That is, if I am even capable of writing something short. Brevity just isn’t my thing.
The first frost is probably on its way tonight, as evidenced by the heaps and heaps of flowers I cut and brought in. Oh, and the still, clear night air, and the rapidly approaching chill. This is slightly late for our first frost, but I am certainly not complaining, particularly since last night was the first night I slept under a real roof in over 4 weeks. (As Mom mentioned earlier, I’ve been sleeping out in a tent in the front lawn as we undergo renovations.) A light sheet carelessly tossed might protect tomatoes, but they don’t protect delicate little girls! At 43 degrees of the last morning we were out, we could already see our breath inside of the tent. I wasn’t cold (except for sometimes my nose) as I had 4 blankets and one heavy duty sleeping bag, plus the tent, but nonetheless I wasn’t eager to experience frost first hand.
At any rate, as the gardening season for us has basically come to a close, I figured I ought to write a post.
I brought in the best pepper harvest I ever have, which is to say, not much. Any harvest at all is more of a harvest than I’ve gotten before. Many of them are even red! I am tickled pink about all of that, particularly since the peppers were one of my most abused (by me, not the weather) plants this year. There is hope for peppers yet! Next year, I will try harder.
The most interesting story is probably about the beans. I’ve yet to have much luck with beans, again, probably because I never put in enough effort. This year, I dutifully planted them out, sometime in July. It was after our July 9th rain, which means right around the beginning of our longest dry spell. I hauled water up and watered them everyday till they sprouted, but after that, they were pretty much on their own. As we began to put tighter and tighter restrictions on our own water usage, I could no longer justify the extra water for something that never did well for me anyway. They seemed to be surviving (though not exactly thriving) on their own, and I began to get hopeful. Then the horrid rabbits cut most of them down to the ground, which caused many dark storm clouds to swirl about my head (but, unfortunately, not producing any rain for the poor plants). After that, I pretty much gave up on them. But this seems to be the year for stubbornly productive plants. Our fall rains are finally starting, and as I looked at the garden this afternoon, I realized that all of the beans were blooming! So they have been covered with sheets, in hopes that we won’t get regular frost for a while yet, and I can eke out a few beans.
Speaking of the fall rains, my fall crop of lettuce is coming up! I planted it around the same time as the beans, sometime in July. I didn’t water them, as I figured they would have the sense to come up when the time was right. It appears the time is right. I wish them much plentiful growth, but I am not holding my breath. This is the first time I’ve ever tried a fall crop of lettuce, but one hardly thinks that a major drought year is the best time to experiment.
My broccoli is blooming. Apparently I had a whole row of broccoli that could have been eaten, but it seems it was ready to be harvested while I was in the midst of helping to frame out walls, applying a skim coat of plaster and other such renovation tasks. Working from the time I got up till the time I went to bed, I never got a chance to check on the broccoli. I considered myself lucky to get time enough to harvest the tomatoes that I knew about.
The tomatoes, despite the drought, the slugs that ate the fruit and the blasted bunny rabbits that also at the fruit (the nerve!), produced record amounts for me. This is due to a longer growing season for them, which is, in turn, due to the fact that I started them in April inside of the house and repeatedly potted them on. By the time I planted them out, they were in huge 10″ pots, and were already beginning to bloom in their pots, so happy were they. They moped a bit when they were transplanted, but I still managed the earliest tomato (for me) ever.
For some reason, my Oregon Spring plants just couldn’t cut it this year. I say “for some reason”, but I suppose it ought to be obvious that it was the drought. I may have gotten a few tomatoes off of them, but that was all. The leftover (the seeds were several years old) New Girls were the most prolific, by far, thought their tomatoes were small. (I thought they were supposed to have larger tomatoes, but it’s been so long since I bought those seeds, I really have no idea.)
My Brandywines, though always delicious, seemed to have a terrible time this year, constantly splitting open on the undersides and then going moldy. (Gross.) I haven’t had this problem in past years. However, in past years I’ve mulched with old hay, and this year I was using leaves. Perhaps it held the moisture to the tomato better?
