Harvest Before Frost Arrives

October 4, 2015 lawanda Newspaper Columns

Jack Frost will soon make his appearance and you won’t want to let your many months of work in the vegetable garden go to waste.

When frost is imminent, harvest all tomatoes both red and green, all peppers no matter how small, and all the beans, cucumbers and zucchini that are still producing. Cut tender herbs such as basil, mint, lemon balm and sage an inch above the soil line with a sharp scissors. Also clip the seed heads of annual flowers like zinnias, marigolds, cosmos and calendula to save for planting next year.

Parsley, thyme and rosemary are fine with a light frost. Carrots and potatoes are safe underground and pumpkins, gourds, kohlrabi and Brussels’s sprouts can handle a touch of frost.

Once you get everything inside, wrap green tomatoes individually in newspaper to store in the basement. They will ripen slowly, but check them every few days. Peppers can be diced and frozen. Beans should be blanched by submerging them in boiling water for two minutes and then immediately cooled in ice water. Freeze them in plastic zip bags.

Place basil in a vase or cup of water on the counter if you plan to use it within a few days, changing the water every day. To preserve the basil, chop it and freeze it in olive oil in ice cube trays. Pop the cubes out and freeze them in plastic bags.

Mints and lemon balm can be dried, but the flavor becomes weak, so place the herbs in water on the counter and enjoy them within a few days.

Hang sage stems upside down in an airy, dry place. They’ll be crispy dry in a week or so. Remove the leaves from the stems and store them in a glass jar.

Zucchini can be donated to a local food pantry if your neighbors won’t accept any more. Otherwise, shred or dice it and freeze in plastic zip bags. Freezing in one- or two-cup sized portions is convenient for most zucchini recipes.

Store cucumbers in the refrigerator’s produce drawer and use within a week. If you drink smoothies, freeze chunks of cucumber on cookie sheets before placing in plastic bags for use all winter.

The seed heads of annual flowers should be dried completely before storage. Spread them on newspaper for a week or so until they are crisp. Store them in paper bags in a dry location until spring. Label each bag with the name of the flower and the year harvested.

Late crops of spinach and other greens can usually handle a light frost, but if the temperatures are forecast to drop below 30°, be safe and cover them.

Cover or bring inside potted plants like geraniums, begonias and impatiens. Before a hard frost, pot up parsley and bring it indoors. In a sunny spot it will produce throughout the winter. Rosemary need not be brought indoors until temperatures dip into the mid-twenties.

FlowersFruits and vegetablesGardening techniques and tools

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