Sunday, September 28, 2008

How Does My Garden Grow - Harvest Season

Gardening season has just about come to an end.   It's time to pull all the dying plants, turn the beds, and inventory my seeds for next year.    Our sole remaining harvest, sweet potatoes, will come out next week.  We're hoping they look good.

This year was a mixed one.  Near-constant rain through July and August slowed the harvest and bogged down a few plants.  As a result, the bulk of our tomato and pepper harvest came in early to mid-September.  Our fingerling potatoes did well, and we plucked a single acorn squash but our sole pumpkin got infested with squash borers, then helpfully eaten by some local wildlife.

We did well with cherry tomatoes, but the larger heirlooms we planted didn't provide us much this year - enough for a few pints of salsa (6 to be exact, made with locally grown onions and our own cilantro), but not enough for making and canning batches of pasta sauce.

We did well with basil from our own plants and the CSA, so my husband made and froze some large batches of pesto.  Fresh garden pesto tastes wonderful in the cold of winter.  Today we'll be roasting peppers to freeze, that will top salads and homemade pizza for months to come.

All this was in addition to the lettuce, squash and other things we harvested for in-season eating.

We also blanched and froze green and wax beans, which we'll enjoy over the cold season.  In addition, the transplanted raspberry bushes gave a few treats, and they are thriving.  We should see a good raspberry and blackberry harvest next year.  Both apple trees and our cherry tree are thriving, and next year we'll be putting in some peaches and an apricot tree.   We'll also be able to take advantage of the first asparagus harvest next spring.  

It was a small harvest this year, but a good one nonetheless.  Given the weather, my pregnancy exhaustion, and our busy life, I am a little disappointed, but not terribly.  It was our first year with our garden, and while it wasn't the large source of winter food we daydream about, the perk of gardening is that there is always next year.  

3 garden beds got built this year, and they will be planted while we create more in the spring. Our ultimate goal is 7-8 of them.  It may take a couple years to get there, but it will be worth the effort.

Our local food experiment is still in progress.  It will take a few years to come to fruition, but I look forward to the process.   And every tomato I slice that didn't get trucked in from somewhere else is filled with the seeds of our future.  


ChrissyLady said...

I'm really happy your garden got off to such a good start this season. I do have a question though - how do you find time to preserve everything? We did a CSA this year, and we've been freezing a lot of it for the winter. Canning will come next year, and I was wondering how much time it took you to can things. I've never done it, but it seems like a day long project for each batch. Any tips? :) Congrats again on a great season.

Ms.Moneypenny said...

We ended up freezing everything, including the salsa. Canning is a time investment, and while I enjoy it, the volume of what we harvested just didn't warrant it this year.

The perk of canning is that I can make about 14 quarts of pasta sauce in a day. With help, I know folks who have put up 100 jars of salsa in 6 or 8 hours. Canning is best when it's at least a 2 person enterprise, if you are looking for volume.

I would pick and choose maybe 2 or 3 things you really want to make and can next year, and start with those. Once you have a better handle on how much time things take for you, and how much you can process in a given time frame, branch out. But start small.

Some people do simply freeze everything, but the downside of that is it uses up precious freezer space, and has to be thawed. I can pull a quart of home-canned sauce off the shelf with no notice, and no energy used to thaw it.

I'd recommend booking out a couple days in late August next year to can, if tomato based items are on the menu. What you do may depend on what's ready.

Ask around for jars - classico pasta sauce comes in mason jars, as do a few other brands. Some folks use non-mason jars, but they aren't tempered, so they may break, which is messy and unpleasant. But you might be surprised at how many people send your way.

Good luck!