I am not feeling well today. I had a much disturbed night, partly from having to spend way too much time in the bathroom (which I now know is a side effect of the new medication my doctor is trying me on), and partly cat disturbances. We did a dump run and a trip into town today, and I had to get my daughter to drive, mostly because I was afraid I might fall asleep at the wheel. As if that isn’t enough, the weather changes are wrecking havoc on my arthritis, and I just plain hurt. Not that it matters. What needs to be done, needs to get done. It’s just a matter of figuring out what needs to be done now, or later!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: a sad little potato harvest

This afternoon, my daughter and I got working on the remaining potato beds.

The first bed I worked on was the mid season Bridget potatoes. They have been ready to harvest for a while, now.

Based on how things went after harvesting the early season Caribe potatoes, my expectations were very low, but it needed to be done.

I started off by pulling away the straw mulch. Most of the plants I dug up had nothing under them, but every now and then…

…I would pull back the straw, and there would be these lovely little potatoes, just sitting on top of the cardboard layer!

We had company while we were working.

This little bugger kept trying to climb my daughter while she was using the garden fork!

This one was content to just be held, but we had to put him down so we could work. It was so cute to seem him starting to fall asleep among the summer squash!

The soil was greatly improved since we first made these “instant garden” beds with the cardboard and straw. Granted, two days of almost constant, gentle rain did help soften the ground a lot, but it was much easier to dig into the soil with the garden fork. There were lots of worms and while I saw slugs, there wasn’t as much as I’d seen with that first bed I’d harvested.

The late season All Blue potatoes had more of a return.

This is it. We had 10 pounds of each type of potato. I doubt we got the same amount back. Certainly now with the Bridget potatoes.

One of the reasons I chose these varieties is because they are good for storage, but with so few of them, that’s not going to happen. Normally, we’d cure them, then bring them inside, but these got a wash down and we’ll be eating them right away.

Though we got more of the All Blue, we might actually have less. Unlike the Bridget, quite a few had insect damage. They also had scab on quite a few of them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen scab on potatoes grown here before, even when I was a kid.

The straw got loosely returned to the bed. There may not have been a lot of potatoes, but there was an insane amount of crab grass rhizomes. We tried to pull out as much as we could as we worked, but that is something that requires a lot to get rid off. For now, the straw is back to try and keep them from getting worse.

I am thinking that these beds are a good place to build some permanent squash tunnels. At the very least, we can use the path between the beds as the path inside a tunnel. Though this has been a terrible year for the squash, we got enough growth that I could see which ones are the most enthusiastic climbers. I look forward to trying them again. For the permanent squash tunnels, I plant to make low raised beds on the outside. Since we wouldn’t be able to access the beds from the inside of the tunnel, they would only be two feet wide, with a four foot wide path inside the tunnel. I think I would like to build at least three tunnels, though we might not be able to get them all done this fall. They are going to be a lot stronger than the ones we slapped together to start with, though even those lasted longer than we expected them to.

Now that the potatoes are harvested, and since the melons in these beds are a loss, we can actually go ahead and start building something in this area as soon as we can.

The Re-Farmer