Last week, a near neighbor delivered the remains of his garden to us.
It’s a tradition that started when we had oxen. Some garden friends brought us their corn stalks and other wilted plants at the end of the growing season. We’re out of ravenous oxen, but the goats are happy to eat corn plants, bean plants, beet leaves – almost anything rough and leafy. Anything that we can’t feed them, anything that belongs to the cabbage family or anything that rots, we feed it in our compost heap.
I think the delivery is mostly a chance for the gardener to stop and chat with my husband, an annual visit that starts with garden production and animal welfare, and extends to local and global business . This time we also got a bag of frying peppers, and our gardener friend got a cheese pledge when the goats are back in the milk.
It’s the season of garden talk, when market gardeners pull up plants, add row cover to extend the season, turn compost, or plant winter cover crops. And share the rundown of their seasons with anyone who understands what they’re talking about – what grew great, new favorites, what we would have liked to plant more, what failed.
My nephew in the high desert of Oregon, east of the Cascades, just put blankets in rows on his garden beds against the nighttime temperatures that were already dropping in the 1930s. He and his wife built their first raised bed on a cement slab at the side of their house when they moved in about three years ago. They added new beds every year and now they have gardens all around the house and some kind of greenhouse next to the shed for heat loving plants.
With a new baby at home, he found he didn’t have time to water every night. They switched to drip pipes this year and found it useful in their climate, where the problem is not just lack of precipitation but dry air. It took a few years to learn how to grow in this environment, and the next lesson is not to plant their beds too much. “I guess we learn less is more,” he said.
This has been a great year for peppers, my nephew reported, and not too bad for tomatoes.
Our tomatoes have not done very well this year. I’m not sure if it was the wild weather changes – from too dry to too wet – or the fact that they all ended up sprawling out on the ground instead of staying on their supports. They weren’t ripening fast enough and I plucked most of them green to ripen in boxes inside.
Like my nephew, we have had a good chili season, although my husband will say we could have done with more sweet peppers and less hot peppers. The deer got into the chard and kale very early on, but everything came back and will continue to produce until frost. We lost some zucchini plants in the heavy rains, but we planted a few more in July that still bear today. Yellow summer squash have never stopped producing and are still in abundance.
I think the carrots have been affected by the long period of drought. They are plentiful but not very sweet. I roasted them, which improves the flavor. This time of year, I roast everything – cauliflower, fennel, carrots, onions, broccoli – all together on a baking sheet and put them in freezer bags for the winter.
Our winter squash is piling up in front of the front door, as well as the potato baskets, which have also done very well this year. We seem to have eaten almost all the onions we thought we would plant for the wintering season and had to pick up a bag from a farm stand.
Soon we will plant garlic and put the gardens to bed for the winter.
And talk with our garden friends about what we want to grow next year.
Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Then look for it on October 24. Contact Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. The views expressed in Greenpoint are its own and not necessarily those of the newspaper.
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