The Edible Garden

The last of the harvest

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Wow, what a fantastic season we’ve had. I find it hard to believe October is here. This is the last month to harvest from the garden. There are many things to do now, and more to do to prepare for next year…yes, now is the time to plan.

Winter cabbage and turnips are harvested in October. The taste of the turnips greatly improves if they are exposed to frost before harvest. Cabbage for storage can be pulled up by the roots and hung upside down with all the wrapper leaves intact. If placed in a cool spot they will keep for many weeks. Any soil-grown crops such as carrots, beets, or potatoes can be dug up and also stored in a cold room, preferably 3-4°C. If you don’t have a room that cool, that is okay, it will just mean the veggies won’t maintain their quality as long. They can still be kept at warmer temperatures for a period of time.

Actually, if you are a bit adventurous you can try your luck at having fresh carrots for the December holidays. Leave a section of carrots in the ground and cover it with a large amount of straw—at least a square bale in thickness should do the trick. This will keep out most of the early freezing temperatures which can damage the carrots. When you would like to harvest, remove the straw and start digging them out. Oh, I just love carrots, turnip, and cole slaw with a turkey dinner.

Burgundy Apples Photo credit: Christopher Dunbar

At the end of October remove all weeds to ensure they don’t release seeds. You may want to work the soil or simply leave it for the winter. Did you know that hazelnuts also grow wild here in PEI? When you are taking a break from the garden clean-up and having a walk along the edge of the woods, keep an eye for them. They grow on a large bush similar to an alder. Be careful to wear gloves when picking them though, as the nuts have a dense covering of fine spines.

Now is a good time to start planning for next year too. If you want to change the size or shape of your garden, or move to a better location, plan for making the change. Gardens generally benefit from the application of limestone every few years so if you haven’t done that yet, put that on the list to do in the fall. It can be applied by hand or with a machine and then lightly worked into the soil.

There is one crop that you can plant in late October, and that’s garlic. Check out the feature story this month for planting tips from local garlic grower Al Picketts.

Get out that gardening journal you may have neglected and make some notes from the current season. You may think you will remember the details you learned, however in my experience it helps to write it down. Was there anything that worked well that you want to make sure you do again? Were the amounts you planted too much or too little? Were you happy with the cultivars you grew? The new seed catalogues will arrive in the mail in early January so the start of next year’s growing season is not really that far away. Oh yes, those catalogues contain a lot of things other than veggies which grow well in PEI. Grapes, raspberries, blueberries or haskap berries just to name a few. If they can fit into your backyard you can plan for that during the winter.

Stay warm. 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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