Harvest and Thanksgiving time

Harvest time snuck up on us this year. There were warm autumn days, followed by a few rainy ones, one bright and sunny hot Thanksgiving day, and two days after the temperatures plummeted below zero. That same week, on Wednesday, late into the night, I had to rescue all the tomatoes, peppers, beans, and herbs that I could, and the following Saturday, the rest of the garden followed. Only the kale in the permaculture towers is remaining.

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We have grown lots and lots of cherry, grape, and pear tomatoes this year. Moving into our new place delayed our planting of tomatoes. They did not look very happy, so I planted more, hoping that some of them will survive. Little did I know that they all would, and after sitting there unchanging for some time, in two weeks, they went from small bushes into a giant tomato forest, eventually shading the entire herb spiral and pretty much everything else in the garden. They climbed the towers, the trees, the supports, the grape and cucumber vines.

I managed to snap a few photos of the herb spiral before it got completely obscured by the tomato forest.

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Spiral in July: basil was being eaten by snails, so I have covered the soil in crushed egg shells

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Pond with calendula and Persian cress

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Spiral in August, with basil fully recovered, before being swallowed by the tomato forest

It came as no surprise, since our yard is facing North and plants themselves have created so much shade for their own fruit, that this year we have lots of tomatoes that have not had a chance to ripen before the frost. So, I shall be ripening them inside, off the vine.

Scarlet runner beans loved it in our front yard, and had put out more flowers, despite the cold. It was a wonderfully relaxing activity one cold evening a few days ago, with my two-year old helping me peel them and delightedly playing with the pods.

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Scarlet runner beans getting established, next to cucumber vine with yellow flowers

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Scarlet runner bean flowers

Similarly to last year, I have harvested a huge comfrey plant and have hung it to dry, along with lemongrass and stinging nettle, which is abundant in my new garden. Lemon verbena got replanted, and I’m thinking it will probably shed its leaves just like it did last year. The huge rosemary plant, parsley, thyme and sage got replanted into pots as well. I’ve used basil extensively for cooking, and the pods have now dried, leaving me plenty of seeds.

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Rosemary

Arugula has given us many delicious leaves over the season, and more now when I have pulled it out. There are lots of seeds as well to save for next year.

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Arugula getting comfortable in the tower

I have dug out several potatoes from the two bushes I have planted. They are delicious – most of them have already been consumed. There are some beets and cucumbers, as well as lots of juicy thick green onions I have used in salads throughout the summer, and have now chopped up and frozen for the winter.

Lots of work over the past week to gather and process the harvest. More work to follow to save the seeds for the next planting season. Many thanks to the soil, the sun, and the rain that have nourished our food so it can nourish us.

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Lemongrass, comfrey, lemon verbena harvest and preservation

Kale towers

Kale towers

My November garden still produces kale and Swiss chard, so lots of smoothies are happening in addition to blanching and freezing kale for the winter. I have harvested more tomatoes, my huge lemongrass and lemon verbena plants, comfrey, and butternut squash. Below are some resources I have found useful in the process.

Lemon verbena and lemongrass

Lemon verbena and lemongrass plants before harvest

Lemongrass

I have harvested lemongrass, peeled and froze the stems chopped into 2-3 inch pieces. The leaves I have hung out to dry and then cut them with scissors into smaller pieces to preserve them for making tea. I have transplanted the remaining plant into a pot, from which it was even growing new shoots for a few days. It seems to have gone dormant, however, so I’ll see whether it will survive the winter.

Lemon Verbena

I have collected lots of lemon verbena leaves – the plant has grown huge. I’ve frozen quite a few leaves and hung the remaining ones to dry for a week or so, at which point I have collected the leaves and stored them crushed to make tea in winter. I have transplanted the verbena into a pot as well. It instantly went into a defensive state and dropped all the remaining leaves which I have also collected for tea. A few days later young leaves have appeared in few places, but then dried off again. I shall see what happens with it over the winter. There is an interesting recipe for a glass cleaner that I might want to try next year.

Comfrey

In the manner similar to drying lemon verbena and lemongrass, I have hung the comfrey leaves up to dry as well. After about a week, I’ve collected and crushed them. Comfrey can be used in poultices and perineum baths.

Tomato

I have collected a few tomatoes for seeds and have followed the GardenWeb directions. The seeds are now dry and stored in small envelopes with a moisture-whisking packet.

Butternut squash

Only one squash has matured in the shade of my tomato forest, but it has made a delicious curried butternut soup. I have washed and dried the seeds to save them for next year.

Butternut squash

Butternut squash

Basil and hot Thai peppers

The other two plants I have moved into pots and brought inside were basil and hot Thai peppers. Unfortunately, both of them are rather unhappy about it. The basil plant promptly dried up (which always happens with basil in my house) and I’ve collected the leaves for cooking. The Thai pepper plant went into shock ripening many of the little peppers that were previously green and drying up the leaves. I’m unsure whether it will survive.

The birds are loving the bird feeder – it seems there’s little else for them to eat but our sunflower seeds. My son and I refill the feeder at least once a week, and the birds make quite a flurry of activity in the garden, which our cat intently watches. It has been fun gardening this year. I shall probably harvest another large batch of kale to blanch and freeze, collect the green tomatoes to be ripened inside, cover the grape vines, and will leave the towers standing for the winter. More permaculture adventures next year.

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