Saturday, September 30, 2017

September's Garden (2017)

The word which describes September's garden should be "neglect". It has remained hot and humid until the end of the month, and I am tired of it. All I have accomplished is harvesting what was ripe, ignoring the remainder and planting seeds for the winter garden. Sometimes you have had enough, and this month was my limit. Next month will be rough so I have allowed myself time away to do other things.

The first row, closest to the field is okra which has grown so tall I must bend the plant over or stand on a stool to reach those at the top.

The pods need to be picked every other day or they become tough.  Since I am known to be neglectful, I tried a new variety this year, Louisiana 16 inch Long Pod (upper) which is supposed to remain tender at longer lengths.  It does stay tender a bit longer than my usual favorite, White Velvet Okra (below), but not that much, certainly not what the seed catalog claimed.  Before the large seeds turn black, they can be used to add okra flavor in recipes such as rice, soup, stirfry or beans.  Cut the top and bottom from the pod, then peel it like a banana and knock the seeds out.

The row next to the okra is Henderson Bush Lima Beans. They love the hot miserable weather and have managed to produce a second harvest. 

It didn't appear the second crop would make it before frost, but yesterday I checked and they are loaded and ready to be picked.

Next is the row of an assortment of odd things.  This area will be used for one of my winter hoop houses.  Soon almost everything in this row will die when it frosts. The seedlings which were started earlier this month will be planted here.

The strawberry bed is in desperate need of weeding; it too has been neglected.  The flavor has improved and they are sweet again.  It is time to put the net back over because the birds have realized they are now delicious.

Peanuts are ready and waiting for a good rain to soften the soil; then they will be pulled up by hand and stacked in the front yard to dry.  I must put them close to the house or the squirrels will help themselves.  It will be a big job.

The tomatoes are being invaded by the sweet potato vines. The sweet potatoes will be the last thing harvested.  I like to wait so they can grow as big as possible.  A hard frost will kill the vines but the potatoes will store under the soil for a while.  It will be a difficult chore because the whole area must be dug and every inch searched for potatoes.

There is always a surprise. The sunflower finished blooming and looks ragged. Since the birds love the seeds, I left it up for a while longer.  Beside the root, in a small empty spot late in the season, I planted a banana melon seed.  It has circled beneath the sunflower plant, grown up the stalk and out on a branch.  Will they ripen before frost?  I sure hope so.

This month the compost pile looks even worse than last month. The Tahitian Butternut Squash has begun to suffer. The vine on the fence has deteriorated but the vine galloping across the field is in better shape. As they spread across the ground they root as they grow.  The vine on the fence is limited to only receiving nutrition from the single root under the compost pile.  Soon I will see how many squashes are hidden in the field.

The volunteer bean plant which sprouted in the compost pile and grew up the blocks beside the fire pit is growing rapidly.  I have discovered it is some type of Lima bean.  I love Lima beans!  The more the better.

Since I am located in lower middle Tennessee, we were hit first by the tail of hurricane Harvey, then by the tail of Hurricane Irma. We received high winds and rain, rain, rain.  Not enough to do any major damage, but enough to make everything soggy for weeks.  I never thought I would live to see the day I said it rained too much in August and September.

My Intense Purple Amaranth could not handle the winds along with soggy roots.  It is gone, but not before dropping a million seeds for next year.

Before Hurricanes
After Hurricanes
My tomatoes cracked and rotted on the vine due to all the water.  We were able to harvest enough to eat fresh but not enough to can.  This was not a good year for tomatoes.

Of course, the saga continued with my second yellow squash plant also being devoured by squash vine borers.  No surprise.  I did open up the vine so you could see it to be repulsed and I could enjoy smashing it beneath my shoe.  Revenge is sweet.

What little time I have spent in the garden has been used planting for winter.  As usual, I am far behind.  The seedlings should have been started around the middle of August but, better late than never.  The best way I have found to start my seedlings is in paper cups I make from newspapers.  Avoid the slick colored pages because the ink may be toxic.  I fold the newspaper, roll it around the wooden mold, put a drop of glue on the edge, then press the bottom shut.

This is my plant nursery.  It is on the east side of the front porch and catches the early morning warm sunshine. The white siding reflects the light back and the concrete holds heat long into the night.  Warmth is not important now but it will matter soon when the nights begin to cool.  When they dry, the water faucet is close which makes it easy to fill the boxes with water.   

Plastic CD holders with a hole drilled in the bottom are perfect for starting seeds.  After they sprout, I move them to paper cups filled with a mixture of dirt and potting soil then place them in cardboard box tops lined with plastic trash bags.  After the seedlings are a few inches tall, it will be easy to transplant the whole cup into the ground.  The paper cups keep the roots from being damaged so the plants will not be shocked.  After they are planted, the plastic bags are trashed and the cardboard is composted.  

