Harvesting and Curing Popcorn

Harvesting and curing popcorn is a simple process that should be done in mid fall, after your first frost but before snow or rain settle in.

Curing Popcorn (1)

We love growing our own popcorn!  There are lots of reasons for that including self sufficiency and just over all taste (of the home grown popcorn)!  Learning to grow popcorn is easy to do.  If you would like to learn more about growing popcorn in your garden take a look at this post.

Recently I filmed this 5 Minute Friday Video tip on Curing popcorn.  Be sure to watch it as well.

When to Harvest Your Popcorn

Harvest time for popcorn usually comes very late in the summer or early in the fall.  I like to wait until the husks on the cobs have completely “yellowed” and are nice and dry.  You can also feel the cobs.  The corn under the husks should be hard and dry before you harvest.

I try to leave the cobs on the stalks for as long as possible.  The longer that corn dries outside and on the stalk the better.  But there is a happy medium that you need to reach.  Let the cobs dry on the stalks as long as you can, but bring them in before your weather really turns wet.  You don’t want those cobs that have been drying for all that time to then get rained on or snowed on.  We have found that usually we need to harvest our popcorn by the middle of October in out Zone 6 garden.

Curing Popcorn Indoors

As I described in the video above, curing popcorn in a really simple process that mainly involves a nice dry airy spot and lots of time!

I prefer curing popcorn indoors.  It is easier to control the process of curing popcorn if you do it in a shed, garage or even your basement.  A good spot for curing popcorn is some where dry with good air circulation.  And it is vital that your popcorn does not get wet while it is curing.  That’s why I just do it inside in my garage.  No chance of rain or frost getting on the curing popcorn if it is indoors.

Lots of time is the Key

Curing Popcorn #2

Remove the husks on the popcorn before curing.  You can either pull it off completely or if you would like a nice fall time decoration for your house, carefully pull the husks back but leave them attached to the cob.

Curing Popcorn #3

Place the curing popcorn on a screen for good air circulation.  Or tie bunches of cobs by the husks and hang them.

Then all you need to do is wait!  I’ve found that it takes between 4 to 6 weeks for popcorn to cure correctly after harvest.

Once you think your popcorn has cured, scrape a tablespoon or so off of one of your cobs pop it using your preferred method.  (We use an air popper).  If most of the kernels pop then you are good to go!  If you have more than just a few kernels that don’t pop, then wait another week or so and try again!

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We like to remove the popcorn from the cobs all at once and store it in glass jars.  But you can store the popcorn on the cobs if you like and remove it as needed.

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Store the jars or cured cobs in a dark dry pantry, DO NOT store your popcorn in the freezer!

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When to Harvest Potatoes

Knowing when to harvest potatoes from you backyard garden can be a bit tricky. This post will help you know when to harvest potatoes for a great crop of nice sized spuds!

When to Harvest Potatoes

Every year I get questions posted about when to harvest potatoes. New gardeners always panic when the tops of their potato plants suddenly start to die back in the late summer and fall. I’m writing this post to help you know when to harvest potatoes for a good crop of mature potatoes that will store well and taste great!

Any time after they flower???

Roughly 6 to 8 weeks after you plant your potatoes the tops will flower. Technically any time after your potatoes flower you can start harvesting.

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But if you harvest right after the plants flower the potatoes you harvest will be very small! These are what we call “new potatoes” and they will taste fantastic and will be very tender with thin skins. We always grow some early potatoes, specifically for this purpose. But if you want larger, mature potatoes that will last a long time in storage then you need to wait!

When to harvest potatoes – Tops dying back

Most potato varieties will mature in 90 to 120 days. This is the optimal time to keep them in the ground to get nice large potatoes. Since the potatoes are hiding in the ground, the first indication you get about when to harvest potatoes is when the tops start to die off.

When potato plants reach their final state of development the “tops” or the above ground foliage on the plants will first fall over and then slowly start to die off. All the energy from the plants is drawn down into the now mature potatoes and the tops will first loose structure and fall over, next they will start to yellow and if left in the ground the tops will eventually die off completely and dry up.

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I have found that the best time to harvest potatoes is once when the tops look like this photo. The plants have fallen over and roughly 50% of the leaves have yellowed or withered. In our area this seems to be the best time to harvest.

