The extended report

– Posted in: Garden chores, What's up/blooming

I must confess that my garden is, yes, still a mess. The “weeded garden by August” thingy was going pretty well, until I had a run-in with the laws of physics.

I suppose you think I’m going to say that I had such a run in with gravity that I was glued in the sitting position for many weeks in a row. No, though I should remember that excuse for later on. Acutally, the law that I did have a run-in with is the one that states that an object cannot be in two different places at once. Despite my many attempts to prove that wrong, alas, it appears to still be in good standing. And what, you ask, could possibly be so important to keep you from weeding your garden? Well, actually, to be perfectly honest, lots of things. But, in this particular circumstance, it was haying. For years, the local farmers around here have relied on the muscle-bound boys of Purdyville to stack their hay in merry month of June. Two things were different this year. For one thing, all during the merry month of June it was raining practically every other day. (For those of you who don’t know the finer points of making hay, you have to have a couple of days of dry, sunny weather in order to cut, rake, and bale the hay.) The other little problem was that many of my brothers were also experiencing the phenomenom of not being able to be in two places at once. Alas and alack! So the farmers were forced to ask little old me to help. (Quite literally little–at 5’1″ I hardly measure up to my brothers. But not so literally old—I have been informed by several elderly people that I still count as nothing more than a baby. Late 40’s early 50’s still count as young, in case you were wondering.)

Thus, I was busy attempting to move around hundreds of 30 lb. (give or take 10 lbs., depending on the circumstances) during prime weeding time–the cool of the morning! And so my garden has been quite invaded with many things, most notably ragweed. No, I’m not allergic to ragweed, so I can’t claim that as an excuse either, but some year I might pretend I am. Despite my woeful job at being a dutiful little gardener, my garden continues to do it’s best without me. Most of my flowers look spectacular and makes me happy everytime I see them. (The naughty exception being my supposed Rocket snapdragons, which I think it was too wet for. The look like they were underwatered, and shrivled up, but that was hardly the problem this year. Oh, and the larkspur and poppies, but they would have done better if I’d weeded them. So I can’t complain. Or, at least, I won’t. I have found you can complain about just about anything you want to.)

And the vegetables are likewise minding their own business. The brocoli is forming nice heads (and no worms!!). The cucumber plants are putting off 4 lbs. of cucumbers every other day—does anyone want a dill pickle recipe? It took me years upon years to find an edible dill pickle recipe. Last year, sucess at last! Now a days, I can 7 pints of pickles, and their almost all gone by the time I can the next batch 2 or 3 days later. Of all the batches and batches I’ve made, we’ve managed to save 6 pints. That might change, though, because the cucumbers are still pouring in, and flowering besides. We should have a steady stream of cucumbers right up till the first hard frost (I cover plants for the first few light frosts, but everything is doomed for a hard frost). I have no idea when that will be, because it varies so much. (There was one really freaky year when we still had petunias blooming on the porch in December. I remember quite clearly on the third of December wearing a short sleeved shirt in 70-something weather, washing off potatoes I had just dug out of a most decidely unfrozen ground. I also remember that year we had a snow storm on Halloween night, too, so who knows what it’ll be like.)

And there is, of course the basil, which is pretty much done, now. What little of it keeps trying to grow is pretty quick to bolt, but I made tons of pesto. Speaking of bolting, what do you do when your lettuce bolts? I leave it in the ground, because it looks so spectacular when it bolts. It looks a little more majestic if it’s a ruffly sort of lettuce, but even romaine types look stately. They really look great, so I leave them in, and eventualy they get little yellow flowers as icing on the cake.

Then there is the summer squash, which hasn’t been doing as good as some years, but still pretty good. And the tomatoes. Does anyone know anything about tomatoes? Because I have a lot of questions about tomatoes, so if anyone could add their two cents it would be a help. What’s the difference between long vine and short vine tomatoes, besides the length of their vines? If you have short vine tomatoes, how do you keep the rodents from eating them? If you have long vine tomatoes, how do you keep them from getting to top heavy and either tipping over their cages or snaping their own vines? How many tomato plants should you plan on per person? Does it make sense to stagger your planting? How do you use up too many tomatoes, short of canning them (I despise canning tomatoes)? How do you pick which varity you’d like to go, when there are about as many kinds of tomatoes as there are books in the Library of Congress? Do those white spots that you sometimes get under the skin mean that the tomato is bad, or are they just there to gross out squimish people like me? And other such very pressing questions.

Oh, and potatoes. I liked my theory of buying 1/3 early red potatoes (Early Norland Red, I think), 1/3 all-purpose potatoes (Yukon gold) and 1/3 storage potatoes (Kennebac or something like that). However, I strongly disapprove of my practice, which goes something like: plant potatoes in mud; weed once or twice; forget to hill or mulch with hay; expect abundant results. I now have potatoes, as things generally seem to grow just in spite of me, but since they were neither hilled nor mulched, most of them have green spots on them that have to be cut off. I’m not sure how great of a harvest it will be, but at least there’s potatoes, and that is something.

So now, of course, it is time to look beyond my present circumstance to the greater good of all mankind. Well, not quite. Basically, the garden has done what it will do, and know amount of weeding at this point is going to change that. However, next year beckons! So, in preparation of the greatest garden ever, I will proceed to getting this whole mess in shape for next year. And that means, trying to get the weeds out before they drop seeds all over the place and make twice as big of a mess next year, and, after things are done growing, to dig the soil. And if I’m really ambitious, I’ll even mark out and hoe rows now, so as soon as the snow melts next year I can drop spinach and lettuce seeds right into the ground. I am not, though, so ambitious I will attempt a winter garden. I like the idea of annual gardens, where, if you mess up horribly, the winter will wipe your slate (relatively) clean and you can start anew. That means none of this fall/winter gardening for me. This means that I think of whatever work I’m doing now as preparation for most spectacular garden I will ever have, and that makes it a very exciting and rewarding work.

Having said that, I still don’t get out in the garden a lot. Part of me is very dissappointed; the other part of me is too busy spending mornings making pickles and bread to even remember that I have a world of more work waiting for me up the hill. (Although it is rather hard to miss the fact, when I have to keep going up there to get more cucumbers.) Anyway, as my pen-pal in China pointed out, it’s the act of planting that’s the best part. That is to say, we both agree that it’s not so much what you get back out of the garden as much as how much fun you have doing it. Of course, it’s hard to have fun if you get absaloutley nothing back, but I’ve never had a year like that yet. (If nothing else, I always manage to get tomatoes–somehow they always show up, no matter how abused they are!)

About the Author

Talitha spent the last few years doing an absurd combination of work and school, and found it wasn’t very pleasant. Now she’s doing work, school and a garden, and life is a little better! She also enjoys photography and hand feeding her ducks. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 AHS Heat Zone: 3 Location: rural; Southern Tier of NY Geographic type: foothills of Appalachian Mountains Soil Type: acid clay Experience level: advanced beginner Particular interests: herbs, vegetables, cutting garden, cottage gardening

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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