I went away for five days and when I returned, Fall had arrived in the hedgerow to the north of us, with its mustard yellow, russet red, and piney green. The sun is setting right now and as I type, my view is of a lavender light settling over the mountain just beyond that hedgerow. To the west of us, the sky is still an icy, crisp blue. The light in Fall is one of the reasons I never want to live anywhere without seasons again. The hazy light of summer is giving way to the sharply delineating light of winter, and the transition is magical.
The garden is on its way out for the season. I may throw in some radish seeds, perhaps try some late kale under a row cover, but at this point it is mostly harvest and clean-up. There are collards, kales, and Swiss Chard to cut, de-worm (those things are having a field day right now) and blanch for freezing. The cranberry and cannellini beans need to be picked and shelled. The winter squash are desperately trying to fully ripen before the local rodents gnaw through them. So far, two of the Red Kuri squash have been half-eaten by what look to be rabbits, based on their, um…leavings.
There might be sweet potatoes, though I don’t know yet. The squash vines over-ran their garden area, and covered the sweet potato vines. As the squash vines die back, I’ll be able to get into the sweets and see what we have. It’s possible that, given the amount of compost laid on the bed at the beginning of the season, there are no real roots. I’ve only recently read that sweets don’t like a lot of nitrogen, and there was a good amount given by that compost. Fingers crossed. I’ll know better next year.
The red-skin (I have to look up the kind I planted, because I love them and want them again next year), Yukon Gold, and Russet potatoes seem to have done well. All of the reds died back and have been dug and stored, along with about half of the Yukons and 1/3 of the Russets. The rest are slowly fading, and I figure I’ll be digging those up in about a week or two (depending on the weather, of course).
There are still tomatoes and peppers, both of which produced beyond my expectations this year. This season, I may be up to about 150 pounds of tomatoes processed by the end of this week, into jams, diced, crushed and whole tomatoes, marinara, plain sauce, and salsa. I’ve also cored and frozen a few pounds, and roasted pounds of cherry and plum tomatoes for quick sauces I can defrost. I was only somewhat joking when I told the tomatoes I needed them to distract me from writing, but they sure took me seriously. Part of the problem is that I think I might not be a very efficient canner–I’ll have to take a look at my process and see how I might be able to speed things up. I found a blog post that talked about an assembly line for prepping the tomatoes, and that helped some. More research to do.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the mistakes I made this season, and will do a post soon about what I can do to have a more productive garden next year. Most of the things I learned are things I “knew” because I’d read about them, but until I had a 40 ft x 80 ft garden full of food in front of me, it didn’t all start to come together. This was a good year for learning.