A month of harvesting and preserving begins

August is a great month in the gardening calendar because it is usually the first month you see significant harvest from your garden. Beans and peas will be at full harvest. Cucumbers will also come in droves. It is important to pick these vegetables regularly once they are ripe, as they can become over-ripe and tough in just a few days. Prompt harvest has the added benefit of encouraging new production which can greatly lengthen your harvest period.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s important to thin beets and carrots about an inch apart. If the spacing is too close, the plants will remain small and not form large roots. Don’t forget to keep the weeds in check as they can grow rapidly in August and quickly overtake your veggies.

Lettuce and early cole crops like cabbage and broccoli can be ready by the end of August. For these it is also important to keep a close eye on them for maturity as 3 or 4 days can mean the difference between ripe and over-ripe if weather conditions are good. Once picked, wash these off with cold water and place in cold storage. Tomatoes are often ripe in August and can round out your salad nicely. One tip to encourage green tomatoes to ripen is to place them in a paper bag at room temperature.

It never ceases to amaze me just how much food can be harvested from a small garden. You can share the harvest with your neighbors and maybe you will get other veggies in return. Either way, I think it is a great way to build a healthy community. You can also continue to learn gardening tips from them. Another option is to preserve some of the extra produce for the winter.

There are many sources of information on preserving including books, the internet, and that neighbor you are exchanging veggies with. I like to use multiple sources of information and then come up with what works best for me. There are two main ways food can be preserved. You can freeze or bottle vegetables like peas and beans. To freeze you just blanch them in boiling water for about 3 minutes, before bagging and freezing. For bottling vegetables, you need to use a pressure cooker and follow the instructions precisely. Keeping your gardening journal will help you anticipate next year when things will be ready to harvest. You can also record and tips you have learned and the same is true about preserving.

Another option is to pickle your veggies to preserve them. Cucumbers and onions are very good base vegetables for all kinds of pickles. Beans, baby carrots, and others can be pickled too. Remember that any preserved food can spoil, so it is important to follow any recipes and instructions quite closely. As with the entire gardening hobby, I suggest you start small and keep your expectations low. It is a learned skill and there are always going to be crop failures and recipe flops. Develop your knowledge and experience by talking with others and trying different veggies, recipes, and techniques and keep records of what you like and don’t like. Important: if you are modifying any recipes be sure you are aware of the consequences in quality and food safety. For example, if you reduce the sugar or salt in a recipe, be aware that this could cause spoilage of your preserves. Often the proportions are set for a reason, so be careful.

Oh, and remember gardening is a fun hobby. If you need a break, stroll over to the edge of the garden and see if you can find any wild raspberries. They usually ripen in early August followed closely by wild blueberries. Take a break from the weeding and harvesting to enjoy more of the Island’s nature. If the berries are not on your own land, be courteous and ask the landowner for permission prior to your berry picking activities. Happy gardening!

About Christopher Dunbar

Christopher lives in western PEI along with his spouse and 4 kids, on a property that was once owned by his great grandparents. He grew up in a large farming family and has deep island roots. This rural background and exposure to outdoor living has given him a keen interest in our maritime culture and the many plant types that grow here. He furthered his interest in growing things by obtaining a master’s degree in in plant biology. Not surprisingly, all of his 25-year career has been involved in agriculture and food. He spends some of his spare time growing berries, flowers, vegetables and tree fruits of all kinds in his gardens. He and his family really enjoy the unique lifestyle that PEI has to offer.
Writing creatively about adventures in rural living is also one of his passions. Feel free to contact him if you want to share any of your interests.

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