The Mixed Bag Garden
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The garden this year was a mixed bag. I had a variety of 9 tomato plants, all started from seed back in March. I’ve got a nice, warm craft area upstairs in a loft with shop lights. When my plants outgrow their 4 inch pots, I put them in one gallon pots and move them out to the greenhouse.
Anyway, my poor tomato plants just flat-out withered and curled up. In the 10 years of gardening here, I have never, ever had a problem with tomatoes. Ever. But I was telling Bill to water down there every day for 30 minutes. He’s got a great drip system set up, but no way did those plants need 30 minutes a day. It was the Percocet talking (I had just had a knee replacement; it wasn’t my fault…). It wasn’t his fault, either; he was just taking orders from a drugged up wife. I guess that’ll teach him.
Well, overwatering led to downy mildew on the pumpkins, too, but I think I managed to save them, so we’ll have at least a dozen for the porch. I still decorate the porch and house for Halloween, even though it’s just the two of us and our house is very far off the main road in our rural neighborhood. It’s a matter of principle.
Fall is my very favorite time of year. By the end of a long, dry, hot summer, I am more than ready for flannel shirts and nightly fires in our big stone fireplace. So, I’m happy we’ll have some pumpkins and gourds from the garden to decorate with. The Cinderellas make good pies at Thanksgiving, too.
The tomatillos went crazy. I hadn’t had a decent tomatillo crop for 3 years. My seed company had sent me ground cherries instead. The description in the catalog described them as “savory” but they were the sweetest things imaginable. Sweet and very, very tiny. My chili verde salsa had vanished from the big freezer over time, but I’ve made two new big batches so far this Fall. That makes me a very happy tortilla making gal. One of my daughter’s friends used to get this little twinkle in her eye when she came over and I’d give her a jar of my green salsa. And she was Mexican, so I’ll take that as a compliment.
Haven’t harvested the potatoes, so not sure what that will bring.
The basil is in 57 pots in the greenhouse. It’s been a challenge, keeping them from dying out there, with temperatures in the mid to high 90’s so often this summer. My poor old knee and back just can’t take bending down yet, so I’ve decided to keep them at chest level near the house. So far, I’ve only reaped one tiny jar of pesto for the freezer, but I’m hoping for a lot more. I may even have to put a heater out there for a few weeks, when the weather turns. My husband won’t be happy, but I need a freezer full of pesto to last me a year. This may end up being very expensive pesto. Meh! That’s life.
Our corn sucked, too. Lousy pollination. The grand total of my Walla Walla onions was one!! Luckily, we have a nearby farm that offers great corn and lovely tomatoes. I decided not to stress about having a bad harvest this year and give myself a break. So, we can buy our tomatoes and just pretend they came from the garden, right? Why the heck not?
When I was in high school, I had an uncle who had an ongoing war going with another family member about who was going to pick the first ripe tomato of the season. He actually went to the store and bought a tomato, came home and tied it onto his tomato plant. We gardeners can be quite competitive.
The cucumbers are doing wonderfully, too, and they’re heirloom, so I’ll be able to save the seeds for next year. I learned that if you scrape out the seeds and let them soak for 3 days, you can separate the seeds from the gelatinous covering and flesh. That gel surrounding the seeds is actually an inhibitor, much like the gel that surrounds tomato seeds. The inhibitor is meant to protect seeds overwinter, and then to allow the seeds to germinate only when conditions are right in the Spring or Summer. I had already known this about tomatoes, since I took the Master Gardener course 10 years ago, but didn’t know this applied to cukes. It worked like a charm, too. After draining the sludge, I easily separated the seeds and then laid them out on the dehydrator sheets that are meant for things like fruit roll ups.
I’ve started seeds for Fall, too. Kale, chard, radishes, carrots and lettuce. My two favorite heirloom lettuces are “Winter Density” (which, as the name implies, is very winter hardy) and “Grandpa Admire’s). I get my heirloom seeds from Seed Saver’s, but since I save all of my seeds, I don’t need to replenish my stash very often. That makes the cost of the original seed packet easy to swallow. (I do not get paid for endorsing Seed Savers. My darling son bought me a membership for my birthday and I’ve been a fan since).
The marionberries and raspberries had a tough summer, too, and we can’t figure out why. They just sort of shriveled on the vine. The drip system waters them well, so we’re just not sure. Probably we should go get a few more plants before the end of the season.
The strawberries had just started in their new beds, so I didn’t expect much, in terms of a crop. And I got what I expected. But the few we did get were amazing tasting. After 4 years of huge harvests, it breaks my heart that the strawberries have to be sprayed and killed, so we can start with new ones in new beds. But otherwise, the risk of disease is too high and not worth taking.
The leeks will overwinter. I had started them about a year ago (!) from seed. Not exactly fast growing, those babies. But they’re almost impossible to kill. Which earns them kudos from me!
What else? Got a couple heads of garlic, just to have something more to plant as Fall arrives. Although I’m something of a “from scratch” cook, I am also a bit lazy when it comes to fresh garlic. I usually cheat and use the chopped garlic that comes in a jar. But I’ll get about 20 heads from this, and that’ll be fine.
I’m also going to try and grow a lot of thyme this year for my herb garden next Spring. My beautiful herb garden got completely taken over by chives this year. It’s not a small garden, as herb gardens go; it’s about 12 x 12 feet. But I made the mistake of putting in chives around the borders that I dug up from chives that were growing in other beds. BIG MISTAKE. Those pretty little purple flowers that I love so much turned into seed heads that each sprouted a zillion baby chives. I wasn’t able to keep up with the weeding, and they have drowned out almost every other herb, except maybe Oregano. But even that has been diminished.
So I went out and dribbled a bit of Roundup on them and I’m hoping most of the chives will die. Trouble is, they’ve already gone to seed, so all those baby chives will likely show up in the Spring. With any luck, I’ll be able to keep up with those and hopefully eradicate the buggers. (Sure, like I’m going to go out there and weed when it’s raining buckets in the 38 degree weather. That’ll be the day.) Then, I’ll have to go back and completely replant all those spots where the chives were, with something like Sage, Rosemary, thyme, Oregano and Marjoram.
Tip du Jour: For harvesting, or holding potting soil or weeds, you’ve got to have one or two nice, big solid rubber trugs. I’m thinking of getting a third because they have so many uses. You can also put your harvest in there and rinse with water, then remove your nice, clean veggies. Here’s the Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2ypNemU.
I think you’ll wonder how you ever gardened without one!