Master Gardener: A good growing season and what’s ahead

By Joy Behnke, Chisago County Master Gardener

This past summer was certainly a hot one for gardeners.  It was a tad too hot for me and really dry for our gardens. Regular watering became an every-other-day event in the garden. Even just standing there using the hose to water the plants brought a sweat to my brow. Eventually, I decided that using a soaker hose would work the best for watering the vegetable garden.

Despite the advantages of drip irrigation that some of my fellow master gardeners use, we chose to bury the soaker hose under the mulch, especially around the raspberry plants. This proved to be quite convenient for keeping the raspberry bushes moist. It worked for us, anyway, because over the course of the summer, we were able to harvest a great crop. There was enough to eat a couple of handfuls of fresh berries on a daily basis while still being able to freeze some for future use.

My freezing technique was quite simple. After picking, I brought them in to the house and checked them over carefully for bugs. I then washed them and spread them out on a towel to air-dry. I placed them on a cookie sheet (on top of wax paper) in a single layer, and then placed them in the freezer for about two hours. Once they were frozen solid, I simply bagged them into freezer bags with about four cups of raspberries in each bag.

I now have eight quarts of raspberries just waiting to be used in the perfect recipe.

Our eggplants did really well this year. We kept some and shared some with others. I’m not a vegetarian by any means and not exactly knowing what to do with an eggplant, I decided to search the Internet for an eggplant recipe.

I found one for eggplant parmesan, a dish I had never tried before. I must admit, the prep work was quite involved, but the results were pretty darn tasty. It was a great way to use eggplant, and it was just as yummy as lasagna, only healthier.

The green beans, sugar snap peas, cucumbers and tomatoes produced enough for salads, stir fry and my all time favorite – BLTs. What’s better than a BLT with a slice of fresh tomato?

Now that the growing season is over and winter is just around the corner, I’m already thinking of next year’s garden. I’m already paging through seed catalogs for new things to try. And yes, I’m hoping for lots of snow this winter so we’ll have moisture in the soil, come spring.

Speaking of spring, the Chisago Master Gardeners are already planning for the 2013 Spring Bonanza. I’ve been given the list of classes, and I’m really excited about what will be offered. Every year we offer some of the basics on gardening. This year, there are even a few classes that might be new to those who attend. So watch for future announcements on the Bonanza.

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