The Call, Column 48 – Water-Wise Gardening

6 06 2016

(June 5, 2016)

The Urban Farmer

Water-Wise Gardening

 

Despite the heavy rain in the forecast for today, I’m guessing that you’ve also noticed the sudden onset of warm, dry weather over the past few weeks. Though our southern New England climate has pretty much always been characterized by alternating stretches of warm, dry weather and cool, wet weather, the extremeness of this effect is being intensified by climate change. In the spirit of being well-adapted to the changing climate, and more generally with the important goal of resource conservation that underlies urban farming, today’s column is about a few key gardening practices and system-level approaches that aim to make the best possible use of water, both that which falls from the sky and that which is delivered through the faucet.

The name of the game is water-wise gardening. That begins with applying the best water you can as time-efficiently as you can, and ends with making sure that water stays where you put it for as long as possible. There are two classifications of methods and systems that we will discuss: gardening techniques that require little additional time or money, and more elaborate systems, that need some additional planning, but have a more pronounced benefit.

Let’s start with the so-called “low-hanging fruit”, simple gardening practices that have a pretty significant baseline effect with little overhead time or money:

 

  • Mulching. This is the single easiest and most effective water-wise gardening technique. By covering the soil around your plants with an inch or two of any fine organic material – grass clippings, shredded leaves, wood mulch, shredded newspaper, straw/hay, or even partially-broken-down compost, you can drastically slow down the rate at which the water evaporates. On a hot day, any un-mulched soil in my garden dries out within maybe 12 hours of watering or rainfall; mulched soil stays wet for at least a few days under the same conditions. Mulch also breaks down slowly into compost, which brings us to the next method.
  • Building organic matter content. Incorporating finished compost, manure, leaf mould, decomposed mulch, and other organic matter into your soil also drastically increases its water storage capacity with little effort. Organic matter contains a high level of what’s called “humus”, a not-well-understood organic chemical cocktail that is essentially the glue that holds our planet’s biosphere together. Among its many features, a high humus content is what gives soil its ability to store many times its own weight in water, thereby providing the plants’ roots with much longer-term access to water without more frequent watering.
  • Watering methods. Some measure of your water usage efficiency is the result of how and when you water the soil. By watering later in the evening or early in the morning, when the sun is not strong and the temperature is at the day’s lowest, the water will be able to percolate into the soil before being evaporated.
    In addition, much of the water that leaves the nozzle of the hose doesn’t make it to the soil, because it evaporates in mid-air. Following the above schedule helps to alleviate this, as does watering with the hose output as close as possible to the surface of the soil (that is, choosing those garden shower wands over sprinklers).
  • Layout of plants. There is a school of agricultural thought called permaculture, which theorizes that our agriculture performs best when it mimics the behaviors of natural ecosystems. Taking cues from this, you can maximize the soil’s moisture retention by being deliberate with the layout of plants in your urban farm. Specifically, by planting your main crops closer together than generally recommended, they will shield the ground from sunlight and slow water evaporation; a similar effect is produced by planting a “groundcover” of low-growing plants (i.e. strawberries, leafy greens, some smaller leafy root vegetables) amongst taller plants (like tomatoes), and has the added benefit of producing an additional crop from otherwise unused space. (Permaculture is a nuanced and very interesting set of theories, which warrants a few columns of its own sometime in the near future.)

 

Next, let’s talk about some not-very-costly systems that require a bit more planning, but have a more pronounced effect on your water usage:

 

  • Rain barrels. These are a great, self-sufficient way to meet your urban farm’s water needs, providing non-chlorinated, non-fluoridated water to your plants and animals while conserving our rapidly dwindling freshwater supply. Essentially, a rain barrel is any container (the bigger the better!) that is placed beneath a gutter downspout in order to catch and store rainwater. This water can then be used to irrigate your garden (especially with a drip irrigation system – more on this below). I would urge you to look at the much more in-depth column about building an urban rainwater catchment system that I wrote last June (you can find it here: http://tinyurl.com/zz9vh5y).
  • Drip irrigation. This is another planning-intensive but relatively inexpensive system to maximize your water usage efficiency. I am just beginning to install my own drip irrigation system in my garden, so I’ll tell you what I know so far. It is essentially a network of ½” and ¼” tubes, laid along the soil (hopefully on top of a nice layer of mulch). Water runs through the tubes and drips out of either small holes pre-drilled every few inches, or through specialized, fixed-flow-rate drippers that you install where you want. This network is initially connected back up to either a rain barrel or the spigot, first being filtered (to remove particles), pressure regulated (so that flow rates are predictable), and backflow regulated (which prevents a water cutoff from sucking the water back up into the spigot) by special attachments. For my large garden, I expect to spend $100 to $150 when all is said and done, and this system will save me 4 or 5 hours per week for years to come.
    This type of irrigation is beneficial because it delivers water directly to 1) the soil, preventing a lot of evaporation, and 2) the desired plants, reducing weed growth that results from broad watering. It lowers your water usage significantly, and (as mentioned above) does not require you to invest time every day or two watering, so is a huge time-saver!

