Winter Is Coming: Autumnal Prep for the Homestead Garden

While I already had a surprising and unpredicted temperature drop to 34 degrees Fahrenheit about a week prior, which did some crop damage, we’ were  predicted to have 31 degrees by morning on Saturday October 5th.  It turned out we had a low of 29 degrees F (that’s -1.7 degrees Celsius) around 7 -7:30 that morning.  Not a horribe thing in itself, and a part of the cycle of Nature – but it helps to plan on your garden harvest ahead of such an event.

homesteading, frost, harvest, garden

Discussion here will include potted citrus, basil, delicata squash, cherry/other tomatoes, ornamental tuber plants, and prepping for maple syrup.  

The Evening Before

Bringing Indoors:  I pulled the citrus “trees” indoors (and the pathetic fig), leaving them with southern light exposure (I am in the Northern Hemisphere).   I have plotted my house to have most light entering from the south due to this.  I also potted some basil and brought them indoors to sit on my kitchen  windowsill (I do hope I remember to water them, I’m not really good with remembering to water indoor plants.  Cats at least have the ability to say something… I think I’ll have to set up a Sunday/Tuesday/Friday sort of scheduler… with a mean beep!)

Harvesting from the Raised Beds:   Basil, peppers, cherry tomatoes, purslane, the final potatoes.   Plus, seed saving from those basil plants that went to seed.  More below on preserving the harvest… I’ve been collecting and using the peppers and cherry tomatoes during the season, so there weren’t that many to harvest – so I’m not preserving those I’ve just gathered, but eating them during this coming week.  Next year, I should be growing more.  There were a LOT of green cherry tomatoes, so I left those (temporarily).

Rough and Ready Cold Framing  in the Raised Beds:  Delicata squash, the rest of the cherry tomatoes (many of which still have flowers that need to fruit).  I have two-three small delicata squash – the squash had gone in late due to the raised bed delay in construction.  Okay, this turned out REAL rough and ready – I covered with plastic and then with a bedsheet.  I also covered what remained of the basil – this was much less effective.

The delicata survived.  The fellow across the street, with a verdant patch of pumpkins – well, the pumpkins themselves survived, but all the leafy greens died in that frost. For him, it didn’t matter, as all the pumpkins had reached full size, but my delicata still yearns to grow a bit larger, as I’d planted mine later.  I’ll note that delicata are one of the less-hardy (when one talks about the squash part itself) of the winter squash.  I will continue to keep an eye on them.

The side yard herb garden I left alone.  It abuts the house and most of the herbs that live there should survive short term.    There’s also kale there, which is known to be hardy to very low temperatures (relatively speaking).  Parsley also turns out to be remarkably cold-tolerant.

Basil preservation:    (I did this the following day and two):

I opted to try three ways.  I’ve preserved in butter in the past, but this year I’m going for three methods to see which ways work best for me.  I did this with both the purple basil and the regular “generic” basil.  Actual results won’t be known by time of posting, but here they are:

homesteading, basil, harvest

One of my basils, jarred.

  • Chop, compact into jars, and freeze I used those little sample-sized canning jars.  You can re-use old sealing lids for this purpose – obviously, never use those lids for re-canning via hot water or pressure canning!!!  But if you are going to stick your jar into a freezer – you don’t need a true seal.  Any rate, no water or anything else.  When you want some, reach in and pull out as needed.  Best using DRY leaves that have not been recently rained on – and best to make sure they aren’t soiled, either.
  • Chop, fill ice cube trays about 2/3rds or so full, cover with water, freeze.  You can either transfer these cubes to a tightly-sealable bag and pull cubes out as needed, or use something to cover each tray once it is frozen.  I think as a subcategory I will try both methods.  I worry that cubes will anneal to each other…
homesteading, harvesting basil, preserving basil

Regular and purple basil, being put up. Top – basil stalks with leaves. Bowl – seeds. Ice cube tray top row – purple basil, chopped and filled to about 2/3rds or 3/4ths per slot. Bottom row, regular basil, treated the same. These will be covered with either water or with extra virgin olive oil, and frozen. Seeds are drying for next season.

  • Chop, fill ice cube trays about 2/3rds full, cover with (REAL) olive oil, or a quality melted butter (cooled down to just before solidifying), and freeze.  Cover once frozen.  I suppose I could also experiment to see if cubes will anneal to each other if removed from the trays and put into bags with each other…  Nah, not this year.   If you know differently, let me know!
homesteading, basil, harvest

Three types of basil are now growing indoors. Not sure how they will last, but at least they are trying in this south-facing kitchen window.

And again:  With the basil, one can transplant some of the plants indoors; and, if seeds are available, save them tiny things!   (Keep dry!)


I’ve been collecting them over the past few of weeks or so.  Dry-brush all dirt off, and toss out any growing mold or that otherwise seem rotten.  I’m storing them in the root cellar, but seriously, any cool and dark place in your kitchen will do.  Do NOT store near onions.  They don’t work well with each other.  While tubers for potatoes are underground, I wouldn’t give them too much leeway with freezing temps.   If you do have to pull them after a killing frost, I’d eat them immediately – they WILL NOT keep.

Do see my potato harvesting post!

homesteading, harvesting, garden, cherry tomatoes

The next morning’s harvest of (mostly) green cherry tomatoes.