When to Harvest Potatoes 3

This is a photo of one of our patches that went a little too long this year. See how the tops are completely gone? This is a bit too long for you potatoes to be in the ground. It’s not the end of the world if you wait this long, but it does increase the risk of rotting. Also if you leave potatoes in the ground too long you risk the potatoes sprouting and growing new tops.

 

This is a shot of a patch of potatoes that is not ready to harvest yet. You can see some early signs of yellowing and the tops falling, but this patch could stay in the ground for at least another 3 weeks.

Make sure you check out the video that I filmed above. I was able to show you pictures of all 3 of our patches this year. They were all planted at different times so they are all in different stages of readiness for harvest.

Other potato Growing resources

Over the years I’ve written several posts on different aspects of growing potatoes. Here are some links to them to help you even more!

Growing Early potatoes

Early Potatoes 2017 revision #3 fb

Growing Potatoes using the Hill method

Growing Potatoes FB

Curing Potatoes before you store them

Curing Potatoes fb

Storing Potatoes for winter

Storing Potatoes fb

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How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

As Fall progresses and tomato season comes to and end you can use these tips to learn how to ripen green tomatoes.

How To Ripen Green Tomatoes

Fall is my favorite time of year.  But one thing that I don’t like about fall is the fact that very soon we will no longer have fresh tomatoes from the garden.  Our first frost arrives roughly the 1st of October, we are usually able to protect our tomatoes for a week or two longer with fabric row covers.  But sooner or later mother nature is going to take our tomato plants and leave us with a bunch of tomatoes that are either green, or at best not fully ripe.

Over the years we have learned how to ripen green tomatoes inside our house or garage.  These tomatoes are never as tasty as those that we pick, sun ripened, in August and September.  But they are still pretty good and way better than store bought tomatoes.

5 tips on How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

Here are 5 tips to help you continue to enjoy your garden grown tomatoes for a month or two after the cold weather arrives.

Don’t bother with the small stuff

A day or two before the really cold weather arrives you need to get out in your garden and pick all of the un-ripe tomatoes.  While we are going through our tomato plants we only pick decent sized tomatoes.  It’s not worth the bother with all the millions of little tomatoes.  Just choose tomatoes that are roughly “baseball” size or bigger.  Pick any tomatoes that are already starting to ripen and as many larger green tomatoes as you think you will need for the next month or two.

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes 2

Sort your tomatoes well

Any tomatoes that are showing even the smallest sign of ripening need to be in a box by themselves.  Ripening tomatoes (and many other fruits) put off a chemical that causes other tomatoes to ripen.  If one of your tomatoes is ripening and you leave it with the others they will all start to ripen.  We like to pull any ripening fruit out and keep it separate that way the whole box doesn’t ripen at once.

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes 2

Store your Tomatoes 1 layer deep

After about a week of being indoors put all your green tomatoes in open boxes (or just on a table top) only one layer deep.  Again this keeps the ripening from spreading too quickly.  Keep your tomatoes in a very cool spot.  We like to keep ours in the garage where it is cold all winter but never freezes.

Pull any ripening tomatoes out of your boxes

As the tomatoes start to ripen separate the ripening fruit from the green.  Check your tomatoes often and any time you see one that is ripening, pull it out of the box.  We have found that if we do this we get a nice slow ripening process over the course of a couple of months.  If you leave the tomatoes that are turning red in the box with your green ones that ripening will quickly spread though the whole box.  Pulling the ripening tomatoes out slows down the process for the rest of the box.

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Some years we have had garden grown tomatoes as late as New Years and have used them to make salsa!  Of course if you want them to ripen sooner then you can leave a ripening fruit in the box with the others or bring them in the warm house where they will ripen much sooner.

Keep your expectations low

These are NOT the vine ripened mouth watering beauties you are harvesting in August and September.  We often compare ripened green tomatoes to store bought tomatoes.  They just don’t have the same flavor and texture that their vine ripened counterparts have.  But they are home grown and organic, and are perfect for soups and casseroles in the early winter months!  I even slap them on a sandwich every once in a while.

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So that is how to ripen green tomatoes.  If you manage the process well you can have a few ripe tomatoes every week for two or more months after the season ends.

Would you like to learn more about growing your own tomatoes?  You should buy my tomato growing course on The Online Gardening School.  Click the link below to learn more and to get the course for 1/2 off!