Feel free to email me with any questions you have about how you might get started with any of the techniques or systems I’ve discussed above, or for more detail about starting a drip irrigation or rainwater catchment system.

My column appears every other Sunday in The Woonsocket Call (also in areas where The Pawtucket Times is available). The above article is the property of The Woonsocket Call and The Pawtucket Times, and is reprinted here with permission from these publications. These are excellent newspapers, covering important local news topics with voices out of our own communities, and skillfully addressing statewide and national news. Click these links to subscribe to The Woonsocket Call or to The Pawtucket Times. To subscribe to the online editions, click here for The Call and here for The Times. They can also be found on Twitter, @WoonsocketCall and @Pawtuckettimes.

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The Call, Column 37 – The Most Wonderful Time of Year: Ordering Seeds for the Spring Garden

8 02 2016

(January 3, 2016)

The Urban Farmer

The Most Wonderful Time of Year: Ordering Seeds for the Spring Garden

Despite the snow, frozen soil, and minimal egg yield, the winter is one of my favorite times of the year in terms of urban farming. Why, you ask? Two words: seed catalogs!

It’s time to begin the preparations for next year’s garden, and the eight or so seed catalogs I’ve received in the mail over the past month make that task a whole lot more fun. They form the basis for my spring garden plan, how and what I decide to plant come springtime. Today, I want us to go over how an urban farmer should go about making this plan: what types of decisions you will have to make and how to go about making them, my personal methods for planning my garden each year, and some resources that I’ve found helpful in the process.

The first two decisions that you must make are: what you want to grow, and how much. These decisions are nuanced, and how you make them depends very much on your and your family’s goals in planting a garden.

If the purpose of your garden is the simple quest for good food, you probably want to focus on tried-and-true favorites: culinary herbs, heirloom potatoes and beans, and varieties of fruits and vegetables bred for taste. A good yield is important to you, but a bushel of tomatoes is worthless of they are bred for industrial production or cooking down into sauce, and taste like mushy water raw.

This is even more true if you make a few, specific recipes often, and are growing the garden to supply the ingredients for those recipes. If Italian food, for example, is a personal forte, then basil, oregano, and good Italian tomatoes are a must.

On the other hand, if you are growing with the goal of maximizing production in the confines of your backyard, whether for some measure of food self-sufficiency or even just to stock the cupboards for the winter, your focus will be different. High-efficiency, high-calorie-density crops like grains, beans, brassica vegetables, white and sweet potatoes, and root vegetables are the best way to accomplish these goals.

If, instead, you have found that eating a sufficient quantity of vegetables and low-sugar fruits (10 servings per day) can get cost-prohibitive, you might endeavor to supplement your food budget with a garden. The crops you’ll want to focus on are those that give you the greatest return on your labor investment – for example, nutrient-rich and calorie-poor crops like leafy greens, can run a pretty big food bill if you want to make them a significant part of your diet. It’s a great idea to combine what you buy at the farmers market (which is already cheaper than what’s in the supermarket) with the products of your own garden.

Personally, as I’ve grown and matured in my knowledge of agriculture, ecology, and human nutrition, the emphasis of my diet has shifted from high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods to “high-nutrient” foods. In turn, the subtle focus of my garden has and will continue to shift in this direction – rather than spending so much effort and space on things like white potatoes, sugar beets, corn, and other manner of grains, this year’s garden will be largely based on all manner of nutrient-dense vegetables and low-sugar fruits, and especially leafy-greens (with some sweet and white potatoes and other root crops mixed in, for the self-sufficiency aspects).

In all cases, how much you decide to grow of each crop should be made to match its intended uses. If you’ve decided on a “stock-the-cupboards, self-sufficiency” garden, you need to look at how many potatoes, how much cabbage, and how much corn your family eats throughout the year, both fresh while it is in season, and preserved, if there is a good way to do that.