Extra cherry tomatoes (and this is true of other tomatoes, too):  

  • Eat the red ones fresh.  (Check!)
  • Can either/both red and green tomatoes.  (I did not have enough this year for canning.)  You can either make freezer tomatoes or do a hot-water bath canning method.  Other, related, options incude salsa.
  • Make fried green tomatoes (This is a recipe I plan on making down the road, but I didn’t want to do it with the cherry tomatoes because of a personal dislike of the ultimate breading to tomato ratio that cherries would give over full-sized tomatoes.)
  • Use the green (and possibly the red) in soup.  Indeed, earlier today a ham and harvest soup was posted!)
  • Dehydrate the tomatoes.
    Green Tomatoes:  Slice into 1/4 inch segments, lay out on the mesh of a dehydrator so that slices don’t touch, dehydrate approximately 6 hours at 135 F.  Time will vary depending on air humidity as a major factor.  Store in a cool dark place in airtight jars.
    Red Tomatoes:  Same as above, but since reds have more moisture than greens, allow them to dehydrate longer.  I’ve done mine overnight in the past.

The Cannas and Dahlias:

homesteading, cannas

Cannas plants, evening prior to the frost.  They were a gift from my friend Scott’s father, way back in the early 1990s.

They’re fine for awhile.  The tubers won’t stand severe cold but will be fine down to at least the mid 20’s F, with ground protection.  The leaves and flowers all died back.  I plan to pull the tubers and store them prior to the end of October.

homesteading, garden, dahlias

The Dahlias were a gift from Noreen, a local friend who has also helped me with my chickens. Photo taken Oct 4th, just prior to killing frost.  The tubers are fine.

Jerusalem Artichokes:

Homesteading, jerusalem artichokes

These spread by seed and by their tubers. They grow sunflower-style flowers, but I will need to ride herd on them!  You don’t need to bring them in!!!

I’m not sure you can kill these things!  Leave their tubers in the ground, until you want to harvest and eat them.  I will probably pull most in the spring for salads and perhaps a soup.

Planning Ahead:  Maple Syrup!!!!!!:  

homesteading, maple syrup, harvest, maple tree

With the leaves still hanging on comes the best time to site the trees to tap for maple syrup come the stirrings of spring.

Before the leaves all drop off the trees, determine which of your trees are sugar maples.  Mark them.  I used a ribbon with a color that will stand out when it does come to tap.  You can use Day-Glo Hazard Orange spray paint, if you prefer.  I just happened to have yellow ribbon in the house, and rather than going out to buy something, I used this.  (Besides if it faces my house, I don’t have to look at the spray graffiti…)  You want to be able to SEE this in February or March, whenever the sap runs in your neck of the woods.

Yes, there are ways to determine if something is a sugar maple by the bark.  But these attributes will change as the tree matures.  I’d rather rely on the shape of the leaf itself, which means looking NOW.  Sugar maple leaves vary from other maple leaves by pretty much looking like that leaf on the Canadian flag. But if you don’t look closely you may mistake the red maple for being “similar enough”.

homesteading, maple syrup

Maple leaves this autumn

Nothing wrong with tapping other maple tree species (or birch), but the ratio of sugar syrup to water will have you banging your head in frustration as you boil down to the proper level of syrup to make syrup.  Since I’ve never done this before, I want to be CERTAIN I’m only tapping sugar maple trees.  Oh, and yes… your tree diameter should be about one foot or more.  (For the Canadians, and the  wonderfully-metric-savvy, which I was back at my pre-retirement career, that’s 30 centimeters in diameter).   Tapping immature trees is not healthy for the tree, nor will it yield much sap for your effort.

homesteading, harvest, maple syrup

Central tall tree is scheduled to be tapped this March for maple syrup and maple water.

I’ll post what happens here with maple syrup (and maybe even some maple water, which I’d love to make) come Syrup Time…  But for now, a photo of some maple syruping gadgets I bought, with a “usefulness review” to come then.

homesteading, maple syrup, kit

To the left, a maple syruping kit. Including 4 recipes. The Apple Cranberry Crostini with Maple Glaze, and the Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin look most interesting to me. The center cylinder is a hygrometer for measuring sugar levels when you start cooking down. There’s a drill bit, and some more old-fashioned taps for draining directly down into a bucket.

For those out in Colorado and environs… yes, your drop in temperature was much more severe.  I hope you have been able to harvest in time.  For those not yet at the cold end of freezing temperatures – the above may be suggestions to help you along as it approaches you.

This homesteading and garden post is shared at:

Farm Fresh Tuesdays

Fiesta Friday

Homestead Blog Hop



homesteading, sugar maple, red maple









About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: I've now moved to my new home in rural western Massachusetts. I am raising chickens (for meat and for eggs) and planning for guinea fowl, Shetland sheep, and probably goats and/or alpaca. Possibly feeder pigs. Raising veggies and going solar.
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5 Responses to Winter Is Coming: Autumnal Prep for the Homestead Garden

  1. Irene says:

    What a fun post!

  2. I will look forward to the results of your basil experiment. Mine expired before I could harvest the surplus.

  3. That reminds me I still have green tomatoes out there, and maybe some herbs. We haven’t had a hard frost yet, just one night it dipped to 39 deg. Everything still looks green out there, but I’d better hustle! Thanks for the reminder!

    • It was reading 35 F one morning, and there was still some moderate frost. Microclimates I think – the exterior thermometer, while not attached to the exterior wall of my house, is attached to a porch supporting beam. Which probably protects it from some wind chill.

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