Monday, October 31, 2016

October's Garden (2016)


This is a month of transition for my vegetable garden. The heat-loving plants have been hit with a few light touches of frost and are beginning to wane; the winter plants have been energized by the cooler nights and have exploded in growth. I grow a large amount of the food we eat. My focus is on: favorites that I cannot get in the grocery, foods that taste best fresh and avoiding pesticide-laden GMO varieties.

When I walk into a grocery store I am saddened by the selection of fresh food. Even when I go to “the big cities” it is still limited. One year I grew red, yellow, orange, and white watermelons.  My plan was to make a fruit salad with all colors. Alas, I failed; they all ripened at different times.

The difference between a homegrown vine-ripened tomato and the rock hard, cardboard ones you get from the stores in January is unbelievable. This applies to many other vegetables. The aroma of a shredded carrot freshly dug will fill the kitchen. Hot peppers on the same plant can have varying degrees of heat. I have walked down a row of kale to perform a taste test and discovered plants of the same variety had different flavors, plus some even changed according to the size of the leaf. Kale in the grocery store is what I think battery acid would taste like. Handpicked in the cold of winter, it is almost sweet.

My garden has poor soil and I have stripped it of many of its nutrients over the years. We were able to purchase this farm because the soil was inferior so the price was affordable. Compost has been added by the truckloads but it is never enough. We are a few miles from a limestone rock quarry and there are huge boulders in my yard.  It is a struggle to get anything to grow due to the soil, bugs, viruses, and varmints. Everyone wants a bite of my garden without doing any of the work.

To Adam he said, “...Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil, you will eat food from it all the days of your life. Genesis 3:17

Some days it just feels that way. 

Tired Tomatoes

The tomatoes are slowing their growth.  I keep a close eye on the weather report.  One day soon we will have a hard frost that will kill the plants.  The temperature at which this can happen varies. It is a combination of the temperature of the ground, how hard the wind is blowing and how long the air stays cold.  If the ground is warm and the night air is only cold for an hour or two, the plant will not be harmed.

Each day I delay picking is another day of growth.  As soon as the killing frost hits, I will collect all of the remaining green tomatoes, wrap them in newspapers and store them in a cardboard box.  Slowly, they will ripen.

Played Out Peppers
Peppers - They hate cold weather and thrive only in the heat.  Right now they are covered in all colors and sizes.  Their flavor is stronger than anything you could buy in a store.

The morning after we have the killing frost I will pick them all and put them in the refrigerator.  They will keep longer than store bought ones because they are so fresh.





Old Okra



The okra began to get tough a few weeks ago and are now beyond eating. There is enough in the freezer or dehydrated to last me until next year.  By now we are tired of eating them so it is not hard to ignore them.  It is easy to let them just go to seed.  The leaves have fallen off and they look fatigued.  I will be harvesting the seeds to eat in a few days but for right now, they can grow a little more.




The long bean is a yard-long green bean and to the left of it is a large Lima bean also going to seed.  They both have vines that will grow about twenty feet long so I put them together on this tall arch.  The few light frosts we have had caused them to drop most of their leaves making it easy to find the beans.

I have recently planted winter pea seeds at the base of the arch. When one plant finishes, I usually turn over the soil and start another. However, it is hard work putting up the metal arches so I leave them up for two years then move them all to another place in the garden.  I know it is against the "rule" to grow something in the same place twice.  This is not something I would do with a plant that is a heavy feeder but with beans, it has worked.  I just poke a hole in the dirt trying not to disturb the roots of the growing plant.  Both grow together for a few weeks then the hot weather plant dies and it makes way for the cool weather plant.



The strawberries are thriving!  They are an everbearing variety so they will continue to produce until after a couple of killing frosts.  During the summer they struggled with the heat and I would only get about one handful a week.  It would be just enough to throw in the freezer to save to make winter pies.  The flavor was not as good then but if you add enough sugar, anything is good.






Yum




These were picked last night October 30th.  It is so strange for me to have strawberries straight from the garden in the fall; however, it is something I am learning to like.  The flavor has improved from the summer berries and is sweeter.  These won't be saved for pies but will be eaten fresh.  There were quite a few more not shown in the picture but it is so hard to not pop them in your mouth while picking.  I like the reddest ones that are just beginning to go mushy.



The cold weather plants are bursting with growth due to the cooler temperatures.  I can see an increase in their size every time I walk past them.  In this picture, there is an assortment of plants from my saved seeds. When something bolts and it is impossible to know what it is, the seeds are thrown together into a bag.  These are broadcast into large patches.  As they grow I thin them and use the small leaves in salads. 

This is the best time of the year in the garden in my opinion.  The heat has finally left, the bugs are slowing dying and the weeds are growing at a rate I can almost manage.  It is a pleasure to watch everything change.  It makes winter so much more bearable when you can go out and pick something fresh to eat.

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