fall gardening AKA don’t put down your beer
I’ve lost track a little of the garden. I’m no longer riding the dizzying high called potential. Yesterday afternoon I took a beer out into the yard, let the chickens out and laid down in the grass (weeds) for a long time.
Col and Rose were next door in our neighbors’ yard playing football, which is funny because they don’t know much about organized sports, and somehow our 11-year old neighbor had Rose chanting “Defense! Defense! Defense!” on the sidelines while Col was cheerfully and unknowingly charging out of bounds with the football, as triumphant as Joe Montana in the, er, 1980′s (egads, that’s the first football player I could think of).
Camo on the line – must be almost time for another hunting trip.
And from my spot in the alfalfa/mallow/dandelion, I could sense that we’ve reached the non-striving part of the garden season. That place where I’m no longer helicopter parenting my tomatoes or strategizing for maximum anything, but just lying in the September grass (weeds) with a beer, vaguely cheering everyone on, grasshoppers and knobby red beets.
Already, the big seedy heads of dill look more like next year’s crop than this year’s.
And the powdery mildew on the cukes is about as menacing as a toddler’s last flare up before bed.
The flowers are stunning (when I remember to water them), but I’m more focused on bouquets of spent lettuce, shaking their little comma-seeds into a paper bag.
And the raspberries coming back for a finale seem more like a bonus treat than anything to which we’re entitled.
I do, however, have a few tidbits of practical advice for the fall garden, things you can accomplish without setting down your beer.
Because daily growth has slowed and our first frost is anywhere from 1-4 weeks away, I cut back any winter squash vines that aren’t nursing fruit. It’s like vegetal twister trying to track which vine came from where, but always exciting to see what’s happening beneath the curtain of leaves.
I also cut back all flowering stalks on tomatoes that haven’t set fruit, as well as some extraneous leaves, in hopes of funneling the plant’s energy to the fruit that remain.
Also, I summon up all my inner ruthlessness and cut down all the skyscraping hollyhocks and sunflowers that shade out the edibles.
Hollyhocks on their way to the chicken coop. How are your 1st year hollyhocks?
And crazily, I’m still planting seeds. The radishes I called “fall radishes” that I planted 30 days ago, have already been harvested, so I threw another round of true “fall radish” seeds in the ground last week.
I’ve also planted lettuce/chard/arugula/kale seeds in flats in the greenhouse and outside, because 1) the best time to plant a seed is now, 2) fall can be a like the band who’s encore goes on and on, 3) greens are not afraid of the cold.
Finally, watch the weather report and be prepared to cover frost-tender plants (tomatoes, squash, cukes, basil…) with blankets, sheets, towels. Additionally, placing plastic jugs filled with water at the base of frost-tender plants can help mitigate the increasingly colder nights.
But the very best of the September garden is eating like a toddler again, simple foods, nothing touching.
What’s happening in your fall garden? How do you transition your garden into a new season?
ps: winner of the spot in the Intro to Canning class is Kyndale! Kyndale, I will get your e-mail to Kathie and she’ll give you the secret code. For those who didn’t win, I hope to “see” you in your pajamas on Sept 20th, where I promise not to take up too much class time with my fear-of-pressure-canning paranoia/enthusiasm.