This week began with afternoon temperatures soaring into the mid-80’s. It felt more like June than November.

It felt like spring, but the trees at least, like this Persimmon ‘Chocolate’, knew it was fall (click any image to enlarge)

However, we knew that by week’s end the weather was forecast to change to a more cool fall-like weather pattern, so this week we decided it was time to finally, reluctantly, put the last of the summer garden to rest.

On Thursday the storm clouds were building

A storm rolled through yesterday, and this afternoon our daytime high is a full 30 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it was on Monday!  Brrrr.

I don’t know why, but I always find the summer vegetable garden to be somewhat daunting to clean up, and I’m always a little sad to pull out the plants that have performed so well for us all season.

These peppers though are clearly finished for the season

It was the most difficult to pull the pepper plants, not just because because they’d grown extensive roots this summer, but also because the plants still looked quite good, and the peppers didn’t seem convinced that we are thoroughly entrenched in fall.

These ‘Purple Beauty’ peppers were harvested on Thursday, and it was clear the plants were optimistic about setting more more fruit!

Purple Beauty Peppers

With the recent warm weather the ‘Purple Beauty’ peppers were blooming again!

Our  Padrón peppers dazzled us this summer with a near endless supply of peppers, however, as the season was winding down I became less diligent about picking them.  We just had too many.

Mature Padrón peppers

A number of them were left to mature, turning a vibrant red, and quite honestly I prefer them this way. They’re excellent chopped and thrown in a frittata, and a number of them found their way into the last batch of chili we made. They’re more mild than Jalapeños, but still bring a little heat, without being overwhelming. I picked all the remaining ones that looked good this week.

Some of the peppers had already been preserved as pickled peppers

Having already pickled more peppers than I care to count, these will be frozen for use later this season in soups, and scrambles.

The last of the season’s peppers will be sliced and frozen for use throughout the winter months

Next on the cleanup list was the cucumbers. Nothing, in my opinion, looks more pathetic, or unsightly, in a late season garden than cucumber vines that have withered, and decayed.

The foliage on these cucumber vines had all but disappeared

There were still quite a few fruits in various stages of development, but most of them were past their prime.

These assorted cucumbers will now become treats for the poultry

Still firm though, and the poultry don’t seem to mind disposing of them for us.

I had intended to plant peas earlier this fall, but due to some persistent voles we chose to hold off on planting legumes again until late winter, for a spring crop. By not planting peas now, I’m hoping for a little break in the vole cycle in the garden.  When we do plant the peas though, we’re going to try using the cucumber trellis shown above to support the bush peas, which don’t tend to need much staking, but do benefit from a little extra support as they grow.  I’m curious to see how that works out, as this trellis is easily portable, and doesn’t get tangled like netting, or string.

Back to our fall clean-up though…

Finally, it was time to pull the tomato plants. We did a good job staying on top of most of the ripe fruits this season, so there wasn’t a tremendous excess of fruit this week. There were of course the few obligatory green tomatoes, and this time I’m thinking of making a green tomato jam with them, maybe with an added Padrón pepper or two for a little extra added zing!

Green tomatoes are inevitable at the end of the season

Removing tomato plants almost always seems to be the messiest part of fall clean-up in the vegetable garden. Especially the cherry tomatoes, as the fruits seem to hurl themselves half way across the yard as the plants are wrestled free from their cages.

Even with the plants gone, I still had a mess to clean up!

One surprise was that ‘Blondkopfchen’, the cherry tomato variety we complained would not set fruit this season, seemed to have quite a lot of ripe fruits attached!

We expected Blondkopfchen to have ripe fruit in mid-summer…NOT in November!

Eventually though, all the plants were pulled, and the greenery was carted off to the compost pile.

Our raised beds have 2-foot paths between them, just enough room for a wheelbarrow, which makes cleanup MUCH easier

This is a good thing, as recently our compost pile has been a little heavy on the ‘browns’, and light on the ‘greens’.

It’s true that ‘compost happens’. However, it happens much more quickly if the greens and browns in the pile are more balanced.

That said though, this morning our compost seemed to be generating plenty of heat, and steam!

Something else we’ll be adding to the compost this weekend, the remains of the heirloom squash beds.

The heirloom squash garden is looking a bit bedraggled

These Boston Marrow plants did not get the memo that summer is over though, and some plants are still setting fruit!

We left a few straggler squash behind after the harvest to see if they’d amount to much.  It’s clear that this sea pumpkin, ‘Marina di Chioggia’, is never going to grow her trademark warts though.

Marina di Chioggia looks like a turban squash, but should be heavily covered in warts

I’m sure the chickens will enjoy her though, hopefully more than the last pumpkin we gave them!

With the beds in kitchen garden cleared it was time to transplant numerous flats of kale, mustard, collards, and cabbage.

Most of the beds don’t stay empty for long

We planted some kale at the end of the summer, which is doing beautifully well, and will ensure we have plenty of kale for Thanksgiving, which is less than two weeks away!

We already have a few mature kale plants from a late summer planting, including this Red Russian kale

Mature (not so) Dwarf Siberian kale

However, providing we have a relatively mild winter, the kale seems to do very well here, and should produce all the way through to spring.

This week we’ve transplanted more of our old standbys, including ‘Lacinato’, also known as ‘Nero Di Toscana’, and ‘Red Russian’ winter kale.

Transplanted this week…Nero Di Toscana kale…

…and more Red Russian kale

‘Red Russian’ seems to do especially well here along the coast.

These beds look a little bare, but they won’t for long

Joining the kale, the heirloom classic ‘Vates’ Collards have found their way into the garden this year.

Vates Collards. I don’t use collards much, but this winter I expect we’ll be using a lot more of them!

We’ve been growing a variety of Asian greens, including a variety of Choi, Tatsoi, and Mizuna greens. This winter though we’ve decided to add a few other mustard varieties to the mix.

The open pollinated ‘Garnet Giant’ mustard will hopefully bring a splash of color to an otherwise greens-centric garden this winter.

We’re hoping that the Garnet Giant mustard will bring an unexpected splash of color to a sea of green in the winter garden

‘Southern Giant Curled’ mustard has interesting fluted edges to its leaves.

Southern Giant Mustard

Because there can never be too much diversity in the kitchen garden, last but not least, the heirloom ‘Tendergreen’ mustard.

The smooth-leaved Tendergreen mustard

Not only will these mustards provide us with greens for the kitchen, but by late winter to early spring, as the mustards begin to bloom, they’ll also provide some early season nourishment for the bees.

Brassicas, like this Mizuna, attract a host of beneficial insects in the spring when they bloom

While these transplants grow over the winter, we’ll be busy making plans for our spring garden!  In the meantime though, next week we’ll take a peek at what’s going on in the native gardens, because with the recent rain, we have a lot transplanting to do!