5 Ways to Handle Upcoming Light Frost

green tomatoes

Ready to ripen indoors.

Well, the weather forecasters are saying the F-word again.
Last year frost didn’t hit until the end of October, but we can’t always be that lucky.

Here are a few ways to handle your veggies with the cold temps coming:

1. Harvest them.

All of the heat loving crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, summer squashes and eggplant cannot handle the cold. Let them ripen indoors, use them up or preserve what you can for the winter.

2. Bring them indoors.

Potted plants can come inside and you get a wee bit more life from them. We have heard of people overwintering pepper plants and having them live for years.

We’re going to give it a try with one pepper plant and a transplanted eggplant.

We also have 3 tomato plants in the greenhouse, just to keep that fresh taste going longer. May as well, right?

jones gardening system

Inserting the plastic panels for frost protection.

3. Cover them.

You can use something as simple as a sheet, or more elaborate like our garden system. This picture is of the sweet potato bed in the original test system. The longer we can keep them alive, the better the harvest will be.

4. Let them be.

Many veggies can handle the cold. All of the cold weather crops will survive a light frost. These include peas, most greens, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, scorzonera and parsley.

If you’re not sure weather they will survive or not, one frost will answer that question. Just don’t allow the lettuce to fool you. It may look like it is dead in the morning, and then perk back up when the sun comes out.

5. Water them in.

This is something we have never tried, but it makes sense and is often recommended. Water your garden at ground level thoroughly before a frost is predicted. Presumably the wet soil will hold the warm temperatures longer, and release heat at the base of the plant, offering them some protection.

We have also heard, but have not tried, watering the garden again before the sun hits the plants, in effect washing the frost droplets off and helping the plants survive.

We have had sufficient success with the first four methods, so have not had to try the fifth.

Well, got to go harvest the grapes and make some juice.
Happy gardening!


Categories: extending the season, harvesting, techniques


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12 Plus Veggies You Don’t Need to Harvest Before the Frost

Sweet peas and fall leaves.

Sweet peas and fall leaves.

When still new to gardening, we thought everything that wasn’t a perennial plant had to be harvested before a frost.
As it turns out, that isn’t the case.

Although the majority of the beds are cleaned out before the temperatures drop, there are a few things that can stay out without protection here in our Zone 5/6 garden.

1. The winter squashes have hard rinds that can take some cold. A heavy frost will kill off their vines, actually making it easier to find them.
Just be sure to gather them up before a heavy freeze, and certainly before any snow buries them.

2. Carrots can stay outside until the ground freezes, making it pretty hard to pick them. If you cover them with some mulch, that helps the soil stay warmer and extends your harvest time. You can even leave some in the ground and if you are lucky, they may flower the following spring and give you seeds.

3. Parsnips can likewise be left to overwinter, and harvested when the ground thaws.

4. Scozonera aka Salsify is often left to overwinter in the garden as well. Veggies like this are a wonderful treat early in the season before other plants are producing.

Here it comes.

Here it comes.

5. Kale is one of the hardiest of the greens, and can often survive the winter. We’re testing this here in our garden with a batch that was planted later in the season.

6. Mache will survive all winter and continue to keep you happy.

7. Garlic is intentionally planted late in the season and harvested the following summer. This gives it a good chance to get established before the ground freezes, and therefore a jump-start on the growing season.

8. Dry beans can be harvested after the weather turns cold. The frost will kill off the plants, and speed up the drying time a bit. Just don’t leave them out too long, or the seeds you want will shrivel into tiny little things.

Bringing in the perishables.

Bringing in the perishables.

9. Beets can take some frost and still provide you not only with their edible globes but their leaves as well.

10. If you planted a fall crop of peas, good for you! They can handle some frost before finally calling it quits.

11. Rutabagas and turnips are planted mid-summer for a fall crop. Yep, a little frost won’t bother them either.

12. The cole crops, including cabbages, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower, can all take some frost. The cooler temperatures actually make brussel sprouts taste a little sweeter, helping them to shed the bad reputation that is often associated with them.

There really is a nice assortment of veggies that can still be growing even in the cooler days of fall. Who’d have thunk?

Categories: harvesting, How to Grow


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When Geeks Garden – The Corn Harvest

There are some gardeners I know that would be considered ‘uber’ geeks.
You know who you are.
In fact, I’m borrowing that expression from one of them.

Although I’m not quite that advanced, there are things I do that makes my husband shake his head and giggle.

Born On date.

‘Born On’ date.

“Why are there dates written on some of the corn leaves?” he asked me last evening as we toured the garden to check the progress.
“That’s the date I first saw the silks appear” was my response.

I could tell that wasn’t enough information.

