In my Zone 3 garden June has brought some heat and much needed rain. With the garden completely planted It is time to start reaping the benefits of my hard work.
In Zone 3 in Early June most gardeners are watching their garden grow but harvesting is still a while off yet. One of my goals this year was to harvest more over a longer season. So far this season I am off to a great start especially with the uncharacteristically warm spring we have had. I have been harvesting for a few weeks but things have picked up recently.
In the middle of March I first planted cold hardy crops such as Collards, Spinach, Sorrel, Minters Lettuce and a winters blend of greens. While they jumped out to a great head start the leafy greens were soon set back by a massive aphid infection.
The warm dry spring we had allowed the aphids to hatch in large numbers. This was before the lady bugs that usually keep them under control in my garden came out of dormancy. The damage did not set them back too much and I was still able to harvest albeit somewhat damaged leafy greens in early May building in quantity as time progressed.
I enjoy these fresh in salads that in my opinion don’t require a dressing as they are more than flavorful enough.
The next crop I was able to harvest in a large quantity was the peppermint I had stared in the grow room. After hardening off the mint plant I put it in a container with some cool weather leafy greens. I chose to do so as the cold weather crops won’t last much longer as the summers heat sets in. Mint is also fairly invasive and I am still trying to figure out which mint variety makes the best tea and I don’t particularly want to have to fight the spread every year in the main garden area.
In order to make mint tea I start by harvesting about 1/2 of the plant. I then remove the leaves from the stem before dehydrating them at 90c or 194F. I chose to dehydrate them at a cooler temperature than I have in the past. I did this in order to preserve the flavor so I could use the leaves to make tea in the winter. It took 24 hours to completely dry them and shortly after I transferred them into a container that will keep them sealed until I use the tea during the winter.
There is nothing that helps me get through winter dreaming of the garden than a nice hot cup of home grown organic mint tea.
If mint is given a chance it can become a perennial here in Zone 3. Mint is not the only perennial that I am able to harvest already.
Chives are often one of the first things to green up in the spring along with the garlic and peas. We have been harvesting them since the second week of May for use as a garnish on salads or baked potatoes. I was pleasantly surprised to see their flowers and popped a few of them into my mouth as a nice garden treat. That said I make sure to remove the flowers before they seed in order to prevent them from spreading in my garden.
You can harvest chives all season long there is no need to slow down to preserve energy.
On crop that I am careful to not over harvest is Rhubarb. Although very difficult to kill I have over harvested in years past really reducing what I could harvest the following year.
I have two rhubarb plants in my garden. The first I put in years ago and I can harvest 3 times a year. The other is newer and was sent to me by my father from his garden in Yellowknife NWT which is in Zone 0.
Earlier in the spring my mature rhubarb tried to flower. As soon as I saw it I removed the flower ensuring the plant focused on stalk production with higher sugar content.
I cut back the most mature stalks and then began looking for the brightest colored stalks. I cut back about 50% of the growth leaving the rest for my July and or August harvest.
I was happy to share with my son one of my childhood memories of dipping fresh rhubarb into sugar.
The rest of the rhubarb I washed cut and froze. Later I will use the frozen rhubarb for either some baking but much more likely to make rhubarb wine which has become a family favorite.
Finally some of my summer crops are producing for me already. I harvested Super Hungarian Hot, Jimmy Nardello and Sweet Apple peppers on June 5th. The peppers were not quite ripe but still have a wonderful pepper flavor and will make a great addition to some eggs on the weekend.
This is the earliest I have ever been able to harvest peppers outside. I started the plants in December in my grow room pruning and allowing them to grow to quite large plants before hardening them off.
At that point Mother Nature gave me a hand and the hot sunny weather were optimal for pepper growth.
I could have left the peppers on to ripen and either get hotter or sweeter but harvesting them now should allow me to get a second crop later in the season even this far north in Zone 3.
What is next
In the coming month I will continue to harvest leafy greens, peppermint, chives, and rhubarb while looking forward to many other crops such as peas, blueberries, and carrots.
If you would like to see how I pruned my pepper plants in order to get this early harvest check out this video: