Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fresh Tomatoes in December

I love love love the veggies provided by the garden. Even though we're in zone 4, I still managed to extend my tomato season through December this year. :-)

The plants were pulled months ago, but the bag full of green tomatoes I picked on Samhain ripened beautifully (with only a 10-15% loss) and we've been eating on them for the past month. The last half dozen of those are in the fridge and will be gone in another week I bet. It's amazing to look out at the snow and ice and then eat homegrown tomatoes for dinner. Slightly shriveled and not as tasty as the ripened on the vine, they are still delicious and free.

Other veggies trickling in this month include a couple of kohlrabis and the parsnips that I'm "storing" in the ground. :-D Storing in the ground is a valid storage technique for parsnips, but really I'm just being lazy. I should dig up at least a few to have on hand for cooking and evaluation.

My cabbages didn't do so great this fall. I blame the root-bound, sad looking seedlings that I got at the local plant sale. They didn't make good heads, and they all kicked the bucket at the first frost. Total fail. I will probably try to grow my own cabbage seedlings this year. While the timing is always tricky for me, (they take a long time to grow) the quality will be worth it. Starting seedlings early enough for cabbages means I might try again with onion seedlings. I only tried those once, and when it was time to plant out all I had was onion flavored grass. :-) We'll hope for better timing this go-round. Although, really, I shouldn't put all the blame on the sub-par seedlings. My garden was a little small this year and instead of expanding, or finding another place for them, I crammed the cabbage seedlings into small nooks and crannies, and that's not the best way to treat them. I also forgot to side dress them with compost. (If I'm remembering correctly they need some mid-season love.) So, next year I'll try again. Unless we move again I imagine I'll make the garden bigger next spring, and I'll add in enough room for the cabbages to have their own row so I won't neglect them.

The cold frame is in use again this year. I found myself 4 bricks short for some reason, and sadly unable to find 4 bricks at any of the local hardware stores. (Not even at the Lowes in the big city south of us!) So, the poor thing has gaps in the construction, but I have some lettuce bravely holding it's own in there, as well as a small cabbage that's mostly just hanging out. I'm not expecting a lot from the frame this year, it's the first year this far north, and once again it's mostly in try-and-see mode. Plus, I have plans for bigger and better ones, just waiting on time/money/wood. :-D Isn't that always the truth.

Don't give up on gardening, if you're someplace with snowy-death winters. Besides the season extending tricks that can lengthen your season, winter is a great time to plan for spring's busyness.


Jess said...

I haven't experimented with cold frames yet but you give me hope! :)

I was actually going to post about my tomatoes tonight too.

Laura said...

Did you extend your tomato season without any sort of greenhouse or plastic strategy? I am curious how you did it!

Jennie said...

Hi Laura!
I have floating row cover that I use in spring, to shield things like tomato seedlings from harsh spring storms/wind/frosts, that allows me a bit of wiggle room to get stuff in the ground on time or early. This fall I used a couple of my old blankets, (Garden blankets I call them) to keep the vines cozy during the first few frosts.
Eventually though it becomes a lost cause, as you know. I gave up the vines with the heavy frost we had right before Samhain, (Halloween.) Baby and I went out and picked all the green tomatoes we could carry, (a grocery sack full) and I ripened them inside over the month of November. About 80% of them ripened inside, and I then put them in the fridge and we ate on them from the middle of November through the beginning of December.
Cake and pie, no messing with plastic, no heated greenhouse. I didn't extend the life of the vines, but we were eating red tomatoes in December, so it counts in my book.

Canned tomatoes will hold us until next summer's bounty. By December we're pretty sick of tomatoes anyway and it's nice to switch to things like winter squash and making a dent in the huge potato harvest that's still in the cold cellar.