When it’s time to bring in what’s left of your garden bounty, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. First, try to pick your vegetables in the morning, when their sugar content is highest. Take your time and work carefully, because bruised or scratched vegetables spoil quickly. Use your fingers to pick thin-stemmed vegetables like peas and beans, and ones that slip easily from the vine like tomatoes. And use a sharp knife or clippers to cut tough- or brittle-stemmed crops. Veggies like cabbage, peppers, broccoli, eggplant, and squash can be damaged badly if you try to pull or tear them from their stems.
Follow these tips and your freshly harvested veggies will last longer:
- Leave an inch or two of stem on pumpkins, peppers, and squash.
- Remove the tops from root crops.
- Rush anything you pick to the fridge or another cool place.
- Wash only what you plan to use right away.
Good garden care doesn’t end with the last harvest. Your plot needs some TLC so it will be ready to produce another bumper crop next year. This four-step routine will put you on the high road to success:
STEP 1. Till any legume crops under, so they’ll add their nitrogen to the soil. Clear off all other plants (except for asparagus, rhubarb, or other perennials!), and toss them in your compost bin.
STEP 2. For every 100 square feet of garden area, work in a mixture of 25 pounds of gypsum, 10 pounds of organic fertilizer (either 4-12-4 or 5-10-5), and 5 pounds of bonemeal.
STEP 3. Spread a thick layer of newspaper over the garden, add a layer of leaves over that, and top it all off with straw. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found that this is the worms’ very favorite bedtime blanket. It keeps them warm and busy all winter long, so come spring, your planting beds will be rarin’ to grow.
STEP 4. Overspray the mulch with my Super Soil Sandwich Dressing: Mix 1 can of regular (not diet) cola, ½ cup of ammonia, ¼ cup of instant tea granules, and 1 package (2¼ tsp.) of active dry yeast in a bucket before pouring the solution into your 20 gallon hose-end sprayer.