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5 ways to clean up the vegetable garden

If you’re not swamped already trying to preserve some of nature’s bounty (even freezing some “quickly-made” tomato sauces), that time will come soon. So too, will the inevitable garden clean-up.

It usually comes in waves. Early in the season, salad greens, radishes, and all those great cool-weather goodies were the kings of the dinner table. Zucchini and cucumbers always seem to get a little out of control about mid-season. And now, you’ve probably already harvested or are currently getting more peppers, tomatoes and sweet corn than you know what to do with. Pumpkins, squash, and other “Thanksgiving crops” are just around the corner, if they’re not here for you already. It’s not a bad problem to have, all things considered.

Not sure what to do next? You have some fun options:

  1. Get pickling
    Pickling produce is time-intensive, but a great way to show your culinary chops. Adding your own herbs and a few hot peppers to the mix takes these now-canned veggies to a more flavorful level, too.

  2. Give a few fall plantings a try
    Miss those cool crops from spring? Start replanting some in a couple of weeks. If things go well, you’ll have one more shot at fresh spinach, radishes, lettuce and other salad greens (as long as an unexpected hot spell doesn’t make them bolt.) You can always push the season a bit with a cold frame (basically a hinged window attached to a shallow box that fits over part of the garden bed), and even try planting a little later in the fall, just to see what will happen.

  3. Get grilling.
    There are some great recipes out there for veggies and the grill, and you can find them almost everywhere. (There may even be a few lingering around on our web site…)

  4. Share your extras
    Your neighbors and coworkers will love enjoying some garden-fresh goodness. And check around; some local food pantries and shelters might be equipped to deal with fresh fruits and vegetables to augment their menu choices, too. After all, not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to fresh whole foods.

  5. Enjoy the harvest
    Clearing out tomato and pepper plants can be a bit melancholy, but if you look at the great fruits and veggies you’ve already harvested and the excellent meals to follow, you realize how worth it your efforts really were. And, who among us hasn’t planned that next garden already? While winter blows in, garden catalogs and pen and paper help us create that perfect garden that’s always waiting for us. Next spring will be here soon enough. Now is the time to enjoy.

Published August 25, 2010
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