In my case, tomatoes and peppers are a high-yielding, easily-preserved, nutrient-dense crop that my family uses a lot of. By growing many plants of these types in my garden, the goal is for us to have enough for much of the year. In terms of leafy greens, there are some that we like more than others – I go through a lot of spinach, kale, lettuces, arugula, and cabbage, so I will grow a lot more of that this year than, say, Swiss chard (which I like, but only in small doses).

Now that you have an idea of the types of crops you want to grow, and how much you should plant, you need to actually order the seeds! Here’s my organizational strategy.

It all starts with seed catalogs. If you haven’t bought seeds or plants from an online supplier before, you will need to go to each website and request a catalog; if you have, they usually begin sending you one around this time each year. I normally get catalogs from Fedco Seeds (along with their other plant divisions), Gurneys Seed and Nursery, Bountiful Gardens, Pinetree Garden Seeds, Burnt Ridge Nursery, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seed. Some of these are from the local area, and otherwise they specialize in very high quality seeds and plants (organic, heirloom, permaculture-based, etc).

While you are deciding which companies to order catalogs from, and again after perusing their catalogs (which have way more information than a website ever could), you have to decide which companies you actually want to order your seeds and plants from. This decision can be based on many factors, but usually includes their prices in comparison to the others, how local they are, whether they offer specific seeds or plants you desire, and other company’s policies – about GMOs, organic seed, business structure and practices, and even practical considerations like ordering timelines. I usually limit it to two or three companies to order my seeds and plants, because there are a few whose quality has been proven (Fedco is my go-to for seed!), and otherwise because shipping can add up if you spread your order too thin.

For those who have grown a garden in recent years, you then need to make a seed inventory of what you already have. This is a big step for me, because I easily have over 200 seed varieties that I use every year (I know, this is excessive), and this step helps me organize my thoughts about what I liked, what I didn’t, what I still have, and what I need to order again.

Everyone’s inventorying strategy is different, but I use an Excel document and list out all of the different seeds that I have, based on crop type (Nightshades, the tomato family; Alliums, the onion family; Cucurbits, the squash family; Herbs; Brassicaceae, the cabbage family; Leaf Crops; Root Crops; Beans and Grains; Flowers; and Fruit). Next to each type of seed, I write the year that it was packed for (which can be found on the seed packet), a rough estimate of the amount of seed I have left of that type (either a number or, as I did this year, a designation of “few”, “some”, or “lot”), and a guess at the viability, based on how long seeds of that type or family usually last (I designate “viable” or “questionable”, based on my experience and tables like this one at fedcoseeds.com/seeds/seed_saving.htm). I also designate which varieties I actually ran out of this year.

            From this, I extract a rough list of specific cultivars and general crops that I want to plant again; and therefore, for those that I did not save any seed (which I admit happens far too often for my liking in my own garden), those cultivars and crops that I have to order again, and which company I got them from (if applicable). Start by designating those cultivars which are definitely viable (i.e. tomatoes or lettuce marked for last year) and which you also have a lot of left, as “in inventory” (and therefore don’t need to be ordered), while those that probably aren’t viable and/or you have little left, but that you liked as “out of inventory” (and therefore need to be ordered).

            You can then peruse the offerings of each company by the above crop categories, keeping in mind 1) which crops and how much you decided to grow; 2) what you already have for seed; and 3) what you definitely need to order again. For me, this is the Year of the Leafy Greens – I have some lettuce and kale seed from last year, but I’m stepping up my game and need to include quite a few of them in my order.

            Finally, I create another Excel sheet (can you tell my mom is an accountant?), organized by company, of the specific seed varieties (and plants) that I need to buy. Include their name, as well as other identifying information – production number, weight or count, and price – to keep you organized, make it easy to build your shopping cart (if ordering online), and keep a rough estimate of total prices. Also, if shipping is calculated by weight or total order cost, you can include a formula to calculate it for each company in a cell below the company’s listing.

            Good luck, and happy (seed) hunting!

My column appears every other Sunday in The Woonsocket Call (also in areas where The Pawtucket Times is available). The above article is the property of The Woonsocket Call and The Pawtucket Times, and is reprinted here with permission from these publications. These are excellent newspapers, covering important local news topics with voices out of our own communities, and skillfully addressing statewide and national news. Click these links to subscribe to The Woonsocket Call or to The Pawtucket Times. To subscribe to the online editions, click here for The Call and here for The Times. They can also be found on Twitter, @WoonsocketCall and @Pawtuckettimes.





