by David Hinks
While the weather for the first half of October was exceptionally fine, there are signs that much colder weather is just around the corner. Any remaining frost-sensitive plants such as basil, tomatoes or peppers have basically stopped growing and it is time to harvest the basil leaves and any fruit that may remain. The cool-weather plants such as kale, chard parsley and salad greens will continue happily for a few more weeks (hopefully). The following photo shows a bed of salad greens which is still thriving and regenerating growth after several harvests have been clipped for dinner.
This year has been an exceptional one for the growth of celery and it’s near relative celeriac. These were both started under lights at the end of March and then transplanted to the garden May 20th. The following photos show celery still growing strongly and a celery head sliced off close to the soil. It will be trimmed, wrapped in plastic and then stored in the refrigerator until it is needed.
Celeriac produces a turnip-like root that has the flavour of celery. It can be eaten raw or cut into chunks and cooked in a stew or soup adding a delicate celery flavour. The following photos show the plant still in the garden and a root cleaned-up, trimmed and ready to store or to use in the kitchen.
I also harvested some chicory roots this past weekend for forcing Belgian endive heads or chicons over the next several weeks – they can also be left in the ground until after several frosts. Witloof or leaf chicory is very bitter to use as a salad green in the summer and is used mainly for forcing in winter. I had planted the chicory indoors under lights at the end of March and then transplanted to the vegetable garden May 20th. I dug up four plants, trimmed the tops to within an inch of the soil and then potted them in garden soil in a large pot as shown in the following photos.
Absolute darkness is necessary for the growth of the approximately five-inch long yellow heads. Any light will cause bitterness in the heads. Some people fill the top of the pot with sand, sawdust or cover it with a heavy paper bag. The pots can be stored at 5 degrees or less and then transferred to a warmer spot when you want them to start growing. They will start growing at 10 to 15 degrees producing buttery-tender heads in a few weeks. These are much superior in flavour and texture to the commercial products that are imported from California or Europe in the winter.
It is also possible to save or propagate some of the ornamental plants that have brought so much colour and beauty this summer. In addition to digging and storing the summer bulbs and tubers such as dahlias, gladiolus and cannas, it is also possible to save coleus plants and geraniums for next year. I took some slips off my coleus plants this weekend and will be pulling up my geraniums and hanging the whole plant upside-down in the basement in the coming week just before a killing frost (generally defined as -2). The following photo shows my coleus plants still at their most colourful.
First I filled some 4 inch pots with potting soil. Then I snipped off some of the strongest and straightest branches of the healthiest coleus plants, snipped the bottom leaves off, dipped them in a rooting hormone (available at most garden centres), stuck the bottom inch or two of the slip in the plastic pots and then watered them to settle the soil. I will keep them growing under fluorescent lights in a cooler bedroom. It is essential that the part of the stem in the soil contain a node – this is where the leaves join the stem and is the site from which roots will form. It is also possible to stick the stems in a jar of water and let the slips form roots before potting them up – I find the single step easier and just as reliable. Ideally, the slips would adjust much more readily to indoor conditions if I had done this a month ago – better late than never! The following photos show the prepared slips and the tray of potted-up slips.
It is also time (well really, past time) to pot-up some herbs and bring them indoors – some possibilities are parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano and chives. They need as sunny a window as possible and may not make it through the whole winter but will be useful for clipping leaves in the kitchen for months to come. The photo shows a small rosemary plant potted-up and ready to bring indoors.
This is your last chance to sign-up for a very special vegetable gardening workshop taking place in Carleton Place on October 26. While this workshop has been organized as a technical update for the Master Gardeners of Ottawa and Lanark, it is open to the public. Join us in Carleton Place on Saturday October 26 from 9-4 for an all-day seminar on growing your own ModernVictoryGarden. Topics include permaculture, bringing “victorious vegetables” to the people, and organic techniques for dealing with those pesky veggie pests. Renowned author Janette Haas will serve up her recipe for the ModernVictoryGarden. Meet local Master Gardeners at the Read and Seed exchange. The cost for this day long seminar, including lunch is only $35.
For details Visit www.lanarkmastergardeners.mgoi.ca or call Dale at 613 264-8135 for details.
And plan to attend the third community potluck being sponsored by the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens. It will take place Tuesday October 29 at 5:30 pm at the Almonte Legion. Come and share some great food and conversation with your neighbours!