fall of the garden

Posted on Posted in food and garden

i can’t get over the resurgence of my cherry tomatoes—even as the very plants brown and die back, hundreds of them are popping out in plump bunches all over the vines, turning ripe on a daily basis (and they’re tasty, too). i’ve been gratefully gathering them by the bowlful because they are the one thing i’m a little short of at the close of this season. i dried two sheets of them this week and i think i can plan on getting a few more, at least.

about ten days ago, my friend norma (one of my all-time favorite bloggers; i never miss reading her) wrote a wonderful series of posts, here, here, and here about the payoffs she derives from having a vegetable garden (ps; while you are there checking out her garden haul, please consider getting in on her raffle to benefit the red scarf project, a most worthy cause).

friday being the first only sunny day we had all week, i thought it would be nice to stretch my back and take a walk in my own garden to see what i could plan on picking this weekend and snag some pictures of the early-autumn activity.

once i got out there, i suddenly saw my garden the way norma talked about hers, from an end-of-year perspective, and realized that it will all come to a close soon. not quite yet of course—because it’s not over til jack frost visits—but soon. i’m giving it about three weeks—that’s what i sorta feel in my bones.

from some angles the garden looks pretty sad right now

hahaha, that’s almost embarrassing—the corner closest to the back door has been hit a little harder with various insect damage, spotty fungus, and what have you, so we lost a few tomato plants by the end of august. but once you make your way inside, it still looks beautiful, at least to me

everything is still flowering profusely and producing regularly. i can’t cut the greens often enough and we’re still picking lots of squash—a first for us.
peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant always produce til the frost hits—we’ve just had so many more this year that we can’t think of another new thing to do with them.
i wish i had time every day to cook a fresh meal with it all.

while i do miss the zingy taste of really fresh food during the winter, i’m never too sad about the garden’s yearly demise—i admit that by october, i’ve wearied of spending a couple hours each day dealing with tending plants and cooking heaps of vegetables.

the things i’ve put on hold throughout summer become more urgent and i’m happy to turn my attention to them once it starts getting chilly.

honestly, i haven’t dared count up yet how many of everything we’ve put up for winter from our garden, but our freezer sure is scary-full of food right now.

i know—there are a couple of spaces there, but i have plans for those. believe me, the uploading of the freezer is very carefully paced through the summer and fall. if we fill it too fast, we can’t find (or move!) anything til february and we haven’t treated ourselves to enough fresh food. too slow, we could get caught unawares by jack frost with a bare cupboard. it’s a process worthy of a statistician or public planner . . . or both.

we’ve netted somewhere in the neighborhood of 36 quarts of tomatoes, 24 cups of tomato paste, 3 quart bags of dried cherry tomatoes (and counting), 20 bags of greens, 15 bags each of summer squash and eggplant, 6 quarts of ratatouille, a few curries, stuffed peppers, roasted peppers, tomato sauce, and other sundries i can’t remember. let’s just say . . . a lot.

and the garden isn’t big—maybe 600 square feet . . .
as of now, it has slowed but not stopped—not by a long shot.

in fact the rain this week, after such a dry month, has resulted in all manner of acceleration. i skipped going out there for three days and on thursday i came inside with a big basket filled with squash, eggplant, and peppers, plus another one filled to the top with tomatoes.

it’s kind of stunningly wonderful to be overwhelmed with this plenty. our neighbors and our weekly knitters have all enjoyed it along with us (thank goodness) and continue to do so.

not everything was a grand success—our asparagus bed continues to be a big disappointment after three years of trying; we may need to start completely over next year. sigh.

we planted strawberries for the first time and got only a few, not-very-tasty berries. i heard that this is to be expected the first year, so i’m hoping next year will be better. the patch is filling out

so we should get more berries. i’ve been keeping them trimmed back so they don’t invade the rest of the garden, but i AM allowing them to trail under the fence to take root in the back yard

where the lawn is so pitiful. nothing would make me happier than having a strawberry field take root there to replace the “grass”.

my experiment with starting okra after july 1st resulted in almost nothing. only a few plants even made it after transplanting and those are just now producing maybe a couple of tiny okra

not even enough for a taste.

and then there are my zen greens, which i grow every year because they are so easy and tasty. they grew fine—bigger and better than ever—at the end of the greens patch, but starting in august, i encountered a problem with them that i never had before

(lace is everywhere)
i couldn’t figure this one out for the longest time—only these particular plants were getting eaten—none of the swiss chard or other greens right next to them were affected. they do not have bugs anywhere on them—what could it be? and why only these greens?

well, today i got my answer to the first question, at least

slugs—just look at him go. i still don’t know why they eat only these plants and none other, but i do know that next year, i’m putting down some coffee grounds (they supposedly hate caffeine) or some similar deterrent around the zen greens.

which brings me to the other incredible aspect of the garden—that, no matter what kind of year we have with it, good or bad, it offers a constant source of amusement and blog fodder for me, and hopefully, for you too.

from the delicacy of vegetable flowers, captured in their brief moments of ripest beauty

to the wondrous network of insect life humming busily beneath the visible surface

sometimes i see just one rare thing, but friday i saw so many—my interest was especially captured by the lemon (or lime) balm flowers i hadn’t noticed before.

i don’t know how long they’ve been out, but they struck a nice chord there in the dye bed—pretty purply blooms surrounded by foliage going all gold and orange—a beautiful autumn palette.

some of them haven’t opened yet and those look like raspberries or blackberries, sort-of.

there i was snapping one picture after another (sometimes in the light, it’s hard to tell if the photo will be good, so i take a ton just to be sure), when a little visitor touched down nearby

and for once, i got a fantastic series of bee photos. bees are really hard for me to capture, as they are constantly moving—even when they have settled in to collect, their bodies vibrate vigorously, creating a blur in the picture.

but yesterday there were a few magical moments—maybe a minute total, when i managed to get it right—watch this

photo from yesterday’s post
now with bee added

he moves a little, but stays right in front of me (he wants me to check out his butt)

then finishes up

and flies off.
but wait—he doesn’t go far

before selecting to visit another bloom nearby

look at him dig into that, smooshing his face deep into the middle—it’s kind-of intense . . . for a few minutes anyway, until a different flower captures his interest

gotta get all over that one, too

can’t miss a drop

i finally decided to back off and leave him to his business—it was starting to feel a little invasive, heh.

this won’t be the last garden post, but maybe the last long one. it’s hard to tell.
it’s that time of year when the chill in the air reminds me to turn more energy toward my work—soon everyone will be looking for new gift knits and items to ward off the cold and i must be ready with something to offer. knitting calls.

35 thoughts on “fall of the garden

  1. I am looking at your pictures on my little blackberry screen and the colors couldn’t be more vivid!! That sweet bee was close enuf to tickle! Love, love, love your photos.

  2. I’d be *so* interested in hearing the rough numbers of plants that you grow… how many tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash?

  3. look at his beautiful wings! I never paid much attention to the pattern on their wings, but it’s lovely.

  4. Gorgeous photos!

    My mother is growing asparagus, and has read not to expect anything for the first three years. The plants need time to mature. Could that explain the lack of asparagus in your garden this year?

  5. Slugs devoured my hostas until a neighbor and life-long gardener shared a trick with me. Dig a small hole near the plants the slugs are eating, just large enough for a small plastic bowl. Place a bowl filled with beer in it. The slugs are attracted to the beer, fall in, and drown. Hated to waste beer, but it saved my hostas and did not use chemicals.

  6. I don’t have to tell you what my favorite part of your post is. 🙂

    My mother has huge flower gardens and found something that finally worked with slugs. I will find out and let you know what it was. 🙂

  7. Thanks for the visit to your garden.

    When I was at Starbucks the other day, I noticed a basket filled with big bags of coffee grounds that they were giving away for free – in case the coffee grounds work for the slugs and you need large amounts.

  8. Do NOT dig up the asparagus! I was taught that it had to grow three years before you could begin harvesting it. You should be just about there (if you haven’t been cutting on it –in that case, maybe another patient year).

    I grew up with such a large asparagus patch that Mother had to resort to selling some the year my brother was born (1950 was a banner year). Every evening I’d be sent out to cut asparagus for that night’s dinner. How I miss it – Louisiana is too hot to grow asparagus. le sigh!

