This Week In My Kitchen
Barren Highways, God is in the Apples

Garden Visit :: September 8

Before the snow flies, I should really take you on a another stroll through our garden. Where has the time gone? It's been nearly two months since I last did a garden post and so much has come and gone that it is impossible to do a full recount. I can’t tell you how many times over the last three months I’ve looked back on my garden posts from last summer - checking on harvest times, pest arrivals, potato yields, and so much more. I already know that my lack of garden posts this summer will prove disappointing next year as I try to recall the story of this year’s garden. Hopefully I’ve learned what a loss not posting regular garden updates has been, and will make more time for it next summer.  

Better late than never though, let’s take a stroll through our early September garden. I’ll share a few notes regarding the highs and lows we’ve had along the way.

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Garden at a glance, taken this morning. Many things are finished, hence the open areas - cucumbers were hit hard this year with mildew, so we pulled them early. Normally we are harvesting the last few cucumbers right up until early October. Much of the garden is still in morning shade here so it is difficult to see its entirety.

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A few second plantings are coming along nicely. Beets, peas, and carrots are pictured above, hopefully we have enough time left for them to gain a bit more size. We should be in good shape as far as that goes, but if not, beet greens for everyone! There is a patch of rutabaga as well which I forgot to snap a picture of.

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Our greatest gardening disappointment this year was our newly expanded section which turned out to have less light than we thought it would. I mean, we knew it would have less light than the front half, but more light than it turned out actually having. Many of our cool crops were planted back in April, in the already existing front half, before the new area was turned and ready for planting. So, due to space issues, we had to go ahead and plant most of our squash and beans in the new section and there was simply not enough light for these crops to flourish. Last night Adam sectioned off this are from the rest of the still producing garden, and now during the day our chickens can have themselves a party eating up the remains and fertilizing as they go.

Just look at those bare pole beans trellises. So sad.

Next year, all the greens, peas, radishes, etc. will go here.

Our second greatest disappointment was our squash. I'm not sure about where you live, but here in my garden, squash of any variety is the hardest thing to grow. Nothing compares to it when it comes to pests and disease issues. This year we had it all. It's hard to say if it was the lack of sunlight, mildew, or squash bugs that won out in the end, but ultimately our squash season ended early and abruptly. There was some harvest to be had, but not nearly what we hoped for.

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Sometime in late July I realized our lack of sunlight in the new section was going to be a bigger issue than anticipated, and so a second planting of bush beans went in where some peas came out in the front half. We won't have the freezer full that we are accustomed to, but there will be a few gallons of beans at least. I picked a handful last night and we should be full steam ahead with these two rows for the next three weeks.

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These sunflowers and zinnias deserve some kind of award for growing as they have in the shady half of the garden. True champs. The silver lining in this otherwise depressing piece of earth. (Okay, that was a little dramatic.)

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Ah, back to the sunny front half. Swiss chard still looks happy, pepper plants are dripping with fruit, and fall lettuce is growing steadily.

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Seriously, those peppers.

Peppers have such a  long season and a few weeks ago I was starting to feel nervous about their small size. But they've taken off and are beautiful! I'm not sure how many reds we'll get, but I'll take all the green peppers these plants will give us just the same. In total I think I planted about 24 pepper plants of different varieties and they have been healthy and strong.

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The final assessment of the kale cage - it did a great job of keeping the cabbage moths away, giving us a full summer of dark leafy greens (something we have never been able to do before), but it may be a bit short. Not much, but we can tell the plants would like more height... I also planted a few too many in here. Ideas are brewing for next season. Still need a cage, just a little taller.

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Fall spinach is coming in nicely. Can't wait!

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Second planting of romaine is looking happy and near ready for picking.

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Onions might be one of the coolest things to grow. Next year I will be growing many, many more. Love them.

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Corn was kind of a bust this year. I'm not sure if it was the variety I chose or if I left it on the stalk a few days too long, but it was mealy. This was disappointing because it otherwise looked GREAT - no pests, no raccoons sneaking in to have a bite. Gorgeous yellow kernels... and then you took a bite and it was meh. Our loss has made for some very happy chickens though.

Also, our very small winter squash harvest.

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We've gardened here for three summers, and in that time I've grown potatoes three different ways.

1. In the ground, 12 inches deep with a little compost sprinkled in the trench. Basically, plant deep and forget about it.

2. Plant a little less deep (6-9 inches? Can't remember.), hill and mulch through the season.

3. Tower method.

Well, just as the books will tell you, they all have their highs and lows. But I think the clear winner, providing the most bang for our buck, was method number one. I'm not sure if it was planting them extra deep, but we had far fewer bites taken out of them than planting a less deep followed by hilling. And while the tower method definitely yields potatoes with practically no, if any, bites taken out, they do produce less overall than planting directly in the earth.

No matter which method, we never seem to grow enough potatoes and I look forward to having the right amount of space someday to provide all that we need to get through the winter, and save some for seed.

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While I have missed many, many weeks of journaling our garden progress, I have been taking a few pictures of the near daily harvest baskets here and there. It's been a year with many challenges for sure, but as with most things, there has been tremendous bounty and reason to be thankful as well.

There should be one or two garden posts to come before we close the season, it's certainly not over yet. Until then, I'll be trying to keep up with all the incoming tomatoes... knocking on every piece of wood in my path, hoping that late blight does not find us this year.