A Little Pre-Season Look Back

I peeked in here earlier this week when I came to approve a comment and was a little dismayed but not surprised to see I haven’t posted anything for nearly two months. I’m not even going to say “Yikes!” I stopped posting about food and cooking quite a while back. I decided my photos weren’t very good and there are so many other, much better food blogs. I blog to learn about and enjoy the community of gardeners. But, the thing is, in my part of the world the gardening season is limited. This winter I’ve been putting more time into other projects while I have the time. They are the things that will similarly get put on the back burner when spring finally rolls around.

Still, there has been some garden-related activity. I’ve been planning and preparing for the coming season. I got some new shop lights this week to expand my seed starting area and I tested a bunch of old seeds to see if they would be OK to share in the seed swap a friend of mine has mentioned hosting. Spoiler alert: The tomatoes all did great, even the ones that were several years old. Woot!

Anyway, just to stay in the blogging groove and to keep from forgetting how to use the software, I’m going to share a little series of photos with you. Last season, I got the idea of taking an image of the gardens from the same spot over the weeks and months. I’ve pared the collection down to some representative ones that show the progression of the plots over time.

2014-05-20 09.55.27 HDR

May 20—Most gardeners have been at it for weeks already, myself included.

2014-05-26 11.36.45

May 26—Only a week later and you can see how much someone’s lettuce there in the right foreground has grown. So has that patch of weeds to the left of the image’s center. That’s the neglectful neighbor’s plot I wrote about once. My plot is the one just about in the center of the image. You can just see the light brown posts I put up for my tomatoes. In the right of the image is some of the abundant stickwork my kitty-corner neighbor does each season.

2014-06-09 16.09.37

June 9—A couple more weeks and those beans in the foreground have really taken off. On the right you can see a trellis platform up on poles. She grew pumpkins up on that!

Photo Jun 21, 6 10 12 AM

June 21—Things are really getting lush now.

Photo Jul 13, 11 14 57 AM

July 13

9-14

September 14—I somehow missed taking pictures in August. We did leave town for a couple of weeks to go camping and I guess I just neglected this project the rest of the time.

Photo Sep 28, 4 18 33 PM

September 28—Trees are starting to color and it’s getting dark earlier. The row of trees to the west of the gardens starts casting its shadow farther into the garden every day at the same time.

Photo Oct 06, 11 44 47 AM

October 6—Things are starting to definitely look past their prime. This is about the time of year we could start getting frost but it hadn’t come yet.

Photo Oct 25, 12 22 25 PM

October 25—Still no frost/freeze. This is why I just go ahead with fall crops as if the frost date might be weeks later than anticipated. Sometimes it is.

November_28__2014_at_1202PM

November 28—A month later everything has changed. We were still picking Brussels sprouts, of course, but for most everything else it was over.

I’m finding I enjoy looking through the images I took in the garden over the past seasons and years. Sometimes they serve as a reference of what a particular crop was doing at a specific time. It’s also just nice to have some reminders of what a green garden can look like months after it’s all been covered in snow.

Do you ever just flip through old garden pictures and enjoy remembering?

Advertisements

The Beginning of the End

I’ve known for a while that October was going to be a busy month. Not garden-busy, necessarily, but other-stuff-busy. Life happens, so what can you do? I elected to take advantage of a window of opportunity that occurred one recent afternoon when the Co-Conspirator and I weren’t at work and were actually in town to get some cleanup done.

Tomato Cleanup

Recent cool weather and Septoria leaf spot had pretty much done in the tomatoes. I didn’t anticipate getting any more harvest from them and couldn’t see much time left on the calendar to do garden cleanup. We trekked up to the garden and started removing anything that was “done” for the season. The two bare beds are where the tomatoes grew. We removed all the plants, fruit, fallen leaves and mulch to the compost heap to try to keep the Septoria in check. I also won’t grow tomatoes in those locations for a couple of years. The stakes got stacked inside the cages to keep them off the ground, though they will most likely still be under snow for much of the winter. Along with the tomatoes went all the bean plants, the tomatillo, chard and squash remains. I pulled the rest of the carrots, topless thanks to varmints. The same varmints also ate off my sweet potato vines so I doubt there is going to be any harvest of them this year.