The cousins of the Brandywines, “Aunt Ruby’s German Green” tomatoes were quite a novelty, but that is about it. They didn’t produce very well (that is, very many), though perhaps it was a bad year to ask. (Then again, droughts aren’t that much of an anomaly around here, so if they can’t take the conditions they’re just out of luck.) They aren’t totally green when ripe–they get a slight tinging of pink on the bottom, which spreads throughout the inside of the fruit. Their taste was described to me as “incredible” by the person who recommended them to me. To me, they tasted (and here I must borrow some Rundy-speak) like a Brandywine with all of the red sucked out. Sweet and fruity, yet with none of rich “red” taste that makes you think TOMATO. As fruit, it was interesting. As a tomato, when it was sliced and placed amongst other tomaotes, no one would eat them until last. It just didn’t taste right on a tuna fish sandwich or hamburger. So it was fun to try, but not really worth my time.
The Sungold cherry tomatoes truly impressed me. They were started latest, and were just as persecuted as the rest of tomatoes. Yet they produced by the basketful, willingly and without complaint. Deirdre liked to eat them raw, but most other people, finding that they didn’t work so well in sandwiches, seemed to leave them. However, they worked great in tacos, salads, and my all time favorite of Fresh Basil and Tomato pizza. They are an orange color when ripe, and though sweet, they don’t taste as fruity as Brandywines or German Greens. Despite the less-than-red color, they still maintain a tomato-y taste.
All in all, I heard many rave reviews on the tomatoes this year. Everyone kept comment on how good they tasted this year. I think perhaps the drought–that is, less water in the fruit—caused for a more intense flavor that people enjoyed.
The potatoes grew un-remarkably. I feel I have neither a bumper crop nor a disappointing crop. They simply grew. (Though, I must add, home-grown potatoes make distinctly better mashed potatoes than any potato you buy from the grocery store. When eating home-grown mashed potatoes, I skip the gravy. They’re so flavorful and delicious already, it seems a complete shame to mask the taste.)
The herbs did well, considering the circumtances. The parsley took quite a while to get a toe-hold, but is now doing nicely. The basil did its best, resulting in many yummy pizzas, but it was certainly no pesto year. The dill did wonderful. Besides filling the freezer with lots of dill weed (which goes great in devilled eggs, and I’m sure I’ll be making many of those next Spring), it also timed itself perfectly with the cucumbers. Every jar of pickles I made had fresh dill heads on it, and the dill and cucumbers wore out at about the same time.
The cucumbers, as usual, kept me hopping. Although we could certainly eat more pickles, I never tell Rundy to plant more, because I simply can’t find the time to can anymore. (And no one wants to eat raw cucumbers, which is a bit odd. If I don’t pickle them, they just go moldy in the back corners of the fridge. Gross, again.) I don’t know how many pints I made, because people would eat them nearly as fast as I canned them. I know it was over 30 pints, but I don’t know more than that. When I talk about making so many pickles, people invariable say, “Oh yes, isn’t it wonderful stocking up for the winter?” Well, here it is, on the cusp of the first frost, and I think I might have a pint or two left. Pickles are a summer food around here. People think it’s a dreamy to have home grown tomatoes and home grown pickles on their sandwiches. And if there’s no proper sandwich to be had, then they think pickles are just dreamy. If I laid down an iron law, perhaps we might keep some till winter. But what’s the point? They’ll all get devoured anyway, and people might as well enjoy them with fresh tomatoes.
The leeks are stunted, being mostly water. The corn was miserable this year. The squash wasn’t happy either. The peas, of course, still having water, were quite happy.
And the flowers I plant, in hopes of a cutting garden, merrily bloomed away, with no one to appreciate them. Well, I appreciated the poppies, but by the time the rest of the plants started blooming, I was whisked away to working inside. So now, as I cut the rest of the stragglers, I see from the dead-heads that my cosmos did well and my nicotiana had an absolute ball, which is particularly sad. Sad that I missed it, that is, not that they did well. I love nicotiana, especially in the evening. I now have huge vases (and I do mean huge) full of cosmos, orange cosmos (which seem to be a different species, as their leaves look more marigold-ish), zinnias in a whole rainbow of colors, a few worn out nicotiana, and a big bowl full of very cheerful marigolds. Teman thought the were ‘mums, since most usual, normal marigolds are finished by now. However, my late-started, late-planted, drought-held-back marigolds were just getting ready to party up in the vegetable garden. (The ones down by the house are tapering off.) I shall enjoy them all for the week or so that they last inside of the house.
And that is about all my scatter-brained self can pull together tonight. Perhaps I left out something pertinent, in which case any questions or comments would gladly be answered.