Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gardening: The End Game

After that punishing summer, fall has arrived with a bit of a vengeance. So I had to clear our my tomato vines today, a bittersweet step for this gardener. But I, like Julie Andrews, have faith that spring will come again, and with it so will fresh tomatoes. Besides, we enjoyed such bounty this summer that even this tomato-lover accepts the concept of a few tomato free months with a hint of relief.

Still, a few ripening tomatoes survived the near-frost, so I made one last batch of tomato-basil soup:

Accepting gardening's possibilities of plenty means not mourning the end of one phase of gardening, for another phase shall soon begin. And indeed, my fall gardening has been quietly successful this year. The heat rendered my multitude of pepper plants dormant over the summer, but they perked right up with some rain and some cooler weather. I have harvested peppers regularly for the last month or so. My basil has also increased its magic regenerative powers now that it is not fighting heat, and we've enjoyed homemade pesto with gnocchi or spaghetti at least once a week, recently.

But the highlight of fall gardening was the sweet potato harvest!

I planted nine slips of sweet potato, and during September I dug up two of them to check on their size. Just this morning, I decided they had to come out regardless of if they had reached the gigantic proportions of my dreams (again, prompted by a near-frost). And how beautiful they were! I reaped 12-15 pounds of tasty orange tubers. They are kind of strange shapes, some of them, and a couple had encounters with garden slugs, but for an experimental crop I'd say they turned out great! We are going to make sweet potato and black bean burritos with them, this week, but it's a lot of orange goodness to enjoy. If you have any preferred recipes, please send them my way.

In the picture, you can see the green tomatoes at the edge. If you know anything awesome to do with them, too, I would be very open to suggestions. Right now I am planning to let them ripen on the kitchen counter and use them in the ordinary fashion, but some folks have suggested to me that fried green tomatoes are the best use of garden produce ever.

Thanks to my dear friend and kind seed sharer R., I also planted some beets and spinach really late last month. They have sprouted. I do not know if they can survive the cold long enough to mature, but they were worth an attempt.

Some pretty exciting fall volunteers showed up too; a purple lettuce plant I put in a full year and a half ago is not on its third generation of self-seeded plants. Its babies showed up over the winter last year and bolted in June. Now the new generation is everywhere, and tasty, although the plants are small.

And another lettuce plant from this spring has seeded babies, too; now if only they grow big enough to eat before a truly chilling frost! I still have hopes of planting some garlic and onions for the fall, but that kind of advance planning is not my strong suit.

By this fall, gardening has become a natural part of my life. The knowledge that I can produce a real quantity of food to help feed my family is a source of great pride and strength for me. I have a better sense of which plants are useful to grow, and how to grow them; a basic knowledge of common pests; went to plant; and how to use and preserve what I grow. My ultimate gardening goals (growing near all of our family's produce, and having enough to preserve and give away) are still a ways off, but building a bit every year, they seem achievable. I look forward now to a winter off before returning to the weeding and watering and digging that will take more time, but less mental effort, on every subsequent garden!



  1. Wow this is great! Sometime I'll post about now pitifully my balcony garden turned out, but at least I learned a lot!

  2. I got behind on your blog and I'm just reading this now.
    I loooove sweet potatoes but I have never tried to grow them.

    We are in the process of installing an aquaponics system in our backyard...better use of water in a desert and longer growing season. Plus, hopefully edible fish in the future (we started out with goldfish 'cause they're cheap, hope to replace them with something better to eat).