The Call and Times, Column 28 – Prepping for Fall – The Garden in Transition

29 09 2015

(August 30, 2015)

The Urban Farmer

Prepping for Fall – The Garden in Transition

Two weeks ago, we talked about the importance of making a Harvest Plan – a well-though-out strategy for using and preserving the glut of produce that we are blessed with at this time of year. I brought up some tips from my own garden and kitchen, and hopefully inspired you to find ways to can, freeze, root cellar, and dry your garden’s bounty, so you can enjoy it well into the winter months.

Now, as the steady march towards the fall becomes ever more obvious, with the cooler nights and the first changing leaves, it’s time to discuss a task that is arguably just as important as food preservation – smoothly transitioning the urban farm into the fall and winter months.

When I visited Cluck Urban Farm Supply last month, the store’s owner Drake Patten left me with an important bit of advice: “end your season as you began it, with intention”. Given the busy six months that many of us have already invested in the garden at this point, it’s often easy to neglect some vital fall garden tasks, those that would otherwise make our lives easier and increase production in the months and years to come.

These jobs include three big categories: seed saving, extending the season, and putting the garden to rest. I encourage each one of you (and, most of all, myself!) to try out some of the ideas below in your own gardens. Make the transition from summer to fall to winter as smooth and productive as possible.

Seed Saving

This is arguably the easiest of these tasks but, in my opinion, that which holds the most significance. Last year, I wrote about my Uncle Harry, great Aunt Petrula, and late great Uncle Demetre, and the nearly four-decade story of their selectively-bred “Russian Tomato”.

As I learned from them, by saving the seeds of your best, most productive, tastiest crops, you create a variety completely unique to your microclimate and garden. You are improving upon the hundreds and thousands of years’ worth of work that farmers, gardeners, and breeders have already put into a variety, and are making it easier to grow a superior product in your own urban farm.

Seed saving can be as simple as choosing the best fruit on the best plant, allowing it to completely ripen on the vine, and either letting it rot away on the vine, tying a plastic or mesh bag around it to catch the remains, or picking it ripe and letting it rot in a shady location, protected from animals. Once the fruit has rotted away, the seeds which remain are ready for planting, and can be stored in envelopes until the following year. Vegetables like lettuce, carrots, and onions can be left in the ground and allowed to flower and then go to seed (in the first or second year, depending on the crop). By tying a fine mesh bag around the ripening flower-head, the seed can be collected and stored the same way.

The fun in this comes from your personal definition of “best fruit” and “best plant”. Merely by saving the seeds of healthy, productive plants, you are adapting the species to your own microclimate – the rainfall, temperature, airflow, and pest populations of your own yard. But by selecting for specific characteristics – like the pointy-bottomed, meaty tomato that my Uncle Harry has made his current goal – you are forming the crop to your own, personal specifications, making a fruit or vegetable that you want to eat!

And on a more global scale, seed-saving ensures the preservation of the rich biodiversity that farmers and gardeners have thus far been able to coax out of the natural world. It is our heritage, and by improving upon open-pollinated, heirloom varieties, we all do our part to ensure the sustainability and self-sufficiency of our food system for generations to come.

Extending the Season

This year, I am making a concerted effort to have a productive fall garden. This can mean different things to different urban farmers, but in New England, there is a (relatively short) list of crops that will grow productively into the fall and winter.

This includes short-season root crops, like carrots, turnips, beets, and radishes, which can be grown during the fall and even left in the ground over winter, until they are needed; leafy green crops like lettuces and other salad greens, kale, cabbage, and certain other brassicas, and Swiss chard, some of which (brassicas and chard) actually benefit from frost and will continue producing into the late fall and beyond; and winter onion-family crops, like short-day onions, which are planted in the fall and grown (under some sort of plastic/greenhouse cover) over the winter, and garlic, which is planted in October and grows slowly until the following July.

Other than the relatively simple additional requirements of short-day onions, these crops can grow, with little protection, during some of the coldest months of our year. They should be planted right now (following the instructions on the seed packet) to give them time to gain some footing before the cooler weather comes.

To get even more out of the cold season, however, it is possible to buy or build a small-scale greenhouse of some sort. This could be as simple as a cloche (a small plastic or glass dome above an individual plant), a cold frame (raised bed with an old window laid on top), or a low tunnel (a half-soda-can shaped tunnel over a garden bed, constructed from PVC pipes and covered with thick plastic). It could also be much more complex a full greenhouse, passively solar heated or even electrically heated, with the option of setting it a few feet into the ground to utilize a little geothermal energy.