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Where can you buy Garlic Seed?

Fall is the time to plant garlic in your backyard garden. You can buy garlic seed from several different sources both online or locally.

Buy Garlic Seed

This post contains affiliate links, clicking on them with not cost you any thing extra, but does allow Stoney Acres to make a small commission on your purchase through the Amazon Affiliate Program!

First off, for those of you new to growing garlic. “Garlic Seed” is actually just individual cloves of garlic planted in the ground. So seed garlic isn’t really a seed, but instead just cloves of garlic. If you would like to learn more about planting garlic in the fall check out this post.

When you buy garlic seed, you are really just looking for plain old garlic! There are several ways you can buy garlic seed. My preference is to get my seed locally when ever possible. Garlic adapts well to local environments so if I can find garlic seed from a grower in your area you are much more likely to have a locally adapted variety.

There are four different sources for buying garlic seed. I have listed them below in my recommended order of preference:

Buy Garlic Seed #3

Grow your own seed

My first source where you can buy garlic seed, doesn’t require that you buy anything! You can just grow your own garlic seed. Now of course at some point you will need to buy some garlic seed to get started. But if you buy and plant extra garlic your first year, you can then save your own garlic seed and you will never have to buy garlic again. I haven’t bought garlic seed for over 7 years!

To save you own seed just be sure you save a few bulbs of garlic for fall. Divide up those garlic bulbs into cloves and select only the biggest and healthiest looking cloves. Even if you start out with only a few cloves to plant, by carefully saving the best cloves in only a couple of seasons you will have plenty for a large crop!

Buy garlic seed from a Farmers Market

I really like buying garlic from a farmers market. You can take a bulb or two home and try them out. If you like them then the next week you can pick up some more from your local farmer. Pick the biggest and best cloves from each bulb you buy and plant those. And you can eat up the rest. Buying garlic seed this way is WAY cheaper, it gives you a chance to try the variety out first and usually means you are buying a variety that is already adapted to grow in your area.

Buy Garlic Seed #2

When you buy garlic seed from a farmers market you will find this is the cheapest way to very quickly get your own garlic crop started. Garlic at a farmers market costs only a couple of dollars per pound. That is just a fraction of what you would pay for it in a garden center or online. Just make sure you ask the farmer the name of the variety, I made the mistake of not asking and now I have no idea what one of our favorite varieties is called!! 🙂

Buy garlic seed from a local garden nursery

In the fall most good local garden centers should sell some garlic seed. Call around first and see which nurseries have them. Try to stick with the local shops and they should have a better selection and better quality seed than the big box stores.

Buy Garlic Seed Online

There are countless growers out there that sell garlic online. And this is a good option especially if you are looking for specific varieties to grow. Buying online is usually more expensive! I have seen garlic seed selling for as much as $15 a pound in some places. But if you save your own seed the first season, this this should be a one time expense.

Here are links to a few sites I found to buy garlic:

Amazon – You can get garlic seed from several growers on Amazon including:

1. Country Creek Acres
2. Stargazer Perennials
3. Daylily Nursery

Other sites

Filaree Garlic Farm – https://www.filareefarm.com/

The Garlic Store – http://www.thegarlicstore.com/

Keene Garlic – https://www.keeneorganics.com/

Territorial Seed – http://www.territorialseed.com/category/all-garlic-shallot-bulbs

Great Northern Garlic – http://www.greatnortherngarlic.com/

This is just a short list of sellers. Do you have a favorite that I missed? Leave the site address in the comment section and I will add it to the post!

Buy Garlic Seed #4

Buy Garlic Seed from the grocery store

This last place to buy garlic is a source to use only if you are desperate Yes you can plant the cloves from garlic you buy at the grocery store. But there are several problems with this source. First off you have no idea what you are getting. You don’t know the variety, how it was raised or what chemicals were used on the plant. Grocery store garlic is also almost always soft neck, which stores longer but isn’t always the tastiest choice. Often commercial growers will treat their garlic with chemicals that are meant to prevent sprouting. You don’t want that! And on top of everything else grocery store garlic is almost guaranteed to not be organic, which is important to me.

Now I’m not saying it’s impossible to grow from grocery store garlic. I know people who do it all the time. But buying garlic seed from a grocery store introduces so many extra variables that I really don’t recommend it.

Fall is Garlic Planting Time

The most successful garlic growers plant their garlic in the fall. So get busy right now and find some garlic seed to get planted. You can learn more about planting garlic in the fall by reading this post that I wrote last year. But keep in mind that you have a pretty big window for planting in the fall. You really can plant garlic right up until the day before the ground freezes. For many of us that means you can plant as late as mid November. But Mid October is usually a better choice if you can make it happen then.

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Protecting your garden from Early Frost

Protecting your garden from Early Frost can extend your growing season by several weeks.  This post will teach you my trick for defeating those first few early season frosts!

How to Protect Your Garden from Early Frost

This post contains affiliate links, clicking on them with not cost you any thing extra, but does allow Stoney Acres to make a small commission on your purchase through the Amazon Affiliate Program!

It never fails, almost every year we have 2 or 3 nights in late September or early October that reach the low 30’s and leave a frost.  They are usually not really hard frosts but they are enough to ruin the squash plants or nip the tomatoes.  These cold nights are inevitably followed by 2 or 3 weeks of beautiful weather in the 70’s with lows in the 50’s.  Not perfect weather for summer crops but still warm enough to ripen some tomatoes or grow a few more zucchini.  So what do you do to protect your crops from these early light freezes?  In our area it is not worth it to try and put up a hoop house or other structure.  So what is the answer to protecting your garden from early frost?

Floating Row Covers!!
Protecting your garden from Early Frost

Held down by some clips this row cover protects tomato plants well from light frost

Floating row covers are the best solution for protecting your garden from early frost.  Row covers are lightweight blankets usually made from spun-bonded polypropylene.  They are relatively inexpensive to buy and can be found at most garden supply stores or on online.  They can be known by several trade names like Agribon or Remay.  I always buy the heaviest grade sold.  The heavier grades last a lot longer, usually 8 or more seasons of heavy use (I’ve bought some lighter grades that only lasted one or less).

The heavy grades offer from 6 to 8 degrees of frost protection, meaning they can protect down to 26 maybe even 24 degrees for a short time.  These row covers can also serve double duty by adding extra protection in the cold frame later in the winter.  They are rain permeable and let in plenty of light. But the heavier fabrics are not meant to be left on long term.  My suggestion is that if it is going to warm up during the day then you should take your row covers off to let the sun light in!

Protecting your garden from Early Frost 1

Here’s an example of the heavier grade row cover fabric this piece has been used heavily for 6 seasons

 

Protecting your garden from Early Frost 2

Lighter grade row covers don’t last nearly as long, this cover was used for only a couple of months this spring

A Handy Size

Most of my row covers are cut to about 10 x 8 foot pieces so that they will also fit the cold frames with some over lap.  I simply take them out and throw them over my plants and secure them with a few rocks or attach them to the tomato cages with some clamps.  Although they are not perfect, for early light frost this seems to work well and assure my plants will live to fight (or produce) another day.

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Here’s a good example: the pumpkin plants on the right were under the protection of row covers after our first frost the left side wasn’t protected

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Even after a the heavy frost we had earlier in the week these tomatoes are still doing well under row covers

Of course Floating row covers can be used to great effect on the other side of the gardening year as well by protecting your spring crops from a late frost.  Everyone interested in simple season extension should have plenty of row cover fabric on hand!!  I think every gardener should have at least 4 – 4 x 10 foot pieces on hand.  I seriously don’t know what I did before I bought my fabric row covers (oh wait, yes I do, I used to cover my tomato plants with old bed sheets).  Trust me Floating row covers are one of the handiest things any gardener can have around!!  Buy some today, before the frost comes!!

Would you like to learn more about extending your growing season?  Then please buy my 5 hour video course on Year Round Gardening!  It is at a special price for my readers!  $15 off or only $25!!
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When to Harvest Onions

Onions are one of my favorite garden crops. Knowing when to harvest onions is a pretty simple process. This post and accompanying video will tell you all you need to know.

When to Harvest Onions -

 

 

This post contains affiliate links, clicking on them with not cost you any thing extra, but does allow Stoney Acres to make a small commission on your purchase through the Amazon Affiliate Program!

The reason we love growing our own onions so much is because it is one of the crops that we can grow 100% of our families needs! I love the fact that over the last 10 years or so we have only bought a couple of onions from the store!! Knowing when to harvest onions is really not hard, but there is a bit of a trick to it.

This week I filmed a 5 minute gardening video tip to help you know when to harvest your onions.  The video is below!

Conventional sources will tell you that your onions are ready to harvest when the tops have fallen over. But I disagree with that. I think that once the tops have fallen over you should wait at least 3 weeks or even as long as 5 weeks before you dig those onions up.

When to Harvest Onions 2

Even after your tops have fallen over your onion bulbs will continue to grow and put on size.  Also after those tops have fallen over and the onions reach their mature size, like all bulbs they will start to draw energy in from the leaves back into the bulb.  I feel like this process makes for a better tasting and longer lasting onion.

When to harvest onions

I don’t harvest my onions until the tops have started to yellow and wither significantly.  Once at least half of the leaves have withered then you can start to harvest.

When to Harvest Onions 3

Once you have decided when to harvest onions in your garden the next step is to dig them up!  Notice that I didn’t say “pull them up”.  That is because you need to use a shoved or digging fork to gently lift the onions from the soil.  Pulling them from the top could damage the bulbs and we don’t want that.

Curing your onions

Once you have harvested your onions you need to let them cure for about 3 weeks.  To cure your onions just set them in a cool, dark and airy place and let them dry!  The key to getting a good cure is to be sure the onions are out of direct sunlight and that they can’t get wet!  We like to cure ours in our garage on a screen, but a garden shed or even a covered patio will also work.

When to Harvest Onions 4

Depending on the variety, onions can last for up to 10 months in storage.  They should be stored in a mesh bag in a dark cool spot.  Temperatures around 45 degrees would be best, but are often hard for many of us to achieve.  Just do your best to keep them cool, the longer they can stay at that 40 to 45 degree range the longer they will last.

If you would like a little more info on growing onions, here are a couple of other posts I’ve written:

Complete Onion Growing Guide

Curing and Storing Onions for 10 months or more

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Fresh Homemade Salsa – Straight from Your Garden

The tomatoes at our place are slowly starting to produce more.  And that means it’s time for Fresh Homemade Salsa.  Easy to make and super delicious, you will love this fresh garden treat!

Fresh Homemade Salsa

This post contains affiliate links, clicking on them with not cost you any thing extra, but does allow Stoney Acres to make a small commission on your purchase through the Amazon Affiliate Program!

We love fresh homemade salsa!  There is nothing better than its awesome tomato filled taste.  Now you need to understand that the Stone’s are not hot salsa lovers.  In fact we don’t put any hot peppers in our salsa but all you need to do is add your choice of spicy pepper to the recipe below.

That’s the beauty of making your own fresh homemade salsa.  You can add what ever you like!  If you like spicy, add hot peppers!  Don’t like garlic?  Leave it out!  Do what ever you like best!

Add some fresh homemade tortilla chips and you will have the perfect snack!

 Fresh Homemade Salsa

4 medium ripe tomatoes

1/2 small onion (we like onion so we some times add more)

1 green bell pepper

1-2 cloves garlic

Jalapeno peppers to taste (we leave these out)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt

1/2 to 1 tablespoon sugar (or you can substitute Honey)

Cilantro (again to taste, start out with just a little)

Directions

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Using a blender or food processor put 1 each of all vegetables and using pulse just until it is still chunky.  Repeat until it is all done.

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Mix salsa, adding sugar and salt until it suits your taste.  If it seems to hot, add more tomatoes.  Store in glass jar.  Since this is fresh, it will not store too long.  Makes about 1 quart.  Must be refrigerated.

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We like a nice runny salsa so we leave all the liquid in.  If you like yours a little dryer you can drain all or some of the liquid to your taste.

Fresh Homemade Salsa 5

This is a really flexible recipe.  If you need more, double it, less cut it in half.  Start off with the smaller amounts of salt and sugar, taste it and add more to match your taste.  Not hot enough for you, add more jalapenos, to hot?  Add more tomatoes.

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We have found it is easiest to make this fresh homemade salsa in our Ultra Chef Express Food Chopper.  It’s easy to use and works out perfect for these types of cooking projects!

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This is one of the highlights of fresh tomato season for us.  We make at least one batch a week all of August to October.

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We even bring in the green tomatoes before the first frost and let them ripen in the garage to make more salsa.  Our last batch of fresh homemade salsa is sometimes made as late as new years day!!  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

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