“The Johnny’s Seeds Catalog suggests that about 18-24 days after the silks appear, the corn will be ready. Since I planted a few different kinds I needed a way to know when to start checking them to see if there is a milky substance in the ears. Then we’ll know when to pick it.”

Will this one be first?

Will this one be first?

He laughed, “I’m surprised you didn’t write that date on the leaves instead.”

He thinks he’s funny.
Just wait until he turns his calender to August. :-)



Categories: corn, gardening, harvesting, How to Grow



26 Common Vegetables and When to Harvest Them

Okay so you planted and transplanted, weeded and watered. Now what?

bean flowers on dry bush bean plants

Bean flowers mean the veggies are soon to come.

Knowing when some tomatoes are ready to be picked is easy, they turn red. Other edibles are not so obvious.

So here is a list of some of the more common veggies, and when its time to harvest them:

1. Beans
Podded- For your typical green beans that you are going to enjoy shell and all, pick them before the seeds get big.
Shelled- Just the opposite, let the seeds get plump before harvesting.
Dry- As the name implies, allow these beans to dry on the plant before you pick them.

2. Broccoli
Here you are harvesting a flower head, cut it off before the petals begin to open. Continue to harvest smaller shoots.

3. Brussel Sprouts
Starting at the bottom and working your way up, harvest these mini-cabbages whenever they are big enough to eat. Harvest them all before they open.

4. Cabbage
You can pick your cabbage head whenever the head is a nice size. Some cabbages will split if they get to big. You can still eat them, it’s just messy.

5. Carrots
To some extent you can gauge the size of a carrot by brushing away some of the soil, carrots can be deceiving though. Harvest whenever the top seems a reasonable size and continue until the ground freezes.

6. Cauliflower
Also a flower, cut the head off before it ‘bolts’ or the petals open.

7. Corn
Sweet varieties- Harvest when the kernels produce a milky substance when cut. This is about 3 weeks after you first see the silks.
Dry corn- Harvest when the kernels are completely mature and the husks are drying on the stalk.

8. Cucumbers
Generally the smaller the better, as cucumbers can get quite seedy when they are older.

9. Eggplant
Pick these beauties when they get shiny.

10. Fava Beans
Let the seeds get plump and juicy before you harvest them.
Chianti is optional.



11. Fennel
Harvest the bulb when it is a reasonable size, or earlier if you need to.

12. Horseradish
Harvest after at least one frost.

13. Jersualem Artichokes (Sunchokes)
Harvest any time after the flowers bend over, but they are sweeter after a frost.

sunchoke aka Jerusalem artichoke

Mmm… smells like chocolate.

14. Kohlrabi
Pick when the bulb is about golf ball size or a little larger, if they get too big they become woody.

15. Lettuce and other ‘cut and come again’ greens
Start harvesting once the plants are established, never removing too much at once. Continue until they start to bolt, at this point they become bitter.

stop bolting of spinach

Spinach flowers signal bolting, pick now before it gets nasty.

16. Melons
These are the most difficult to know when to harvest, and really it is a matter of practice. A general rule is to pick them when the skin begins to change color. Other than that, you’re on your own.

17. Okra
Pick when the pods are the size indicated on the seed packet, generally smaller is better.

18. Onions
When the green tops fall over, pull those babies out. You can sparingly harvest the greens earlier.

19. Parsnips
Similar to carrots, although you can leave them in the garden all winter and harvest in the spring. They are so sweet at that point and having something homegrown is wonderful!

20. Peas
Sugar and Snow varieties- Harvest before the seeds inside start to develop.
Podded- Just the opposite, let those peas get plump before picking.

potato flowers signal the growth below

Flowers on top signal little potatoes below.

21. Potatoes
You can harvest small or ‘new’ spuds when you see the flowers on top of the plants. Unfortunately, not all varieties flower.
Otherwise, harvest the whole crop when the tops begin to die back, or before a frost.

22. Radishes
Harvest small or they become ‘hot’.

23. Squash
Summer varieties- The smaller the better.
Winter varieties- Harvest in the fall, they can tolerate a light frost.

24. Sweet Potatoes
Harvest before the first frost.

25. Tomatoes
Harvest whenever they get full color and the fruit becomes a little softer.

26. Watermelon
Bring these sweet fruits indoors when you hear a ‘thump’ when you knock on one, or when the spot where they rest on the ground turns yellow. You can also tell they are ripe if the tendril near the stem starts to die off.

peas in the home garden

Yellow snow peas.

If you are new to growing your own food, don’t worry.
After a while all this info becomes second nature.
Really really. :-)

Categories: gardening, harvesting, How to Grow



14 Dual Purpose Vegetables

beauty in the veggie garden

Summer squash flowers

When you plant a cucumber seed, you get cucumbers. That’s it, just cucumbers. There are a number of vegetables, known as Dual Purpose Vegetables, that give you more:

sweet potato leaves

Sweet potato leaves

1. Beets- enjoy not only the bulb, but you can also steam the leaves and stems.
2. Garlic- you can eat the leaves of the plant, as well as the flowers or scapes they produce.
3. Sweet potatoes- yep, go ahead and eat those leaves too.
4. Onions- roast the tops to use throughout the winter.
5. Broccoli- eat the leaves as well as the heads.

Go ahead and eat those leaves, too.

Go ahead and eat those leaves, too.

6. Kohlrabi- likewise.
7. Cauliflower- ditto.
8. Brussel sprouts- you have to trim some of the leaves anyway, go ahead and enjoy them.
9. Carrots- toss those nutritious leaves into your next salad. Disclaimer- some people disagree with eating carrot leaves, others suggest as with parsnips, only to eat them when they are young.
10. Parsnips- same as above.

Garlic scape

Garlic scape

11. Turnips- no need to throw caution to the wind, turnip leaves and stems are edible.
12. Rutabagas- same as turnips, though their texture is nasty as far as I’m concerned.
13. Celery- we dehydrate the leaves and use them throughout the winter as a seasoning.
14. Summer squash- probably our favorite dual purpose veggie, take those male blossoms and stuff them.

There are also some specific varieties of peas and beans that can be used differently, but we’ll look at that another time.
It’s far too nice outside to be here at the computer!

Categories: gardening, harvesting, How to Grow


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15 Foods You Can Freeze Easily, Pt. 1

Freezing fresh produce in general is not difficult- with some veggies you need to blanch  (immerse in boiling water for a short period of time) in order to stop the aging process, and also to retain color.

Likewise there are some, fruits in particular, that either need to be dipped in a food preservation substance such as sugar or dry ascorbic acid, or frozen in a syrup.

And then there are the ones that practically take care of themselves- you got to love it.

freezing tomatoes

whole or sliced

For any food you are going to freeze, be sure to wash them off first and let them dry. Remove any stems and separate out produce that is bruised or otherwise compromised.

For many we spread them out whole on a tray so they freeze individually. In the food biz this is referred to as IQF- Individually Quick Frozen, and although we don’t have a flash freezer, we still use the term. I’ve also heard it called ‘tray pack’.

After they are frozen, place in freezer jars or bags. Vacuuming sealing is wonderful.

This method makes it easy to grab just a little of what you want- say, for Blueberry Pancakes. Num.

freezing pineapple

freezing fresh pineapple and lemon zest

1. Berries: Leave whole, IQF

2. Pineapple: Peel, cut into chunks or rings, IQF

3. Coconut: Grate, freeze in specific sizes (such as 1/2 cup) for recipes.

4. Peppers: Sweet or hot, you can freeze them whole. The sweet will get sweeter, and the hot- yea, you guessed it.

5. Bananas: Over-ripe bananas are not only healthier for you, you can get them cheap at the market. Wash (wash everything), peel, and freeze to use in smoothies or for baking.

6. Tomatoes: This is probably one of my favorites because when the tomatoes are coming in at an alarming rate, is also when I have the least amount of time to can. Even better, when you freeze a whole tomato, the skins will just slide off as it thaws. Really.

freezing fresh produce

future jam

9 more in part 2 find it here.
Can you guess what they are?

Categories: freezing, harvesting, How to Store



When to Harvest -pt. 2

As we looked at in When to Harvest -pt. 1, it’s easier to tell when to pick some veggies than others.
So here’s some more info to help.

okra bud

okra in the making

• Okra: Bring them in before they get too big- you don’t want anything bigger than a 4 inch fruit; like kohlrabi, they get woody.
• Onions: The tops fall over when it’s time to pick. I love that, it’s like a button on a turkey.
• Peanuts: Grow as long as you can until the frost. Seriously, I don’t know what they do in Georgia, but if you’re going to grow them in cooler climates…good luck!