Whatever you choose, the temperature within a greenhouse is much warmer than the surrounding air, and can even remain above freezing throughout the winter.

Putting the Garden to Rest
Once the crops have borne their last fruit and the frost has arrived, if you decide not to grow fall and winter crops, it is time to end the growing season with as much attention to soil fertility and overall health as you began it.

First and foremost, this includes cleaning up dead, spent, and diseased plants, adding them to your compost pile or (better yet) feeding them to your chickens. This helps to minimize the overwintering of pests and diseases in the plants, and ensures that the garden is clean come springtime.

You also want to focus now, more than any other time of year, on directly improving soil fertility and taking measures to prevent its loss. Cover cropping is the growing of cool-season varieties of grasses, legumes, and other plants that naturally mulch and protect the soil over winter, and provide some fresh biomass to till into your garden come spring. Absent this, or maybe in addition, a few inches of good mulch (shredded fall leaves, cut grass, straw or hay, and even compost) will protect the soil from erosion and decay slowly over winter, adding to the soil’s fertility. Finally, fall is the time to add soil amendments: manure or compost for fertility and lime for soil pH.

Many of these activities tie well into the chicken coop, rabbit hutch, or other small urban livestock. They can be a source of manure (and, in the case of chickens, calcium amendments from their eggshells), and cover crops can serve as a green food supply for them during the cold months.

My column appears every other Sunday in The Woonsocket Call and The Pawtucket Times. The above article is the property of The Woonsocket Call and The Pawtucket Times, and is reprinted here with permission from these publications. These are excellent newspapers, covering important local news topics with voices out of our own communities, and skillfully addressing statewide and national news. Click these links to subscribe to The Woonsocket Call or to The Pawtucket Times. To subscribe to the online editions, click here for The Call and here for The Times. They can also be found on Twitter, @WoonsocketCall and @Pawtuckettimes.





The Call and Times, Column 27 – Prepping for Fall – The Harvest Plan

29 09 2015

(August 16, 2015)

The Urban Farmer

Prepping for Fall – The Harvest Plan

A harvest of medicinal and culinary herbs, ready to be dried

A harvest of medicinal and culinary herbs, ready to be dried

The sun is shining, the chickens are laying, and the garden is bearing its bounty. We are in the height of the New England growing season, where the summer harvest is coming in strong, but fall is knocking at the door. Indeed, there’s no better time of year to plan for the coming months, and make sure the fall garden is productive and healthy.

Two years ago, I wrote a column entitled “Put ‘Em Up”, where I discussed the different methods that urban farmers can use to preserve the summer and fall harvest for winter. After my interview with Drake at Cluck Urban Farm Supply, where she stressed the importance of the fall garden, I was inspired to revisit and expand on those ideas.

In this and my next column, we will talk about the two major goals that every urban farmer should keep in mind at this time of year – preserving the garden’s bounty efficiently and completely; and preparing the garden for the fall and winter seasons (whatever that garden might look like).

Food Preservation – Making a Harvest Plan

First, let’s have a quick recap. The four major methods of food preservation are freezing, drying, root cellaring, and canning.

Freezing, just as the name implies, utilizes sub-32° temperatures to keep food from going bad. It is the least labor intensive of the four (most produce requires minimal if any processing before freezing), but can be limited by freezer space and reliable electricity.

Drying removes nearly all the moisture from produce, creating conditions that prevent spoilage. This can be done using a few different methods: air-drying on a drying rack indoors (limited to herbs); outdoor passive-solar dehydrating; and powered dehydrating in an electric dehydrator or stove set to a low temperature (energy intensive).

Root cellaring uses a cool, dry, dark location (a dedicated, in-ground root cellar, an alcove in the basement or garage, or even a kitchen cabinet) to leverage the inherent storability of certain crops: fruits like winter squash and apples, and root crops like potatoes, carrots, and onions.

Canning uses high temperatures to kill bacteria, and seal food in airtight glass jars, via two different methods: water-bath canning does this in boiling water, and relies on a high-acid and/or high-sugar (think jams, jellies, preserves, and pickles) environment to prevent spoilage; pressure canning uses a high pressure chamber to increase temperature above boiling, completely sterilizing the contents of the jar and preventing spoilage in low-sugar, low-acid things like vegetables. Consult the USDA’s website and the “Ball Blue Book” for specific, safety-tested recipes.

