Sanctuary Gardener Update ~ 11/24/14

I think our weather has schizophrenia. Midweek, we broke the record for low temperatures recorded here in November. The coldest morning was 22 degrees F. – in the South…in November! What?! Then, last night, we had thunderstorms and were under a tornado watch while today is supposed to be 76 degrees. Unlike back home in Rhode Island, where we dressed by the calendar, we have to dress by the weather report here. And if we have trouble knowing what to do with the weather, I can only imagine how my plants feel. Fortunately, most survived the frost and are enjoying the first soaking rain we’ve had in two months.

WHAT’S NEW:

Well, now that we’ve had our first frost (and then some), the gardening is slowing down. Because of that, I will now be posting on my off-season schedule of three times a week (instead of five) – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – until March. This will give me some time to work on indoor projects, plan next year’s crops, take a much-needed winter break, and…..work on a special project I’ll tell you about soon. (I will need your suggestions and help to make it a success.) So, Mondays will continue to be my weekly update, leaving Wednesday and Friday for continued posts on gardening, homesteading, and recipes.

With that announcement out of the way, it’s time to share my new homestead project. This week, I decided it was time to follow through on something that I’ve desperately needed for a while – a second pantry. I’ve been piling up my canned goods and dry goods on the floor in the kitchen, debating whether or not I really need that coat closet across from my pantry. After tripping over a box of Mason jars for the upteenth time, I finally decided the coat closet has to go!

I brought all the coats and jackets upstairs and fit them into my bedroom closet or the closet in my study, then let my Garden Wilson do his magic. (He’s not only handy in the garden, but he’s also a whiz with a saw and a hammer!) Goodbye, closet. Hello, second pantry!

Coat closet transformed into a new pantry

Coat closet transformed into a new pantry

I spent several hours removing things from my original pantry, then reorganized everything into my TWO pantries. My new pantry’s shelves are twice as deep as the original pantry, and I can fit SIX quart-sized Mason jars in one row front to back. Here’s one shelf in my new pantry, sporting my canned goods. I’m one happy farmgirl! 🙂

Shelf of my canned goods in my new pantry

Shelf of my canned goods in my new pantry

IN THE GARDEN:

The morning I woke up to 22 degrees, I found the plants along my front walkway covered in frost. It looked so pretty, I took a few pictures to share with you.

I wasn’t worried about the kale as it does well after a frost.

Scarlet kale with frost

Scarlet kale with frost

I was concerned my lettuce was going to suffer frostbite, especially when the leaves were hard with frost. However, this lettuce (and all my lettuce) bounced back with just a bit of browning along the very edges of the leaves.

Reine des Glaces lettuce with frost

Reine des Glaces lettuce with frost

Look closely at my oregano here. The tips of the branches that touched the walkway did not have frost on them. I didn’t notice that until I uploaded my picture. Amazing how a cement walkway can maintain the day’s heat sufficiently to prevent frost from touching leaves that sit upon it. (Notice the small leaves touching the bricks; no frost on them either.)

Spicy oregano with frost

Spicy oregano with frost

My sage was the prettiest as the texture of the leaves affected the frost.

Sage with frost

Sage with frost

My pumpkin vines were finally killed off by this hard frost. I harvested the pumpkins left on the vine (see picture later in the post), and I pulled the vines to make room for the cover crop. My radishes weren’t killed by the frost, but they were affected. The watermelon radishes had the most frostbitten leaves, but not so much damage they can’t survive and continue on to maturity, thankfully.

Watermelon radishes after a hard frost

Watermelon radishes after a hard frost

Everything else in my garden fared well. Look how healthy these turnips look, even after a hard frost.

Purple Top turnips after a hard frost

Purple Top turnips after a hard frost

This weekend, I worked on the winter crops I’ll be growing under my hoop tunnels. I planted more beets in the bed that had been disturbed by acorn-burying squirrels. I also thinned and transplanted my carrots (see How to Transplant Your Carrot Thinnings); after the good rain we had the next day, I’m hoping most of the transplants will take. I then planted more carrot seed where the squirrels had dug up that bed, too.

Scarlet nantes carrots thinned and transplanted

Scarlet nantes carrots thinned and transplanted

In the other two hoop tunnel beds, I planted Giant Noble spinach, Utah Tall celery (yes, an experiment), four kinds of lettuce (Buttercrunch, Black Seeded Simpson, Reine des Glaces, and Red Sails), two kinds of radishes (Plum and Watermelon), and two kinds of turnips (Golden Globe and Purple Top).

I also transplanted the four brussels sprouts plants that were growing in the bed with my mustard greens. I planted them very late, and they don’t like frost this early in their growth. I put them in the bed with my other brassicas, to grow under the hoop tunnel. Hopefully, it’ll be warm enough in there for them to actually mature.

Brussels sprouts transplanted

Brussels sprouts transplanted

This year, I’m leaving my key lime trees outside and covering them with plastic when the temperatures dip below 45-50 degrees. I also have large old-fashioned Christmas tree lights on the dirt around the base of the trees to keep the roots warm. So far, they’re doing well. Even after several frosts, I have new buds and baby limes on them.

Key lime buds and babies

Key lime buds and babies

IN THE KITCHEN:

Remember those 15 pounds of peppers I harvested before the hard frost? Well, I put up quite a bit of them this past week.

This is only half the unripe lemon drop peppers in the dehydrator. (I’ll be working on the other half tonight.) They still have their heat, but no lemony aftertaste. Great for dehydrating to use in cooking during the winter.

Unripe lemon drop peppers in the dehydrator

Unripe lemon drop peppers in the dehydrator

I cut and froze all the green bell peppers. I have half a freezer shelf full of peppers now – more than enough to last me until my first harvest next year.

Green bell peppers ready to freeze

Green bell peppers ready to freeze

I made my last batch of hot pepper jam for the year. I have more than enough to give for gifts and have some for myself until next summer.

Hot pepper jam

Hot pepper jam

This is my last batch of hot pepper relish for the year. I ran out of jelly jars and had to use pint jars, so these will be kept for me. (I have a couple dozen half-pint jars of pepper relish – lots to give for gifts and lots for me and my greens, hot dogs, tartar sauce, etc.) I used the unripe rocoto peppers and unripe cayenne peppers along with a bunch of ripe peppers. I wondered if it would be hot/spicy. Oh my goodness, it was very hot! Holy cow! But really, really good. What a great way to use all those unripe peppers. 🙂

Hot pepper relish

Hot pepper relish

GARDEN BOUNTY:

Now that I’ll be posting three times a week, my harvests will be included with my weekly updates. This week, I harvested almost 1.5 pounds of radishes, 1 key lime, and 46.5 pounds of pumpkin!

This key lime isn’t quite ripe, but it fell off the tree while I was removing the plastic covering one morning. No loss. Tonic and lime anyone?

Key lime

Key lime

With my pumpkin vines killed by the hard frost, I harvested all the pumpkins left on the vine. I’m hoping they’ll ripen in the sun. Either way, I’ll make use of them.

Seminole pumpkins

Seminole pumpkins

I harvested more plum radishes and my first icicle radishes.

Plum radishes & Icicle radishes

Plum radishes & Icicle radishes

What’s happening in your garden and in your kitchen?

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