Friday, October 31, 2014

Count Down to 2014 Closing Day

2011 Closing Day SACG Crew
We have one week left in our 2014 growing season at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  In light of the anticipated snow this evening (and because of the rain anticipated today), I harvested our remaining summer crops for the Lutheran Social Services food pantry on Thursday.  Susan was already there cleaning out her plot when I arrived.  She stayed behind to also clean out our southern flower bed. 

2013 SACG Closing Day Volunteers
The butternut squash growing in our front flower bed was still there and ripe, and so I harvested it for our food pantry donation.  There were three more growing in my plot, so two of them went to the food pantry as well.  I pulled the food pantry plot beans and harvested a slew of peppers and green tomatoes.  The bean plants were still flowering (if you can believe that) and there was still basil growing.    I also dug up the remaining leeks. 
I finally dug up our sweet potatoes, which were disappointing this year.  For starters, no one else seemed to know where they were and didn’t water them for a few months.  I also didn’t get around to mounding them until September.   However, more importantly, instead of the large orange ones we usually grow, I used a different type of potato that I picked up at the grocery last Spring.  They were red and narrow.  They didn’t produce many or very large potatoes.  Live and learn.   Always start with an orange variety . . . . .  

2012 SACG Closing Day Crew
Either tomorrow, or next week, I’ll harvest the remaining second cabbages.   Marge from the St. Vincent DePaul pantry had told me a few years ago that if I left the cabbage roots and a few leaves in place when I harvested our cabbages, the plant will form new cabbages (albeit smaller ones).  The truth is, the plants will form multiple new cabbages that look a lot like brussel sprouts.  However, if you pick one and discard the rest, it will grow into a small cabbage (of a half to pound weight) depending on how much of the growing season remains.    We haven’t had much luck with this in the past, but this year, we’ll have a half dozen second cabbages.

2010 SACG Closing Day Crew
It’s always a toss up about what to leave in the Garden for our final day because of the weather.  We’re expecting a hard frost (or freeze) on Saturday night, but balmier temperatures next week.  Right now, there is still kale, chard, lettuce, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, turnips, beets, collards, broccoli, parsley, sage, and cabbage.  Botanical Interest Seeds has a web page explaining what crops can survive cooler temperatures.   We’ve had kale and collards survive uncovered all winter in the past.  However, nothing survived last year’s polar vortex and I usually end up getting my last Fall harvest from my back yard around Xmas time.   We generally leave some kale and collards in the neighbor plot all winter. 
According to Botanical Interest:

In early fall, it pays to keep an eye on nighttime temperatures. Don't get caught off guard by frost. Make sure to get the last of your crops harvested in time. To help you, here's a simple list of common vegetables and their frost tolerance.

Light Frost - Temperatures 28-32 degrees F
Hard Frost - Temperatures below 28 degrees F.

Likely damaged by light frost: Beans, cucumbers, eggplants, muskmelon, New Zealand spinach, okra, peppers, pumpkins, summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelon, amaranth, and winter squash (plants).

Can withstand light frost: Artichokes, beets, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chinese cabbage, endive, lettuce, parsnips, peas, swiss chard, escarole, arugula, bok choy, mache, and radicchio.

Can withstand hard frost: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, onions, parsley, peas, radishes, spinach, turnips, leeks, and sorrel.

It is important to understand that temperature is not the only factor affecting survivorship of plants during a frost event. The further a plant or its parts are from the ground, the more likely it is to be damaged by frost. The ground is usually still warm in early fall and will radiate some warmth to plants that are close to the ground. Humidity can also help protect plants from frost. Humid air holds more heat and reduces the drying effects of frost. Air movement also has an influence on frost damage. When wind blows during cold nights, it sweeps away any warm air trapped near stuctures or the ground, eliminating their insulating capabilities.

Tender plants can be protected from a few light frosts with row covers or blankets. Mulched beets, carrots, leeks, onions, radishes, and parsnips can be harvested later in fall before the ground freezes. Light frost makes leafy greens and root vegetables sweeter, so it's worth leaving some of your kale and carrots in the ground until you're ready to use them. Regardless of the protection from frost, natural or man-made, any temperature below 25 degrees F is dangerous territory for vegetable plants.

Anyway, next Saturday, we’ll be cleaning up and closing for the season.  We always need and appreciate lots of help.  These are our major tasks to accomplish:

·        Pruning the raspberry bushes back to the fence;

·        Pruning the perennial flowers back to a foot in our front bed;

·        Cutting back all of the sunflowers and cosmos growing wild in the Garden;

·        Disconnecting and mostly emptying the rain tanks;

·        Cleaning up the tools and organizing the shed;

·        Cleaning debris out of the Garden and raised beds so that they bugs don’t overwinter there;
  • Prune roses;
     ·        Taking down our sign and gates; and

·        Making our last food pantry harvest for the season (of mostly kale, broccoli, cabbage,  collards, beets and turnips)

2009 SACG Closing Day Crew
As you can see from our photographs, the SACG is always blessed with great weather (no matter the weather forecasts).  So, if you’re looking for something fun and worthwhile to do with really nice people next Saturday morning (hours and hours before the Buckeye-Spartan football game), come to the SACG and help us clean up for the year.  Many hands make light work.  And, we can reward our volunteers with seeds, raspberry bush seedlings, and sugary goodies. 

Our closing work day is also when I bestow the awards for Volunteer of the Year and Tidiest Garden Plot and make a report about the past year.

Be there or be square.

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