We are happy to say that although it is mid November we still have edible lettuce, spinach cilantro and a large variety of root vegetable. Leaving covers over low growing caterpillar tunnels has greatly extended our growing season this year.
When there is a nice day we just open the tunnels, harvest what we would like for the next couple days and give the row a sprinkle of water so the vegetables do not dry out.
In the end we had lettuce into February, carrots and beets in March and the spinach never died. It continues to grow! Even the cilantro roots are starting to grow again.
It just takes a little persistence to keep vegetables protected and lightly watered to have fresh veggies all winter!
We planted the root vegetables early, covered, and they are growing quickly. One of our challenges in previous years is growing enough carrots for the entire season’s demand. If we planted more than we did last year, by late season the carrots that were not pulled yet would be too big for our customers. Plus, we would run out of space in the root vegetable bed to grow the variety that people like.
Our new solution is succession planting. We tried this technique a little last year and it seemed to work. In succession planting we don’t plant everything at once. That way we have vegetables growing in different stages of maturity. We have enough of a growing season to have 3 phases of planting. By the end of the season the last carrots planted should come out the correct size.
There are actually 4 rows in our bed pictured. The first row to the left are radishes. They grow and sell quickly and don’t grow well in the heat so we usually don’t sell them later in the summer. The second row to the left are carrots. You will notice in the forefront there is nothing growing. I’m saving that space to plant carrots a little later in the year so they don’t grow too big. The third row is beets which grow almost perfectly against demand so I leave them as is. The far right row is turnips and parsnips. I split this row as these are not as popular as the others. If the turnips are selling out, which can happen, I re-seed a small section again to have more turnips later in the season for those customers.
As the radishes sell I’m replacing them with more carrot seeds. You can see that the radish tops are being replaced by carrot tops at the far left. My hope is to have enough carrots to sell and even possibly winter over under cover for just the family.
It worked! It’s almost Christmas and the beets are still being harvested in great condition! A little hay and a fabric cover hooped over the row of beets have kept them just the right temperature through multiple snow storms.
The cold snaps the root vegetables experienced under the covered hoop tunnels actually made them taste even better! The carrots were so sweet and even the beets had a brighter flavor. Also, the texture of the beets were not as hard as they usually are during the summer.
The extra beets were eventually pulled just before a multi-day near zero temperature spell. We did not want to potentially lose them to the freeze. Are finishing the harvest, the beets lasted in the fridge into February!
Since there were so many beets we tried our hand at pickled beets which is something my mother used to feed me when I was growing up. This too was successful.
2019 was the best year to date for successfully storing and preserving excess vegetables!
Looks like we will be having an early winter this year but we still have a lot of carrots and beets! It’s time to put row cover over the hoops for these root vegetables and see how long they will last.
We are trying two different approaches. The carrots on the right will just be covered with the fabric. The beets on the left are covered with hay AND the fabric to double insulate. Beets are more susceptible to the cold than carrots so we thought they may need extra help to keep from freezing.
We had great success last year when we winter covered for the first time. We only covered the carrots and they lasted until almost Thanksgiving! In addition to surviving the winter weather they also lasted into January after harvested and refrigerated.
Let’s see how long we can make the carrots and beets last this winter!
We immediately planted all the seeds once the beds were ready. We did not want to lose any time since we have such a short growing season. The picture shows a new tactic we’re taking to prevent the birds from eating the peas this year. We hooped some fencing over the planted area as a deterrent. It would require a desperate bird to work it’s way through the fence to even realize what type of plants they are. There is plenty of greener plants around to peak their interest. Spoiler alert….it worked!
Next, the lettuce seedlings came up quickly. Since we never use weed block fabric on the lettuce rows it’s also the beginning of weed pulling! Be honest. Take a look at this picture. Can you tell me which are weeds and which are the lettuce? No? And this is why the woman of the house is stuck weeding the lettuce and root vegetables until they are 2 inches tall!
Beets and carrots take longer to surface. We hand water the carrots in particular as soil dries quickly here, seeds are shallow and they seem to take forever to take a hold and leaf out. Unfortunately they initially look like blades of thin grass. Another reason the man of the house will never weed the carrots this young. Bean seeds come up quickly and we can use weed block since they grow farther apart. Luckily another reduction of manual labor. We try to minimize it as much as possible. In the next few weeks we will be able to bring out the transplants we have been growing inside. Until then we have hand watering and weeding to do!
The beets finally reached selling size. The compost made a big difference. Thinning them out like every gardening book tells you makes a big difference. It didn’t hurt that we have a seeder this year. They aren’t as clustered as they used to be. We actually got a number of very large beets that were pretty impressive. They were harder to manage cooking, but they were still as tender and tasty as the others.
Beets were never a top seller but those customers that like beets love them. It’s the standard heirloom beet called Detroit. It’s the preferred dark red color that comes with a richer taste. Many people shy away from fresh beets because they aren’t sure how to cook them. There is really nothing easier. You just slice them about 1/4 inch thick, put them in a sauce pan just covering with water, cover and cook Med High for about 15 minutes or until its tender enough to push a fork into them.
We ended up with excess that we will either can or freeze. We will have to grow less next year.