There are a few things still growing including leeks, more Brussels sprouts than we’ll ever eat, herbs including a huge lemongrass plant along with spinach, bok choy, arugula and this year’s three “experimental” crops. I’ll report on them later. For now I’m just glad to have such a good amount of the fall cleanup out of the way.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

A few days ago I picked all of my Bush Delicata squash. They seemed ripe enough and the vine was starting to look a little ragged. It actually did vine more than I expected so I’m wondering if it was true to type. The two I grew last year stayed in compact mounds. Those two plants produced seven squash between them, this year’s single, viney plant made ten. I’m looking forward to having them in soups and curries, stuffing ravioli with them, making enchiladas (no kidding!) and mashing them up to go alongside roasted beasts and fowls. Delicata isn’t my favorite squash. Red Kuri probably holds that honor, or perhaps Buttercup. I grow the Bush Delicata because of my space limitations. Some day I’ll have plenty of room to try all sorts of squashes in my garden. For now I’ll just be picking up different varieties at the Farmers Market to sample.

2014 Squash

Something about harvesting the squash brought home the feeling that the garden season is really coming to an end. I know that I may have another good month of growing time, but my fall planting of peas, broccoli and a variety of lettuces have all failed already and I doubt there’s enough time to start over. Some spinach is coming up slowly. I may winter some of that  over as a spring crop. The arugula is the only thing I planted this fall that is actually doing well. It’ll be delicious tossed on pizza hot out of the oven.

Salsas and Chutney

What I think of as the “high summer crops” are as good as done. The paste and globe tomatoes were ushered out a little early by some wet weather that gave Septoria an edge. The two cherry varieties don’t seem to be as susceptible. I may throw some more of those in the dehydrator. More on that some other time.  The rest were all picked regardless of ripeness and I put up batches of green tomato chutney and salsa, one last red tomato salsa and a second batch of tomatillo salsa—this time without the cloying artificial lime juice. The peppers, which hadn’t produced much to speak of anyway, I gave up on long ago. I really knew things were coming to a close when the tomatillo finally stated to slow down. Man, those things are productive at their peak! All but a few straggling beans that are taking their dear sweet time drying have been picked and shelled—more on that will be coming, too.

So what’s left? There are a few roots in the ground—carrots, beets and turnips. Also, I hope, plugging along out of view are the peanuts, oca and sweet potatoes. It’s at that time of the growing season where the date of the first real frost will make or break their success. As we’re at the equinox, the oca will only just be beginning to form its tubers so I’m set to cover it at a moment’s notice if the forecast is cold. The Brussels sprouts are starting to fill out their mini-cabbagey heads and I’ve picked enough for a little side-dish for two. We’ve got more leeks than we know what to do with. The Malabar spinach is positively rampant, covering its rustic tee-pee. and displaying funky, pink-tipped flower buds. I’ve only eaten it a few time in summer rolls and in a rough approximation of Bachali Kura Pappu with black-eyed peas. I plan to make that again with the proper ingredients now that I’ve finally located an Indian grocery that has curry leaves and the right dal.

Malabar Spinach Buds

The list of tasks yet to complete this year is fairly short. Dead tomatoes, peppers and so on have to be hauled to the community compost heap and all the supports stacked. The above-mentioned underground crops will be pulled or dug . There are a couple buckets of good, composted horse manure I’ll bestow on a lucky bed or two. If my tricky arm feels up to it I’d like to dig some more leaf compost into the rest of the beds. At the very least everything but the garlic bed will be covered with a thick mulch of leaves. Around Halloween I’ll plant the garlic and mulch that with straw so the shoots can poke through easily next spring. Then all that’s left is the planning for next year. That and eating all the produce I’ve squirreled away for the winter.