Thursday, November 1, 2012

October Harvest Update

As an urban farmer, you never really know just when the gardening season is going to end. Toward the end of the summer, the tomatoes and peppers will be producing like crazy to the point where you can't think of how you could possibly use them all. Then one night you hear a foul five-letter word on the news and your stomach sinks. F-R-O-S-T, and you know it's only a matter of time before you have to pack it all in for the year. For us, that moment occurred on October 5th, just before we left on our travels to Chicago that we talked about earlier.

Suspecting that our plants wouldn't live to see our return, we hastily ran out to the garden and picked everything that even looked marginally ripe. We had multiple kinds of peppers, both hot and sweet, and a multitude of tomatoes that had at least a tinge of orange to them. We gathered all that we could carry and brought them in. It was quite a haul!

We only had time to leave them on the counter before we set off on our action-packed trip, but when we returned we were glad that we had at least done that. It turned out the temperature in Des Moines had dipped as low as 28 degrees, which had killed off everything that wasn't frost-hardy. We came home to a backyard full of plants that looked like this:

Any fruits that remained on the vines had turned pale and oddly squishy, as though Bunnicula had gotten to them, and the plants were brittle with droopy leaves. All that's left for the rest of the gardening season is to pull out and compost the dead plants. So, our October harvest totals are, with the exception of egg gathering, most likely our last totals for the 2012 season. Here's how we did:

4.7 ounces of cherry tomatoes
6.8 ounces of kale
1 lb 8.2 ounces of Anaheim peppers
1 lb 9.7 ounces of Poblano peppers
2lb 1.0 ounces of Bell peppers
4 lb 1.4 ounces of sauce tomatoes
5 lb 3.7 ounces of slicing tomatoes
and 173 eggs

It was clear after picking everything that we had a lot, but nearly 10 pounds of tomatoes in one harvest was still a bit of a surprise! We've been trying to use this all up before it goes to waste, which has been fun, but still a challenge. Having a good, freeze-able pasta sauce recipe on hand has been a real help in that area.

Next year we'd like to do a better job of planting a late season garden of crops that can survive a light frost, but our busy schedule this fall meant that we missed our opportunity to get it done this year.  We hope that by this time next year we're still growing broccoli, greens, carrots, and brussels sprouts.

We haven't yet totaled up our bounty for the whole year, and we haven't bothered to track the costs of our inputs all along, so it's not easy to determine if we've saved money by maintaining a garden this year. However, it is clear that we've had a ton of fresh, healthy, locally grown food, and that has been quite the reward in itself!

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