  9. I think you should definitely design a slug themed shawl. That would be hilarious and I would knit it immediately. 🙂
    Your harvest is just so beautiful! My tomato vines start looking like yours in July (zone 8) and at that point, we’ve had so many I’m also very ready for them to go.

  10. short story – when I was a girl, my best friend’s father was helping his mother-in-law with her gardening, and seeing a long row of indiscriminate greenery, thought he would clean it up and roto-tilled a 30 foot bed of asparagus at the end of the third year of its growth. She never forgave him. Evidently she had been patiently waiting for the fourth year when the plant would indeed produce. Hang on – don’t till them under.

  11. Usually I just read and enjoy, but your blog entry about your garden reminded me of a time when my daughter was in high school. She amazed me one day as we watched the bees in the garden and she leaned over to pet one of the bees. She is much braver than I, but the bee was so intent on getting every drop of flower goodness that it didn’t seem to mind one bit.

    Thanks for helping bring back such a sweet memory.

  12. I really enjoy hearing about the garden and seeing the pictures. I can’t have one so I’m living vicariously through you. Thanks.

  13. I love the cool mornings when the bees are so slow and sleepy you can actually pet them. My garden is having a bit of a rebirth, too, but still NO eggplants. I may have to make a trip to the farmer’s market so I can make some ratatouille to freeze. I have spread the gospel of the oven dried cherry tomatoes far and wide. All the cool kids are doing it now. I’ve done about 8 trays from one plant — crazy.

  14. What a wonderful post, Anne! You and David should be so proud of that well-stocked freezer.

    When Nancy, Agnes and I finally get our farm, will you be our vegetable garden consultant? ;-}

  15. Not to get off the MUCH LOVED knitting topic but I am literally intrigued by the wholesome~ness and Organization in your meal planning!!! I LOVE not only that most of what you use is organic/homegrown… but the readiness! How awesome to be able to eat healthy at the drop of a hat! I am sure the work in planning and preparing pays off all fall/winter long! Can you suggest a book/website that helps a newbie with the best approach to preparing and freezing. How to maintain the most flavor and nutrional value?

  16. “only” 600 sq ft…even at 20′ by 30′ that is no small garden spot. I have trouble keeping up with 10′ x 30′ of flower beds.

    I hope you respond to Kat about the number of plants you put in. I’d be interested in that too.

    Re: Okra – I was told that this was a HOT weather plant. As in HOT days, very warm nights, and on the dry side, well south of OH.

    But your blog (and Norma’s) are some of the best gardening reading I’ve seen.

  17. Love your pictures of the garden! I enjoy watching your garden world all the way from S. America. Let’s me know what is probably happening in my dad’s garden in Michigan!

    What kind of camera do you use to get the close-up photos?

  18. All those great pictures (love your freezer!) and the one I had to keep going back to was the slug! One year when I was in high school, the (only) bathroom in our house got infested by slugs. It was very odd – it’s the only time I’ve ever seen them indoors. It was quite gross, though, as you can probably imagine!

    Oh – and I do know that you shouldn’t expect much from strawberries the first year.

  19. Just fabulous, Anne. You’ve had such a wonderful, wonderful garden year. Aren’t you a bit embarrassed by your riches? 😀

    Thank you for sending people my way. It’s helping! XO

  20. such a fabulous garden season this year. All that hard labor in the beginning certainly paid off. Will you have to dig up all that hay/straw and put down more newsprint to gain the same benefit again next year?

  21. Okay, I know I have an off-kilter sense of humor sometimes, but the idea that slugs (the slowest creatures on the earth) are haters of caffeine made me laugh for hours! Oh. My. God. How funny! And lucky… just think of the devastation if those voracious eaters got hopped up on a couple double espresso mocha lattes!

  22. I always love your garden pictures and am amazed at the amount you grow. We’ve been gone one week and the cherry tomato plant has gone wild. I’ll have to look up how to dry them.

    Nice bee pictures too. What plant are they on? Those are probably solitary bees and the plant I have that they love the best is Agapanthus.

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