2014 was a bumper year for tomatoes in my garden, and most of my vegetables grew with abandon. Believe it or not, I'm still eating lettuce and other greens from my cold-frame as well as kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli from my community garden plot. I cover the cold-frame to protect the plants from freezing rain and cold to extend the growing season. The vegetables that struggled the most were eggplants and peppers due to the cooler than normal temperature - but we had a good berry year. I know because I was munching on tasty, sweet fall raspberries right up to the end of October.
It would be hard to imagine late autumn without the world's favorite fruit, the apple - along with the delicious desserts it inspires, including apple sauce, pie and chutney. Thanksgiving just wouldn't seem right without pumpkins and apples but unfortunately, fruits like apples, plums and peaches had a rough time in Vermont and all over New England in 2014 due to last year's cold winter and cold, wet late spring. I don't think the bees were very happy. And while I've been told by orchardists that after a year of bumper crops like we had in 2013, the following year is often not as bountiful - this year was still pretty tough. But here's a tip for next year. If you have a small apple orchard, rake up the leaves and damaged fruit and compost them to help prevent scab in the coming year.
As for other perennial plants, there still may be time before the long hard frosts come and the ground freezes over, to deadhead the flowering plants, remove old foliage and in some cases, divide the overgrown clumps and replant them. While the weather holds, cut off the tops of daylilies to eliminate places where insects can hide and fungus can thrive the next year. And if you haven't already done so, dig up the bulbs of gladiolus and dahlias, dry them a little and keep them in paper bags in cool storage for winter.
Here are a few more tips to do before the snow flies: Put tree-wraps around young fruit trees up to your expected snow depth and remove the wraps in the spring. This will keep mice and voles from eating bark and damaging the tree. And speaking of voles, purchase a large can of real hot pepper powder and shake it around the plants to repel those vegetarian creatures. Soon now, I’ll put my feet up in front of the wood stove as the snow covers the earth and relax a little before celebrating my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving.