Thanksgiving Feast

The Thanksgiving Feast combines frost-hardy salad greens, crops that “keep” well, and herbs-de-Provence for drying. If carried out with careful planning and co-operative growing conditions, you will have the makings of a bountiful Thanksgiving feast right from your own garden. Get your pasture-raised turkey from a local farmer, and you’ll be set for a delicious, nutrient-dense meal to share. Check out these Thanksgiving side dishes for ideas.

Thanksgiving_Feast2
 


Russet Potatoes

potato
  • Plant 1-1/2″ chunks 4″ deep.
  • Purchase seed potatoes, or use organic potatoes that were not treated to resist sprouting.
  • Plant by July 17 or August 21 (depending on variety) for fall crop. Not frost-hardy.
  • Spacing: one to three plants per sq. ft.
  • Days to harvest: 55 to 90. Harvest anytime after flowering and before frost.
  • Hint: Watch for Colorado potato beetles. Remove and kill. Remove eggs as well. Alternatively, start the potato seedlings under a bottle cloche to avoid the problem until cool weather comes.
  • Storage tips: Potatoes should be ready to harvest by October 15. In order to preserve them until Thanksgiving, first, severely restrict their water for two weeks before harvest to toughen the skins. Allow the vines to die. Carefully dig up the potatoes, brush off the dirt and allow them to cure for 10 days. Remove any damaged spuds, place the good ones in paper bags, roll shut and place in a very cool place (35-40°). Do not store with apples.

Beans

beans
  • Sow seeds 1″ deep directly in garden, no later than mid-July.
  • Spacing: four plants per sq. ft. for bush beans, six to eight plants per sq. ft. for pole beans
  • Plant second crop of bush beans (if needed) two weeks after first planting.
  • Days to harvest: 50-80 days from seed, depending on variety. Not frost-hardy.
  • Hint: Add a legume inoculant when planting to increase vigor and yield.
  • Storage tips: Bean plants will die with frost, so save and preserve some of the harvest to use for Thanksgiving. Freeze them with or without blanching. They may also be preserved by lacto-fermentation or canning.

Sweet Potatoes

sweetpotato
  • Plant slips (rooted sprouts) no later than July 17, once soil and night temperatures are 60 degrees or more.
  • Spacing: one per sq. ft.
  • Days to harvest: 90
  • Hints: Cover soil with black plastic to increase heat and prevent unwanted rooting of vines. Harvest and eat sweet potato greens (in the same way as spinach; tender and mild tasting) to encourage larger tubers.
  • Storage tips: Sweet potatoes should be ready to harvest by October 15. In order to preserve them until Thanksgiving, cure in the sun for a few hours. Do not leave them overnight, if there is danger of frost. Do not wash them. Sort for any damaged sweet potatoes, and use those soon. Continue curing the rest for 10-14 days in a warm, dark, ventilated place. After this, store them in a cool, dry, ventilated place. Another option is to cook and freeze them.

Summer Savory

summer_savorysm_r1_c1
  • A sweet-flavored annual
  • Sow 1/4″ deep directly in the garden anytime in spring or no later than August 6.
  • Spacing: thin to not more than one per sq. ft. Only one plant is needed per household.
  • Days to Harvest: 70
  • Hints: Makes a good companion for beans and tomatoes. May become top-heavy and require staking.
  • Tips for Storing: Leaves may be frozen or dried.

Carrots

carrots
  • Sow seeds in garden 1/4″ deep sometime between August 6th and 21st, depending on the variety.
  • Spacing: Plant 30 seeds per sq. ft.; thin to 16 plants per sq. ft.
  • Replant six to eight weeks before fall frost for late crop (between August 20th and September 3rd).
  • Days to harvest: 55 to 70 days from seed. Frost-hardy.
  • Hint: Before planting, loosen soil to 12″; remove stones, and add compost.

Corn

corn
  • Sow seeds 1″ deep directly in garden.
  • Spacing: Plant four seeds per sq. ft.; thin to two plants per sq. ft.
  • Plant no later than August 1st.
  • Growing at least 12 to 18 plants of same variety will ensure best pollination.
  • Days to harvest: 65 to 75 from planting. Not frost-hardy.
  • Storage tips: There are various ways to store corn from drying to freezing to canning.

Corn Salad

cornsaladsm_r1_c1
  • Also known as “mache,” it is sweet, slightly nutty, tender, and juicy.
  • It will grow among corn, so sprinkle sparingly throughout the corn and cover at a depth of 1/4″. 
  • Spacing: When large enough, thin seedlings to about 3″ apart.
  • Germination time: 14-28 days, keep moist.
  • Succession sow every two to four weeks for a continuous supply.
  • Self-sows readily. Harvest most of the rosettes, but allow a few flowers to form seeds.
  • Days to harvest: 60 days to full size. Edible anytime. Snip and eat outer leaves as it is growing. Replant every two weeks. Very frost-hardy.
  • Hints: Prefers to germinate in early spring or fall. Will bolt at 80°. Water regularly and add mulch.

Brussels Sprouts

brussels_sprouts
  • Start seedlings 1/4″ deep indoors six weeks before last spring frost.
  • Transplant into garden soon after the last spring frost.
  • Spacing: one per sq. ft. Plant early season crops nearby to give Brussels sprouts more space later in season.
  • Very frost-hardy. Harvest after frost for best flavor.
  • Days to harvest: 90 to 110.
  • Hint: Cut off growing tip of plants a month before fall frost to get bigger sprouts.

Leaf Lettuce

leaf_lettuce
  • Sow seed 1/4″ deep directly in garden.
  • Thin seedlings when four weeks old.
  • Spacing: 16 plants per sq. ft.
  • Plant more lettuce every two to four weeks until frost for a good supply.
  • Days to harvest: 28 for baby lettuce, 45 for full size. Frost-hardy.
  • Hint: Harvest outer leaves anytime, or use scissors to harvest entire plant, leaving an inch of stem to encourage new growth.

Spinach

spinach
  • Plant seeds 1/2″ deep directly in garden.
  • Sow spinach every two weeks in late summer for fall crops.
  • Spacing: sow 18 seeds per sq. ft.; thin to nine plants per sq. ft.
  • Days to harvest: 30 to 40 days from germination. Very frost-hardy.
  • Hint: Spinach bolts in hot weather, so harvest early. Keep soil cool and moist with mulch or shade netting.

Thyme

thyme
  • Plant: Start with a small potted plant in mid-spring. Hardiness varies depending on variety. Tender or hardy perennial.
  • Spacing: two plants per sq. ft.
  • Days to harvest: Leaves from first year plants can be picked sparingly by midsummer.
  • Hint: Good drainage is essential for success. Work in plenty of compost, but no fertilizer is needed.
  • Storage tips: Can be frozen, dried, vacuum sealed, or preserved in vinegar or oil (for more info.).

Pearl Onions

pearl_onionssm_r1_c1
  • Sow seed 1/4” deep by June 17.
  • Thin seedlings to 1/4″-1/2″ apart. Add thinnings to salad.
  • Days to harvest: 90-120 for pearls, 150-180 for full-sized bulbs. Frost-hardy with care.
  • Hint: Mulch at least 2″ deep if freezing temperatures are expected. May also be pickled to preserve.

Patisson Golden Marbre Scallop Squash

PatissonGoldenMarbreScallopSquash_r2_c2
  • Plant seeds 3/4″ deep indoors or outdoors, three weeks after last frost, when soil is 70 degrees F.
  • Transplant: three weeks after last frost, or when soil is 70 degrees F.
  • Spacing: one plant per sq. ft. Grow on trellis, or allow vines to run out of the garden.
  • Days to harvest: 55 from planting seeds. Pick before first frost. May be eaten as summer and winter squash (see Cynthia’s review). Will continue producing until frost.
  • Hint: Prune growing tips to keep under control. Leave stems attached when harvesting.
  • Storage tip: Allow skin to harden in the sun for several days for longer shelf life. Young squash may also be pickled. See Cynthia’s review for this and other ideas.

Leeks

leeks
  • Sow seeds 1/4″-1/2″ deep, about 1″ apart.
  • Thinnings can be used in salad.
  • Spacing: thin to six plants per sq. ft.
  • Days to harvest: 50 to 75 from transplant for early leeks; 90 to 120 for storage leeks. Harvest as needed. Frost-hardy.
  • Hint: To get long white stems, plant in a 6″ hole, and fill with soil as leeks grow.

Swiss chard

swisschard
  • Plant seeds 1/2″ deep in garden.
  • Spacing: two plants per sq. ft.
  • Days to harvest: 30 days from seed for baby; 50 days to full size. Frost-hardy.
  • Hint: Also a good source of summer greens, chard is not bothered by heat.

Rosemary

rosemary
  • Choose a cold-hardy cultivar of rosemary, and you can overwinter it right in the garden.
  • For ease, buy a rosemary start locally, or begin from a cutting.
  • Transplant seedlings into garden after spring frosts subside.
  • Spacing: not more than one per sq. ft. Trim as necessary and freeze, or dry the trimmings for use.
  • Hints: Rosemary takes up to 15-25 days to germinate if planted from seed under ideal conditions. Do not overwater. Do mulch, but keep away from the crown of the plant to avoid rot. Prune dead wood in spring.

Chives

chives
  • Purchase a pot of chives, or get a clump from a neighbor. Plant in garden anytime. Hardy perennial.
  • Chives take about three weeks to germinate if planted from seed.
  • Spacing: nine plants per sq. ft.
  • Days to harvest: Leaves can be harvested as soon as they are 6″ tall. Cutting promotes regrowth. Use flowers in salads.
  • Hint: Divide and pot up some chives in fall, and bring indoors to grow on a sunny windowsill all winter.

Oregano

oregano
  • Purchase potted plant. Seed-grown plants may not have good flavor. Hardy perennial.
  • Spacing: one plant per sq. ft.
  • Days to harvest: Leaves from first-year plants can be picked sparingly by midsummer.
  • Hint: Plants with white flowers have best-tasting leaves. Cull plants that revert to pink flowers.
  • Storage tips: Gather a bouquet, and hang to dry. May also be preserved in the same way as thyme.

Marjoram

marjoramsm_r1_c1
  • Start seeds indoors during late winter or early spring, or buy a nursery start.
  • Push seeds just below soil surface.
  • Transplant outside once all threat of frost has passed.
  • Spacing: four per sq. ft. Trim as necessary, and freeze or dry the trimmings for use.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Pick shoots for drying just before flowers begin to open – best flavor; fully open blooms produce bitter taste.
  • Storage tip: Bundle cuttings, and hang upside down in dark, dry, well-ventilated area.

Garlic

garlic
  • For largest bulbs, plant cloves during fall of the previous year, six weeks before ground freezes, 2″ deep, pointy end up. Plant no later than March for harvest the same year.
  • Spacing: four per sq. ft.
  • Days to harvest: nine months, may be used “green” (fresh).
  • Hint: Keep soil evenly moist all summer, 1″ water per week. Mulch several weeks after planting to retain moisture and insulate against extreme cold.
  • Storage tips: Harvest when tops have flopped over and are dry. Harvest during dry weather to keep the soil from clinging to the heads. Cure in a dry, shady, airy place for a couple months for long-term storage.

Rocket Salad

Rocket Saladsm_r1_c1
  • Lovely pepper flavor.
  • Eaten raw in salad or cooked (can be spinach substitute), flowers also edible.
  • When large enough to handle, thin to 3″ apart.
  • Days to harvest: four weeks to maturity.
  • Late summer sowing will continue to crop into winter if protected.
  • Keep soil moist during hot weather to prevent bolting; needs some shade in hot weather to prevent leaves from becoming tough and unpalatable.
  • Hints: Do not over-water – dilutes taste. Susceptible to flea beetle. Grow under fleece. Regular picking keeps growth young, tender and tasty. Cut-and-come-again crop. Pinch buds to prolong cropping. Leave one or two to go to seed.

Winter Purslane

Winter-Purslanesm_r1_c1
  • Also known as “Miner’s Lettuce”
  • Incredibly succulent, melt-in-your-mouth, rich, tart-creaminess, mild taste
  • Spinach substitute, edible flowers
  • Sow in August and September for autumn/early winter crop, or sow under protection from August to December and in March or April.
  • Try to sow sparsely. Should give a continuous supply from October to May.
  • Keep well watered, seed usually germinates rapidly. Very hardy.
  • Do not allow all of the plants to go to seed! Preserve a few to self-sow.
  • Hint: Makes an excellent groundcover under trees with acid soil.

Chopsuey Greens

chop suey greenssm_r1_c1
  • Also known as shungiku or edible chrysanthemum
  • Surface sow, press into soil, do not cover (requires light to germinate).
  • Sow at intervals of a few weeks for a constant supply.
  • Thin to 3″ apart.
  • Eat leaves and shoots raw or cooked. Flower petals are edible; center of flowers is bitter.
  • Days to harvest: 10-18 to germination, 40-60 to maturity.
  • Hint: May bolt quickly in warm summer conditions.

Lettuce

lettuce
  • Sow seed 1/4″ deep in garden.
  • Spacing: Start with five seedlings, eat four as they grow, and let one head mature to full size.
  • Plant more lettuce seeds every two to four weeks until frost for a continuous supply.
  • Days to harvest: 50 to full size.
  • Edible anytime. Replant every two weeks. Frost-hardy.
  • Hint: Lettuce dislikes heat. Give plants afternoon shade and lots of water.

Mesclun Mix

mesclun_mix
  • Sow seed 1/4” deep directly in garden.
  • Thin seedlings when four weeks old. Add thinnings to salad.
  • Spacing: 16 plants per sq. ft.
  • Plant more mesclun mix seeds every two to four weeks until frost for a good supply.
  • Days to harvest: 28 for baby mix, 45 for full size. Frost-hardy.
  • Hint: Harvest outer leaves anytime, or use scissors to harvest entire plant, leaving an inch of stem to encourage new growth.

* Please note: Lexington’s weather records show frost as early as September 23 on three occasions, one as recently as 2012. However, the average normal is sometime between October 14-16. Watch and plan accordingly. Many plants can be protected from frost with covering and a little extra care. The planting dates listed above are based on the average normal first frost and are intended as a late summer/fall sowing for cool weather harvest.

**This plan involves multiple planting dates and some crop preservation techniques. It may be best for those with some gardening experience. As crop spaces come open, plant quick-growing crops for additional harvest.