August is here, which means fall will soon follow, and hopefully cooler temperatures. Many of us are just getting started in our garden harvest due to the rainy May and June we faced that led to later planting dates. Some of our vegetables can be harvested and frozen or canned and some need to be dried for winter storage. Here are some helpful tips for produce from your garden through the winter months.
Peppers, onions, and tomatoes can all be harvested when mature and frozen without having to blanch them, or use a hot-water bath for them. These vegetables can be cut into strips or dice, laid on a cookie sheet for initial freezing then placed into freezer bags for long-term freezer storage and used in recipes for cooked vegetables throughout the winter. Tomatoes and hot peppers can be frozen the same manner, but they can be frozen whole with just the stem removed. Many of our other vegetables, such as zucchini and green beans can be frozen, but need to be blanched prior to freezing.
Many of our vegetables can also be stored, whole, fresh, for weeks to months in our homes after gardens have froze for the year. Carrots can be stored, unwashed, in a container of moist sand in 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit for 4-5 months. Turnips can be treated the same way as carrots for the winter.
Some of our vegetables need to be cured prior to bringing indoors for fresh storage. Onions need to cure for best results of long, indoor storage. Onions should dry in a single layer in the shade or well-ventilated garage or shed for 1-2 weeks or until the tops have completely dried and shriveled. After curing they can be stored for 1-8 months, they store longer in temperatures close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Potatoes also can be stored longer after curing. They should be cured at 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit for 1-2 weeks. After curing, they can be stored at 40-45 degrees for several months.
It is in the early part of the month of August that we can also begin to think about extending our growing season with a fall garden. Fall gardens are sometimes more productive than spring gardens, and that may be the case this year if your garden was prone to flooding this spring.
For a fall harvest, plant:
- Beets August 1-10
- Carrots August 1-15
- Chinese cabbage August 1-20
- Lettuce August 1-5
- Mustard August 1-25
- Radish August 1-20
- Snap beans August 1-5
- Spinach August 20- September 15
- Swiss chard August 1-20
- Turnips August 1-15
- (from Backyard Farmer online calendar).
The first frost in Beatrice occurs on September 29, on average and is within a week either way for the surrounding counties. So the best way to determine when to plant a fall garden is to count backward from the first frost date and compare it to your harvest time listed on the package. For example, if your lettuce says that it takes 50 days to mature, planting on August 1 will give you mature lettuce by the end of September. This will ensure that you will have a harvest before the frost hits.