Sanctuary Gardener Update ~ 11/10/14

The winter weather forecast for the Southeast is calling for a colder-than-normal winter, and I think it’s right. Last Saturday night we had our first frost – two weeks early. I woke up Sunday morning to a temperature of 32 degrees, and ran outside to see the damage. Thankfully, almost everything survived the frost. The only plants that showed frost damage were my pumpkin vines. I guess, because the leaves are so large, they presented too much surface area to not be affected by the frost. However, I’m hoping enough leaves survived to keep the photosynthesis going until all my pumpkins mature. Other than that, my garden is still plugging along.

WHAT’S NEW:

The newest thing in the garden isn’t necessarily a happy thing. Yes, I know, it’s that time of year, but there’s still something sad about the first frost. Here are my pumpkin vines the morning of the frost.

Frost damage on pumpkin vines

Frost damage on pumpkin vines

Here’s how my vines looked five days later. You can see there are some leaves that survived. You can even see a couple of new flowers blooming. Come on, pumpkin vines!

Pumpkin vines 5 days after frost

Pumpkin vines 5 days after frost

I meant to do this before the frost, but I was caught a little off guard. (The forecast was for a low of 35 degrees that night.) However, my two tomato plants survived the first frost, so the morning of the frost I took a cutting from each plant and put them into a vase of water. I’m trying to get them to grow roots, so I can transplant them into one of my raised beds that have a hoop tunnel. (Yes, I love to experiment.) If it works, you will read about it here! (Be sure to follow my blog via email by clicking the button on the right, so you won’t miss a thing.)

Black Krim tomato cutting

Black Krim tomato cutting

I planted several Peruvian rocoto peppers this year (my third year growing them), and I harvested only three or four peppers all summer. They flowered, the bees found them, but they didn’t fruit. (Too hot??) However, now that the weather has cooled off considerably, I have found several peppers in various stages of maturity on my plants. We’ve had the first frost and another will soon be coming, and NOW they decide to fruit. I seriously doubt they’ll turn red (mature) before the plants are killed. Silly plants.

Rocoto pepper

Rocoto pepper

This year, I decided to cover my key lime trees rather than take them inside when it gets cold at night. I’m thinking they may not suffer as much shock as they did last year when they went in and out (and lost almost all their leaves). It’s working so far, and I have new buds and possible new limes to show for it.

Key lime buds

Key lime buds

IN THE GARDEN:

As I said above, I have quite a few pumpkins still on my vines – about 15 or so. That’s not counting the smaller ones that are just starting to grow. I have a few that are almost ripe, like this one.

Seminole pumpkin ripening

Seminole pumpkin ripening

This week, I pulled all my peanut plants and left them outside to dry. After a few days, I pulled off the peanuts so they can dry another three to four weeks before eating.

Peanut plants pulled to dry

Peanut plants pulled to dry

Unfortunately, I waited too long to pull the plants. I found quite a few peanut shells split open with either the peanuts missing (I may get some volunteer plants in the spring!) or peanuts sprouting. This truly proves that gardening is often a learn-as-you-go activity.

Peanuts sprouting

Peanuts sprouting

My other Peruvian peppers, lemon drop, have been producing all summer. I still have dozens and dozens of peppers on the plants. Last year, I discovered that even green, these peppers pack quite a spicy hot wallop. The only difference is that the unripe (green) peppers don’t have the lemony aftertaste they get when they mature. So, when a major frost heads our way, I can pick all the peppers without losing one and dehydrate them for winter use.

Lemon drop peppers

Lemon drop peppers

My other chili peppers are hanging on, though the writing is on the wall for these guys…soon. Here are my cayenne and fish peppers.

Cayenne peppers

Cayenne peppers

Fish peppers

Fish peppers

Fortunately, I have quite a few crops that are enjoying this cooler weather. My peas are growing and almost long enough to start grabbing onto the trellis legs.

Dwarf gray peas

Dwarf gray peas

My kale is almost ready to start harvesting. (I harvest by the leaf, not the whole plant.)

Scotch curled kale

Scotch curled kale

The lettuce and kale I planted along my front walkway is also doing well.

Reine des glaces lettuce & Scarlet kale

Reine des glaces lettuce & Scarlet kale

My apple trees have been growing in my front yard for a year now. The leaves haven’t fallen off yet, so you can get a good look at how they’ve grown from the sticks I planted last November. And the two varieties are filling out differently.

Pink Lady apple tree

Pink Lady apple tree

Granny Smith apple tree

Granny Smith apple tree

IN THE KITCHEN:

I froze quite a few green bell peppers this week. I believe, I have enough to last me through the winter now.

Peppers ready for the freezer

Peppers ready for the freezer

Despite the first frost, I harvested quite a bit this week. Click here to see my Garden Bounty.

What’s happening in your garden? Have you had your first frost?

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