Summer is winding down but the busy time for gardeners is just beginning. Everything seems to get ripe at the same time. Then there is the question of what to do with the bountiful harvest! You cannot let all he beautiful food go to waste after the hours you have spent pulling weeds, carrying water, and chasing away critters. That is not the only thing you must think about as the season ends however. You need to prepare your garden for next years, save heirloom seeds for spring, plant the crops that need to winter over, and organize your tools before putting them all away. We have a few ideas that will help the busy gardener get organized during this busy harvest season.
The first priority this time of year is to preserve your hard work to enjoy all winter long. Nothing is more exciting that eating fresh veggies in the middle of January. There are several ways to preserve the things you have grown this year. The best method for you will be the one that you are most comfortable with and the one that is the most tasty to you and your family. Because after all what good does it do to have thirty jars of homemade sauerkraut in the pantry if no one likes to eat it!
There is canning, freezing, drying, and pickling as ways to keep your food fresh through the year. Some foods don’t need to be handled so carefully. Foods like apples, potatoes, cabbage, winter squash, and cauliflower can be kept in dark dry places like a basement or root cellar.
Not all food can be stored in every way. Some foods like cucumbers and greens do not freeze well. They become watery lose their crunchy texture. However greens can be dried and made into chips or powder for smoothies and cucumbers of course make delicious pickles in a hundred varieties. Green beans can be dried into chips, canned, frozen, or pickled. Corn does well with freezing or with canning. Peas should be dried or frozen. And the list goes on and on. There are many great homestead and farming resources out there to help you keep your harvest fresh all year long.
If you are already thinking about next spring, there are some things you can do to make next year easier when the time comes. Leave your root veggies like carrots, turnips, and horseradish in the ground for most of the winter to keep them fresh. Add compost to your garden before the frost comes to allow the nutrients to start to seep into the soil.
Collect and dry seeds from any heirloom varieties that you planted this summer so that you won’t have to buy seeds in the spring. Be sure to find out what types of seeds need refrigeration, freezing, and drying in order to stay the most viable.
Clean, dry, and sharpen all your garden equipment before storing it for the winter. This will make your spring tilling much easier and prevent your expense implements from rusting during the winter months.
Late august is a great time to plant veggies that love the cold. Garlic, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and beets are just a few examples of things you could be planting now to harvest even after the first few frosts. Be sure to check your farmer’s almanac for the expected frost dates for your area and do not let the ground freeze with your veggies still in it!