At the end of every summer everything seems to move at high speed. It’s like the garden wants to get everything grown before winter comes and there’s this huge race to beat Winter to the finish line. In fact, if your kitchen is like mine, the garden produce is taking over. You have to start using triage—taking care of what won’t wait and using a variety of food preservation methods to make “putting by” go quicker.
Here’s what won’t wait: beans, pickles, tomatoes (salsa and whole or diced tomatoes), leafyvegetables (Swiss chard, kale and spinach), corn and brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and kale or collards), eggplant and summer squash. (Does that sound like just about everything?) Get these put up as soon as you can, using a variety of preservation methods. Here are two Ebooks (Free at this time) that cover Food Drying and Food Canning.
Alternate preservation methods
You probably only have one stove and one canner (maybe two) so don’t put all your time into canning. You can have your dehydrator going 24/7 (I do!) to take care of the eggplant, squash, peppers and tomatoes. Freeze tomatoes to can into sauce later this fall when all the other canning is done. Store apples, root crops, cabbage and winter squash in a basement or cool room. Then can or freeze these later when some of the more urgent canning is taken care of. Juice your apples and freeze the juice in gallon jugs and can them later. Or not—you may prefer the juice frozen. It’s just that frozen juice just takes up a lot of freezer space and I like having ready-to-drink canned juice on hand. This book: “Canning Step by Step Guide” is FREE right now and is a good canning reference.
Extend your garden season
It seems the growing season is never long enough and it’s always sad to see the garden die. You can extend your garden season with row covers, hoop house and cold frames. Or you can just cover your garden with sheets and light-weight blankets on nights that temps are expected to go below 34°. Take the covers off first thing in the morning and your garden will continue to thrive and produce for several more weeks. Your brassicas actually prefer cool temperatures and do not need any protection until the thermometer goes below 28°. Not only do brassicas grow better when it’s cool, but a frost will trigger sugar production, so brassicas are more flavorful after a frost or two.
By extending your garden’s growing season, you will have fresh and nutritious vegetables longer and so will need to preserve less.
Put your garden to bed
When all your produce is in and you can no longer protect it from the coming winter, it’s time to put it bed. A little work in the fall will make spring planting much easier and will ensure that you have a healthier and more abundant garden the next year.
Pull out all spent plants and roots and toss them into the compost pile. Apply any soil additive you want: slow-release fertilizer, wood ashes or compost.
You may want to sow a cover crop, also known as green manure. Perennial cover crops will overwinter and be the first thing to grow in the spring. They will choke out other weeds, making for fewer weeds. Just mow down in mid-May and rototill into the soil. Annual cover crops will quickly sprout in the fall and fix nitrogen into the soil. After a killing frost, rototill it in and allow it to decompose over the winter. All cover crops help aerate the soil, add organic matter and increase soil fertility. More information on cover crops here.
P.S. I never thought I’d want to get another canning book–I already have so many books on food preservation–but this one has made me change my mind.