Fall vegetables are the best! The fall garden offers an abundance of fresh produce.
Some people think that summer is the best time for the vegetable garden, but I’d have to say that it’s fall. Not only does the summer harvest continue, but now all the fall crops produce in abundance.
Just this week I harvested:
- Tomatoes – we are getting the last hurrah of tomatoes from the garden. They’re smaller than the ones I picked during the peak of summer, but just as delicious.
- Peppers – 27 pints canned, 4 pints frozen and countless peppers eaten already in the form of sausage and peppers, stuffed peppers and stir fry dishes, I am still picking them. We should have another huge harvest before the frost kills the plants.
- Eggplants – two are in the refrigerator already, waiting to be made into eggplant parmigiana tomorrow evening, but I’ve got more on the plants outside. I don’t know how many more I’ll harvest before the frost sets in, but it’s going to be a good year for them for sure.
- Beets – the last of the beets are in. I saved a few fresh ones for cooking but canned another nine pints last weekend.
- Carrots – I canned six half pint jars using a new pickling recipe for sweet carrots. If they taste good, I’ll can more, but in the meantime I’ve frozen another six or seven pints, and left about half the bed in the ground.
- Strawberries – yes, you read that correctly! I planted ever bearing strawberries and they sure do live up to their name. Each fall, I get a second crop of fresh organic strawberries. They’re smaller than the spring crop but still juicy and sweet. One word of caution (earned the hard way): wear gloves when picking fall strawberries if you happen to see some berries on your plants. Wasps, hornets and yellow jackets love them, and at this time of year those critters get MEAN. Last year I got stung badly on my hand when I reached down into the strawberry bed and grasped a berry with a yellow jacket on it. OUCH.
- Herbs – I’m drying trays of parsley and basil this week, but there’s also fresh sage, oregano, rosemary and chives to enjoy. And the horseradish needs to be dug and made into sauce!
- Green beans – still coming in. No matter how many times I cut back on the amount I plant, they keep coming in. Somehow I accidentally bought the flat Italian kind and so now at least I have some variety.
More Vegetables to Harvest
These are the vegetables that I am harvesting in abundance, but there are more out there. I have acorn and butternut squash on the vine. I found the trick to outwitting those awful beetles – plant the seeds in August! Apparently it’s just past their mating season so I avoided all the eggs and the swarms of newly hatched beetles that decimated the cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash. We counted 20 butternut squash on the vine and just two acorn squash, but I’m hopeful we may get a few more of the acorn squash.
I planted cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower in what I *thought* was the empty potato bed. Wrong. I must have left a whole bunch of little seed potatoes around in the soil, because now I have a gigantic mess. I have potato plants springing up everywhere, with a giant cabbage in one corner and broccoli leaning against potatoes. I have no idea how I’m going to get the potatoes out, but I’ll deal with that closer to Thanksgiving. The good thing about raised beds is that the soil stays workable longer. I can get in there and dig even after the frosts. So I can keep gardening until Thanksgiving or so.
The big yellow and black spiders are everywhere this year, a sign that the garden flourishes along its own terms, with spiders and birds keeping the insect population in check. The mole is back – this time, Pierre the cat found it near the shed. We caught Pierre digging fast and furiously in a hole and saw the mole scamper into the woods with Pierre hot on his trail. He lost the creature within a few feet but I had one excited kitty on my hands. I’ve had to watch Pierre very carefully every time he goes out into the garden. Last week, he managed to find a snake…which he brought up to the house, of course. We heard a commotion on the back deck and went to the window to see Pierre under the picnic table playing with something. I said to my husband, “Oh, how cute, he has a lizard.” Oops. Not quite. A rather good-sized snake was trying to escape his clutches. I yelled for John and handed him a shovel, which he used to scoop and fling the snake into the side garden while I quickly snatched up Pierre and moved him back into the house. He mewed in protest, the ungrateful brute, as if to say, “Hey! Daddy stole my snake!”
If you didn’t get a chance to plant vegetables this fall, now’s the time to head over to your local farmer’s market or a garden center and enjoy a little taste of fall. Do it now, before Halloween arrives with all that flurry of stuff to do. Enjoy!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.