October Comparisons

We aren’t quite finished October, but the weather has turned and for the first time in as long as I can remember, we have had a heavy snowfall that has stuck around. Looking back at October 2019, we harvested very little. I went back and read a few of my posts and it looks like between our trip to Newfoundland and fall coming early, we closed down most of the garden at the end of September with only a few of the hardy plants sticking around until October. It is so interesting to be able to go back and see what was happening the previous year.

We did manage some strawberries in October 2019. Looking back, we had a very wet September and early October so a lot of the berries we harvested last year were good for jam but not really ideal for snacking on as they were a little soft. This year, we have had a few good harvests with nice weather carrying through most of October. It is cold now which temperatures averaging 8-10*C during the day, but our strawberries continue to bloom, grow and very slowly ripen. I had hoped that the last few strawberries that were half-ripe could be picked, but with the early snow we received they were no good. The frost and snow finished them off. The plants themselves still look great and we had a lot of new plants take hold so we should have a good number to transplant next year into the permanent bed.

I did better with my cucumbers this year than I did last year, but still not as well as previous years. I grew two varieties this year, Long English and lemon. In 2019, I only grew Long English. Last October the plant had been pulled already due to rusty leaves. This year, not only did I have cucumbers to harvest into October, there were new buds and cucumbers growing. I harvested what was good to eat and then pulled the plant. Despite flowers and new cucumbers growing, the leaves were wilting and getting the white dusting on them. The new cucumbers wouldn’t have grown to an edible size before the plant succumbed to the cold temperatures.

Oh sweet carrots, how the dogs love thee. Ellie has always loved some carrot chopped up as a treat. Basil took it to a whole new level of obsession that has resulted in us building fences around our carrot patch the last few years. Last year we had a healthy amount of carrots but Basil broke in and managed to gobble a portion of our harvest. This year, we made sure to grow extra and do multiple plantings, which resulted in quite the bounty this October. I especially love that we have a variety of large carrots as well as baby carrots. Our largest carrot weight a whopping 1.12 lbs! As you can see below, it is the same length as my hand and twice as thick. The one beside it was 1 lb.

Last year, we didn’t make it through to October with the carrots we planted and this year we have so much that we will be turning orange from all the carrot we will be eating! We have given a few bags away to friends, and the girls have been getting some chopped up on their food, but I predict some more “What’s Up Doc” posts in the next little while. I didn’t even think to share, but I actually made a delicious carrot and Brie soup the other night. Although I don’t have a lot of pictures, I will definitely share that one because it is an excellent fall soup to warm you up.

We grew less hot pepper plants this year, but still ended up with a nice harvest. Again, we managed to continue harvesting them this year through October. In 2019, due to the cold Sept weather, we took them out and didn’t get any in October. This year, like many of our other plants, there was flowers and new peppers starting on the day we took it out of the garden. I don’t think they would have been able to grow to an edible size, but it was surprising at how many were just starting so late in the season. K and I have already discussed getting some of our plants started indoors earlier in 2021 in order to hopefully have them a really good size by the tine we transplant outside. Especially our peppers. They seem to take so long to get to a decent size plant, so we will try to give them a better start next hear and see if we can get veggies off them a little earlier in the season.

Sweet peppers are on vegetable that we have yet to have a really successful growing season with. We do get some peppers but the are mostly small with a thinner skin and usually later in the growing season. As with our hot peppers, we are going to try starting them earlier in the house in the spring so that we have a larger plant to transplant. Our sweet peppers are similar to our hot peppers this year. They continued producing on the warmer October we had this year, which meant we were able to harvest and enjoy them longer than we did last year. These pepper plants were also full of flowers and new peppers when we took them out of the garden this last weekend. So many plants were still working so hard that we almost left them in, but again, snow is on the way and visible on the hillside across the river. We didn’t want to do the garden cleanup in the snow and cold.

Last year we only grew one type of onion, a sweet onion, which is ready later in the season. Last October, it was one of the only veggies that was happily surviving the cooler weather so our harvest of them was quite good. This year, I accidentally bought the wrong bulbs to start. I ended up with spring onions, which as the name indicates, are an onion ready earlier in the year. Because of my accidental purchase, we ended up with both spring onions and sweet onions. I will definitely be doing both again next year. In fact, I’ll be adding shallots as well for three varieties of onion.

