The winterized garden:
November, 2019. The rains have come. It was actually a wet September, which for us, is unusual. For the trees and my garden, it was welcomed – besides splitting my tomatoes and abruptly putting an end to the season for some more sensitive crops. October had been relatively nice, and we have yet to have a serious frost.
In general, it was yet another summer of drought. Relative to years previous, this drought was not as punishing because temperatures were closer to normal. We did not get the pro-longed intense heat – the searing, dust-bowl type drought – from the previous years. Because of that the trees seem to be healthier going into the fall – well, some of them. The two previous drought years, and the early start to the dry season meant that many of the trees that suffered from the lack of water actually died in late spring. Hit hardest, was our special Gary Oaks, that produced leaves this spring, but they were small, sparse and brown. Even some of the biggest, hundreds of years old, now stand like ancient monuments in disrepair. A shocking sight. I have high hopes for all the other trees this fall; as I write, it is cool, but clear. So despite most deciduous leaves having fallen, everything else appears to be enjoying this brighter weather.
I have found it difficult to find time for the garden. A few business trips abroad have left me in need of more time with my kids, which is, unfortunately, less time doing tasks in the garden. Adding to the lack of time is the request of my neighbours to fall some of their trees…seeing me clear my property made them think I enjoyed it – which I did, I little. But that was because of the ends, not the means. And falling a large fir tree between our houses – and skillfully (I might add) dropping it with precision and sophistication exactly where I planned gave neighbours the sense that I was the man for the job. The reality is I have little experience falling trees, and some friends that do, saw the stumps I left and laughed – it somehow demonstrated the poor job I did. Regardless, I agreed to fall some small trees, which are either restricting their views or are growing in such a way that the crowding will impede the growth of some of the more impressive or valuable trees. We did have time to dress up and have fun on Halloween!
I managed to clear my San Marizano tomato bed. I removed all green tomatoes to make a chutney, and threw in some fava beans to overwinter. They have since come up.
Three beds have been covered with fallen maple leaves: the garlic beds (some cloves look like they have been dug up). The previous amaranth bed had been planted with rye, but it looks like the birds picked-out every last seed. Lacking patience, I covered the bed with leaves. That bed does not have a specific designation for next year so I may put an early spring crop in anyways. Lastly, the blueberries – which really suffered this year – were covered in leaves. I had interplanted the blueberries with kidney beans in hope of fixing some nitrogen, but I think the beans ended up crowding the blue berries instead. The lack of water also did a number. So all weeds and beans were pulled, and the leaves placed. This bed does have a bunch of spring flower bulbs that I hope will push through the leaves.
The raspberries were also crowded, but with the poppies. When I finally harvested the poppy seeds (didn’t bother with the opium!) the raspberries recovered, even late in the season. So now they are tied up to the support wires and some fava beans were placed on their North Side.
The Strawberries will need a straw mulch for the winter. I have yet to do so. The leaves are still green, so they are hopefully setting deeper roots. I finally got my hands on some allium bulbs which are in that bed as well.
The asparagus also did better once the beans were pulled. I am hoping the few I started from seed will have a good year, and the established ones may actually produce for me next spring. There is some old Kale, parsley and borage in there. I am still undecided as to what I should partner with the asparagus. Based on my kids eating habits, the obvious choice would be more strawberries.
Winter wheat has come up and looks healthy where my tall yellow corn had been. Similarly, the rye where the cherry tomatoes were seems healthy, although barren in spots. The previous rye bed with squash is very compact and the rye makes it tough to work in. I planted spinach, chard and beets, but all seem to have been eaten. I will start more in a greenhouse and plant it with some additional soil….eventually.
The two previous cabbage family beds were planted with rye, but the one planted later failed to sprout. I’m not sure if I can blame that on the birds or on my timing. All that remains is the odd cabbage (to see if they form heads again) and the finishing brussles. The new cabbage beds are competing with dropped seeds from the previous crops (mustards and arugula). I harvested broccoli already but the cauliflower did not grow in the cooler weather. The “winter brussels and cabbage” are still far too small to expect much from. If they survive the winter it’ll likely mean an early crop, or more pest pressure (as some may overwinter on the plants).
Lettuces have been a failure. I started 70 plants and all but 3 were eaten completely within a few days of placing in the bed. There are a few lettuces and arugula, carrots and beets from late summer plantings that I can harvest from, but it has been a big bummer.
Luckily we still have rutabagas and parsnips to harvest after frost, and our celery is still producing!
What I probably need is some netting for fall planting, and even small cold frames. I suspect slugs are the cause of my lettuce failure, and I am not too sure what to do about that. Typically, the presence of birds reduces the slug population. The failure of lettuce and spinach – especially considering they would likely benefit from this weather – seriously hurts our winter-production. The last thing I want to do is buy greens all winter from a long way away.
Oh yeah…check this out. Made sphaghetti, got most of my veggies fresh from the garden. We even got a small harvest of tomatillos and olives!
And now, back to work, after a weekend at the Cabin.