Reaping the fruits of your labour

Ahh, September is a great month for your garden. There is more and more bounty to be harvested and it is the last big month before things start to wind down for the season. If you have more than you can use, pick a basket of your excess veggies and pass them on to a neighbour or friend. It is a great way to improve the community spirit and it’s healthy too.

Although relatively rare in recent years, there can sometimes be a frost around the 10th of September. If one happens to be forecast, cover any tender plants such as cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, and tomatoes with some row-cover or a light blanket. They will continue to grow and bear fruit for at least another month if protected from the occasional early September frosts.

Remember to keep the weeds in check during September and October because small weeds can set a large amount of seed late in the season. Investing in continued weed control this month will make the garden work next year much easier, believe me. Any spent rows, such as beans or peas, should be removed and will allow you to hoe the bare ground free of weeds quickly and easily.

Cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower grow well in the fall as they grow well in cooler temperatures. Worms can continue to damage these crops so you will need to keep an eye for them and control when necessary. Also, it is important to harvest these crops as soon as they are ready, as the cabbage can split and the others go to seed quickly.

Tender melons should be protected from early frosts Photo credit: Christopher Dunbar

Corn and yellow beans are two vegetables that we preserve a lot in our house. For the corn, I pick and husk the cob, blanch in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, then cut the kernels off the cob, and place in a bag to freeze. Beans should have their stems removed and then blanched for 2-3 minutes. Keep in mind that the size of the pot you have, and the amount of veggies you are blanching does impact how long the blanching period must be. Try what works for you and make some notes in your cookbook of the texture of the veggies once cooked, and how much you froze. These notes come in handy in subsequent years. Our kids really like the frozen corn we freeze ourselves in the fall as that garden flavour can be maintained through the winter months to a remarkable extent.

Another item we like in our house is diced tomatoes with some fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, some minced garlic, and onion. This mixture can be spread on homemade bread and then broiled in the oven with a bit of cheese on top. Oh, I can just taste the tangy deliciousness now. The items you can make from the goodies in your garden are almost endless.

I wanted to mention a few words on apples as September is a great month for apple harvest in PEI. There are apple tree varieties available which can make a great addition to your backyard. Trees are often planted in the early spring but now may be a good time to figure if you would like to add one or two and determine what varieties you like best. Even if you don’t have cultivated trees, wild ones are very common here in PEI. It can be a great pleasure to take a walk along an old road-you may run across some apples that are very tasty. It may also be a way to relax and enjoy the landscape of our great Island.

There are also orchards across PEI that allow u-picking as another option to obtain fresh fruit. Did you know that a couple of centuries ago, it was commonly believed that apples could not be grown in Atlantic Canada because the climate was too cold? Thankfully that belief is is in the distant past.

Have a great walk. 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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