Keeping these food preservation methods in mind, it’s important to develop a harvest plan to ensure that all of your garden’s produce goes to good use.

The first step, of course, is to eat all that you want fresh. The best time to enjoy a berry or a tomato is right off the plant, still warm from the summer sun. Nothing beats fresh tomato salads, garden stuffed peppers, and berries mixed into yogurt at the height of the season.

Chances are that you’ll still find yourself with too much fresh produce to eat before it spoils. The next steps are to figure out, for each type of produce, which type of preserved product you’d like to eat down the road, and decide how frequently you are willing and able to preserve.

How exactly you do this depends very heavily on your individual preferences, tools, and skills, but here are some highlights from my own system. The most productive crops that I have in my garden are tomatoes, peppers, berries (straw, rasp, and black), potatoes (regular and, hopefully this year, sweet), herbs of all sorts, onions (this year), green beans, and lettuce, so I will address my methods for each of these.

Off the bat, I’ll say that there isn’t much in the way of storage for lettuce. We use what we can, but the rest tends to bolt – and that goes right to the chickens. I call that up-cycling – the (now) slightly-bitter carbohydrates are turned into high-quality fats and proteins in eggs. Let’s call that the fifth method of food preservation – storing spent and inedible produce in the bodies of livestock!

Green beans can easily be harvested in large amounts once or twice a week. I like to wait until I have a few quarts, usually after just one harvest, and I blanch and freeze them whole. Blanching is when you boil them for a few minutes, and then immediately submerge them in ice water, to destroy enzymes that would negatively affect the taste. This is a necessary step before freezing certain fruits and vegetables.

Potatoes and onions are great candidates for root cellaring – at least my family’s take on it. We have a dedicated cabinet space which, for reasons not quite understood (it is on an outside wall and very close to the stove), is cool, dark, and dry – this is our “short term” root cellar. After the potato harvest early in the fall (and this year, the onion harvest), we take the most damaged roots and put them into our “root cellar” for immediate use. The rest are stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated room until we need them.

I grow a wide variety of culinary and medicinal herbs – you can just call me The Apothecary – and my absolute preferred method for preserving these is drying. Depending on the specific herb, I either string it up outdoors, in the shade, to air dry for a week or two, or lay it out on simple drying trays in a cool, dark, well-ventilated room. Once they are dry, they can be stored whole (best to keep the medicinal and flavorful oils from evaporating) or powdered to be used immediately.

One of my favorite methods for preservation is making tomato sauce. We’ve tried canning tomatoes in the past, and while they turned out alright, our preference dictates that nearly every extra tomato from our garden goes into homemade sauce. Whenever we accumulate 10 to 20 pounds of tomatoes (that should be very soon, if the temperature would just stay above 80 for more than a few days), we make a batch of tomato sauce. This also tends to use up a lot of other excess produce (onions, peppers, sometimes celery, and herbs of all sorts), which is a welcome bonus during the summer glut. In past years we have frozen the sauce rather than canning it (I refuse to use table sugar in our sauce, so I’m not certain that it would be safe to water bath can), but I am considering investigating a no-sugar recipe this year so as to not take up even more precious freezer space.

Berries are probably the easiest thing to preserve. The method I’ve taken this year is simple, and applicable to any berry: hull the berries if necessary; wash them and allow them to air dry; spread them out in a single layer on a baking tray and freeze them until solid, 2-3 hours; once frozen, put them into a freezer bag or container, clearly marked with the date, and store them in the freezer. The downside to this is that the fruit is very soft after thawed. Even so, it is great on top of yogurt or in cooking. This same freezing method is what I use for peppers, though I much prefer to eat them fresh if possible.

In my next column (August 30th), we will discuss the second primary goal of this season – planning for the fall garden. For some, this is putting the garden to rest; for others, it is skillfully extending the growing season to November and beyond. I’ll see you then!

 

 

My column appears every other Sunday in The Woonsocket Call and The Pawtucket Times. The above article is the property of The Woonsocket Call and The Pawtucket Times, and is reprinted here with permission from these publications. These are excellent newspapers, covering important local news topics with voices out of our own communities, and skillfully addressing statewide and national news. Click these links to subscribe to The Woonsocket Call or to The Pawtucket Times. To subscribe to the online editions, click here for The Call and here for The Times. They can also be found on Twitter, @WoonsocketCall and @Pawtuckettimes.