Summer’s End

My thighs are looking a bit flabby these days because the gardening season is winding down. Sure, there are things I could be doing out there: digging up sod around my old raised beds in the backyard in preparation for next year’s garden expansion and renovation, planting a few more winter greens, getting the cold frame ready for service. Somehow, around this time every year, I’m a bit tired of it all. This Spring’s gung-ho burst of energy is gone, replaced by a sluggish me who would rather , oh, I don’t know, start planning next year’s garden, which is a lot less work than actually toiling in this year’s.

Cool weather has moved in and I’ve been watching the forecast in case I have to make a mad dash to the garden to bring in the last of the tomatoes. Usually, this coincides with the arrival of a sudden wet snow. The kids and I throw on our winter garb and they stand on the porch whining while I scurry about plucking snow drenched tomatoes with my raw, red fingers, hollering, “It’s ok, guys. Just a few more and we’ll go in and get hot chocolate. This is fun, isn’t it? Look at it snow. Wow!” I pick until my frozen knuckles won’t bend and we dump the muddy bucket of tomatoes on our kitchen counter to deal with later.

My tomatoes are still producing, but not enough to bother processing. Mostly, I’m getting buckets of cherry tomatoes (Peacevine) and another smallish variety called Stupice. Both are remarkably tasty, but not good for much other than fresh snacking and salads. My pole tomatoes (San Marzollo) are hitting their stride, but I’ve had some problems with blossom end rot, so again, not enough to justify putting up. My family is eating as much as we can and giving the rest away to grateful neighbors. 

My winter greens are up and flourishing (chinese kale, lacinato kale, collards, lettuces, spinach, bok choi). I’ve done two plantings and some of the seeds obviously didn’t make it, as I have large bald patches in two beds. Old seed? I’ve taken an inventory and purged old seed to be replaced with new next year.

The last of the bush and pole beans I’m just letting go to seed for next year’s crop. We had very prolific beans this year – especially the yellow wax and royal burgundy. I did manage to freeze about eight packages in addition to all of our fresh eating.

The melons are tiny, but not ripening and are being pilfered by squirrels. In the three years I’ve been planting melons in our yard, I think I’ve managed to taste two melons and those were ones I stole back half-eaten from the squirrels. Perhaps I should just focus on crops with which I have relative success.

Yellow squash and zucchini. Can we just be done already! I’ve grated and frozen; I’ve chopped and sauteed; I’ve made batches and batches of muffins; I’ve snuck them into soup. Enough! Why don’t the squirrels develop a taste for these? Next year: two plants. That’s it!

The garlic (Music and Siberian) was absolutely wonderful this year – nice big, juicy bulbs! Our wet, cool spring is probably to be credited for this. Sadly, we’ve eaten almost all of our harvest, except the six bulbs I’ve reserved for replanting. My hopes of finding locally grown seed stock garlic have been fruitless. I thought surely farmers’ markets would have a couple varieties of garlic for sale and that I’d just buy a few bulbs for planting. No luck. And, when I checked seed catalogs, all but just a few varieties are already sold out! Everyone must be thinking much further ahead  than I this year. 

We’ll get maybe eight or so winter squash if the squirrels don’t get too hungry between now and harvest time in a week or so. Some squash already have a few bite marks despite my efforts to wrap each squash in metal screen cloth. 

Strawberry sweet corn – got about five tiny ears. Pollination problems combined with dastardly squirrels. Still, the ears we did get are “gorgeous” as my two year old says. We may actually try to pop a couple and keep the rest for offerings on our harvest altar.

Next year, I’ll focus on fewer crops overall and on growing greater quantities of those – enough to make it worth my time to process some for winter. The seed catalogs are just so darn beautiful and look so promising in the midst of winter’s bleakness that I’m always overcome by greed.

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