The spring onions are like a shallot, smaller with a beautiful light flavour, perfect for on salads or in summer dishes. The sweet onions that we harvest in the fall are perfect for soups, stews, roasts and all the fall meals we crave. Based on the different varieties between the two years, our October harvest this year is significantly smaller than last year, but we’ve had more consistent harvests throughout the summer this year.

Tomatoes have been an interesting experiment over the years. We have grown so many varieties from big beefsteaks to starfires to sunrise and now Roma’s. The beefsteaks and Roma’s have been the best producing and easiest to use. Starfires were good but really hard to get the skin off for canning. The sunrise was good on salads or eaten fresh but didn’t make great sauce or can very well. This October was definitely a great harvest for tomatoes. We don’t usually get tomatoes right through the fall because they usually split due to excessive moisture or they get an odd texture from it being too cold. Roma’s have been fantastic. We got a great harvest of them this fall, and they are in great condition for canning, sauces and soups.

As with most of our garden, now that we will have more room, I would like to have a good diversity in what we grow. Next year I will definitely be doing beefsteaks and Roma’s, but I may also throw in a few starfires as well. Each had its usefulness and a variety means harvests at different points of the summer. I also want to grow tomatillos again for salsa. We did them the very first year but they take a lot of room, so we haven’t done them since. Now that we have the space, we will have to do a couple plants.

We will be landscaping our tomato side of the yard next year, so our tomatoes are going to have a temporary new home. It will be interesting to see what changes come from having them in a different area of the yard. Perhaps the “tomato” side of the yard will become something else. If the tomatoes do really well in their new temporary homes, then they may become permanent. We will see!

Along with the above varieties of large tomatoes, we also grow lots of cherry tomatoes. I love them with charcuterie boards or halved and tossed in a salad. Also, if you toss them in olive oil and basil then top a Brie with the mixture and melt it all in the oven, it makes for a delicious evening snack/dinner with a glass of wine on the patio.

We managed a bit of a harvest this October. With us being a drier month than last year, our tomatoes have not split so we were able to enjoy them longer. I do have a few stems of green cherry tomatoes that I harvested before we took out the plants. If they don’t ripen inside, then I will pickle them green as a nice pickle tray addition for the winter. I did that a few years ago when we had an abundance of green cherry tomatoes in the fall. They were a tasty and unique option for appy trays when we had guests over.

Our potato growing skills get better and better each year. Last year we had a good harvest of potatoes in October and this year we had another great harvest with just slightly more produced. I was a little worried leaving the last tower until late October due to a few worms we found in the tower we harvested at the end of September. Luckily there was only one potato affected in the September tower so we were hopefully for our October tower. The good news, no worms! It was just that one potato that had them and nothing else was affected.

Last year we noted that most of our potatoes were in the middle of the tower where there was an even mix of soil and straw. This year we worked to be super consistent with our misfire throughout the towers. Oddly enough, all of our potatoes this year was found at the very bottom of the towers. I had actually taken a board off in July to take a peek and possibly take a few potatoes out, and there wasn’t one to be seen. Had I taken a bottom board off, I would have had plenty to take from. So odd how it changes from year to year.

The only potato that was not at the very bottom was this one that was visible when we took the boards off.

This year we also had less potatoes but very large potatoes rather than lots of mid-sized potatoes. Put largest potato was just shy of 2 lbs and there were quite a few that were just slightly smaller. It’s odd to only need to grab one potato to make enough mashed potatoes for not only dinner but also leftovers for Ks lunch the next day. I certainly won’t complain, it is so much fun digging up potatoes to see what you are going to get. It’s like a gardeners treasure hunt!

Overall, we are really happy with our harvests this year and look forward to another year of comparisons next year. As we finish our permanent beds, there will also be more to compare. This year we had zucchini, watermelons, rhubarb, brussel sprouts and spaghetti squash growing which we didn’t include in the comparisons. Next year we will likely have all of those again plus new veggies.

Im not going to lie, my next post will likely be geeked out pie charts of our varieties again. Plus this year I can do comparison charts! I will also be sharing a bunch of fall recipes with all of these delicious veggies.

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