I dug up the last of the carrots for an American Thanksgiving dinner we hosted for some ex-pat friends of ours over the weekend. I had been spacing out and replanting the carrots as we used them over the last few months; the ones that remained were even sweeter for having gone through a frost.
If you happen to have carrots, beets or other cold-tolerant root crops left, simply cover the exposed shoulders with leaves or loose straw and they will continue to grow and sweeten until you’re ready to use them. In fact, the cooler temperatures is what causes the plants to accumulate higher levels of sugar, which not only help them taste better but also protects them from freezing.
But with the cooler weather these last few weeks and with December upon us, this really is the last chance to harvest any of the summer plantings that still remain. Any surviving tomato plants that have managed to escape blight should be pulled from the ground and hung upside down in a cellar or cold room in a last ditch effort to ripen any tomatoes that may be left. My cucumbers, zucchini, squash and pumpkin are done, but if you’re lucky to still have some left, the cellar or basement is their best bet before they rot in the rain.
Here on the West Coast, the official word is that broad beans, spinach, radishes and arugula can still be sown directly into the soil and should be ready to eat in early spring-that is, if they don’t get washed away by a torrential down pour in the meantime. Garlic too can be planted now and will be ready for harvest in about 9 months.
I worry about seed rot this time of year and plan to focus on what I already have in. The garden is as full as ever with swiss chard, spinach, kale, broccoli, parsley and hardy lettuces. Row cover is all that is needed when the temperatures approach zero (although I have yet to actually use it, and despite my garden being full of Cedar & Douglas Fir needles, it’s actually not looking too worse for wear). Cloches made of wire and plastic that hover just over the plants are a great DIY project for those with time on their hands-for me, with everything else going on this time of year, it’s all about survival of the fittest!