Friday, November 5, 2010

"When the frost is on the pumpkin..."

The frost is on the pumpkin! Twenty- four degrees was the reading on my thermometer on two consecutive mornings this week. Even hit twenty-eight in Doylestown. So the frost is on the pumpkin. This “killing frost” in the mid-twenties takes out all of the tender annuals… weeds and crops. Cold hardy plants carry on.

The picture shown here is a broccoli leaf and the heads that are part of this plant are still in good shape. In fact, one reason to plant fall maturing crops in the cabbage family (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts) is that they hold so well in the cool/cold temperatures of fall. Spring planted crops of the same species are forced to mature in the heat of late spring and early summer. They often go from “prime condition” to “over-the-hill” in a matter of days, especially when temperatures spike into the high eighties. I’d rather let Mother Nature hold them for me, naturally.

Forgot to plant you fall crops? Perhaps our local farmers can come to the rescue. As I visit local vegetable farms I see beautiful fields of fall vegetables. And, I know that bushels of winter squash are stored away from the freezing temperatures, just waiting for you to make pumpkin pies, baked squash and other fall specialties. I even know a local sweet potato grower who has several varieties of this nutritious root.

Turnips, rutabagas and parsnips are not everyone’s cup of tea but if you have not tried the farm-fresh version of these root vegetables recently consider giving them a try. Maybe next year they will be part of your fall garden, too.

Want more information on the culture of fall vegetable crops? Penn State’s brand new Vegetable Gardening publication is a great place to start.

PS For a wonderful reading of James Whitcob Rileys' poem, see this.