peanut flowers

flowers soon to be snacks

• Peas: See Beans. Just kidding. Pick ‘snow’ or ‘sugar snap ‘when the pods are still small and before the fruit inside starts to get bigger. For ‘garden peas’ just the opposite- you want to harvest the pea seeds, so let them get plump. Note that some peas can be grown either way… I love that.
• Peppers, sweet and hot: Ahh the rainbow that are our summer peppers. It’s been my experience, though pepper connoisseurs may argue the point, that the more the pepper changes color, the better the flavor gets. Now I know this is a pretty general statement, and y’all need to decide for yourself… but I think a sweet peppers is sweeter when it turns color, and a hot pepper is a better hot pepper (not necessarily hotter) when it turns. That being said, I pick a few early while green to encourage growth, and then start to let them have at it. Your call.
• Potatoes: If you get early blight, you still have a fighting chance. If you get late blight, forgettaboutit. Harvest when the plant tops start to die off, or when the frost is coming. Once the tops die, it can be hard to find any remaining taters. Been there. With a trowel. Many times.
• Radish: Probably the most temperamental of all the veggies. Pick it too late, and it gets hot. Mark your calendar when you plant the seeds and harvest as the seed packet suggests.
• Squash, summer: Size- smaller is better as far as taste.
• Squash, winter: Size again, but you don’t want to overdo it. Winter squash can take some frosts- harvest what is obviously ripe early on, then bring the rest in when the frost kills the vines.

sweet taters

smarty pants gnome

• Sweet potatoes: Frost determines this harvest hands down.
• Tomatoes: Fry them up green or use them for jam, the obvious time to harvest is when they are at their peak color. Remember you can bring in green ones just before the frost, and many will ripen indoors on their own.
• Watermelon: This garden beauty stands alone. You can judge its ripeness by a light colored spot where it lays on the ground, you can also tap on its shell to see if you hear a ‘hollow thud’ sound. Lastly, check out the greenery by its stem- if that is turning brown, your fruit may be ready to harvest.

summer squash zucchini

a perfect summer squash- zucchini

So that’s pretty much it and now you know, if you didn’t already, when to bring those gorgeous homegrown veggies inside.
Happy Harvesting!

Categories: faq's, harvesting, How to Grow


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When to Harvest -pt. 1

Not all veggies give you obvious clues that they are ready to harvest- sneaky blokes.
Tomatoes and green beans, sure they’re easy.

ripe tomatoes

ready and willing

But how do you know when to pick a cantaloupe or corn, or even when to bring in the kohlrabi or carrots?
Well my gardening friends, that’s the $100,000 question.
And here are some answers (for free):

• Beans: For most beans, size matters. Pick them when they look ready, easy enough. For Dry/Shell beans, leave on the plant until they begin to look, well, dry. Then bring them in, shell, air out and store.
• Broccoli, Cauliflower: These cousins will bolt, aka, go to flower on you. Pick when you have a nice head, or if it looks like the ‘flowers’ (which are in fact the veggie you want) begin to separate.
• Brussel Sprouts: Again this is all about size. This underrated veggie takes much longer to grow than its relatives. Cut back some of the leaves and watch the little buds get larger. Harvest from the bottom up.
• Cabbage: Don’t be greedy. When you get a nice size head, pick it. Cabbage will split if it’s over ripe.
• Carrots: Ditto on carrots, though I’ve never had a carrot last so long in the garden as to split. Yeah continuous plantings! There is one thing about carrots, they can be deceiving. Look for one that has some heavy stems on it, brush away a little soil to get an idea of how the big the carrot is. Well, that usually works. Sometimes those carrots mess with you head.

ripe carrot

looks ready

• Celery: Once the stalks are reasonably tall, cut as needed. Just remember to never cut more than 1/3 of the plant, and don’t forget to use the leaves too!
• Corn: This is a hard one. Many gardeners told me “Oh, it’s ripe when you press on a kernel and it’s milky.” Fine…how many ears must I indent before I know? Watch your plants… after the silks have dried, your ears will be ready in 2-3 weeks (depending on the type of corn and the weather.) Ok- now’s the time to try the ‘milk test.’
• Cucumbers: Smaller is better. Nature is ironic.
• Eggplant: They get shiny. Really really.
• Greens: Keep pickin’, greens will ‘bolt’ or start producing flowers after they have reached their peak, usually in warmer weather. Pinching back doesn’t really help, the leaves get bitter.
• Kohlrabi: Harvest when about golf ball to tennis ball size. After that they get ‘woody’ or even worse, split. Either way, feed them to the chickens or add to the compost. Oh, but you can still eat the leaves!

overgrown kohlrabi

oops and mmmm

• Melons: Probably the most asked question I get, and the hardest to answer. Other than watermelon, harvest when either they (1) slip easily from the vine (2) when they turn from a greenish color to yellow (3) when they smell like melon- esp. true for the honeydew. Learning when to harvest a melon is akin to art in the garden. Sorry, but I cannot help you beyond that, it’s a learned skill.

If this all sounds difficult, don’t let it get to you.
Like Most Things Gardening, you get the hang of it after a few ‘seasons’.
If you pick it too soon and it ripens in the house, you’re still ahead of the grocery stores.
If you pick it too late- well, that’s how we learn some lessons. And that’s what a compost bin is for.

More harvesting tips here.

Categories: harvesting



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