Empty spots in the garden have been planted with saved seeds from last year's winter garden.  Nothing has been weeded yet.  All I did was rake the ground and throw the seeds out.  This is an empty flower bed in the front yard that I never got around to planting.  This area was chosen because I did not have enough empty spots in the vegetable garden during August.

This area is in the back of the vegetable garden by the woods and has been munched by many critters.  Since showing it in last months garden update, the few plants left have grown large and I have sprinkled seeds in the empty holes.  This will become hoop houses when cold weather arrives.

These are the collard greens that seeded themselves from the plants that bolted in the Spring and we have already eaten many of the leaves.  This area will also be under a hoop house although collard greens don't really need to be protected.  However, they are my favorite and I want to make sure I have enough in February.  

Next month we transition from summer to winter gardening.  Around October 15th, the first frost may hit and kill the summer garden.  All the warm weather produce must be harvested by then while at the same time preparing the winter garden.  It is a frantic race against the clock as I watch the weather report constantly.  

Harvesting summer crops will begin with digging and drying herbs. The last of the beans will need to be picked, shelled and frozen.  The peanuts will be dug, washed, dried then it will be time to dig the sweet potatoes.  The butternut squash must be found where they grew out in the field, pears will need to be picked, dehydrated or made into jam.  The pecans may be ready to harvest and must be watched closely or the squirrels will get them.  At the last minute right before frost, the remaining tomatoes, peppers, okra, and herbs will need to be picked.  Strawberries prefer the cooler weather and will begin to produce.  It will be a hard month.

The weather will be magnificent.  Fall in Tennessee makes living through the summers worth it.  Every second outside is enjoyable.  Mornings will be spent on the back deck with a cup of coffee.  It will be difficult to come inside at night.  Evenings will be enjoyed on the front porch watching the sunset with a cup of hot tea.  When it cools, blankets will be used; when it becomes cold, I will drag out an electric blanket, plug it in and stay even longer.

This morning's sunrise from the back deck. 
This past September was hot but Scooter knew how to cope while waiting for someone slow to finish picking okra.  First, find shade beneath the biggest plant where everyone can witness your misery.

Next, face Mom (she is the easiest to manipulate) with your eyes closed, pant hard and act as if you are exhausted.  Make sure there is a leaf hanging in your face and pretend to be too tired to move your head.  She will not notice how goofy you look, nor will she think you are beyond lazy because you won't bother turning your head to avoid the leaf in your eye. Just keep panting. Eventually, she will feel sympathy and let you back into the air-conditioned house.

If she takes too long to notice, peep out and see if she is looking then pant harder.  This trick works every time.


  1. You have a lot to do, Jeannie! I keep thinking the garden/preservation is done, and then I find more to do. Even on this small lot in town, I can't keep up!! Because, there is still laundry, cooking, homeschool and work.......I feel your pain!!

    I did make plum sauce and fig jam this week, and also did can some chicken broth. I think we are getting close to wanting to put away the outdoor propane canning equipment, and really clean that outside porch before too long. The garden is winding down, but I picked a bunch more cucumbers today, as well as snow peas. I've been getting raspberries and a few strawberries, but my strawberry bed is in dire need of weeding like yours. I will miss having the produce, but will love having more time. It's really hard to get to the canning once homeschool starts because I can spend 6-7 hours on a school day, schooling. (Duh, right?) But, it all takes time and the other things have to get crammed into the cracks. That's what evenings and weekends are for and why God invented midnight:)

    My tomatoes are not great this year, either. I canned what there were, and did not get enough for tomato sauce like I usually do, so I bought some. I got crushed, salsa, and whole, but not as many jars as usual. I think it will all work out fine.

    Happy gardening! I love your garden posts.

    1. Enjoy your cucumbers - ours are long gone. Bill wanted one for a salad this week so I bought one, he took a bite, looked at me and said, "There is no flavor at all." We are already missing ours.

      I think the strawberries might make up for the disappointment in the cucumbers. This morning was the first time I had enough strawberries to pick (after digging through the weeds), and they are fantastic.

  2. Looks as though your garden is a lot of work but produces a lot of good food.

    1. Today Bill helped me harvest the squash that had grown over into the field. The grass was thigh deep so I had to hunt them by pulling up the vine and following it to the squash. I then handed them back over the fence to Bill. I found a wheelbarrow full. Whatever am I going to do with that many?

  3. Hi Jeannie, You have so much to do, at the same time, you must thumb your nose at the grocery store, I find what you grow interesting to this old yankee.....okra, which I've only eaten in canned soup and I've never seen fresh peanuts. I sympathize as I hate the heat and humidity and hope you have a good cool down.

    1. Okra in canned soup does not count as real food. I wish I could mail you a truck load.

      Soon we will be digging the peanuts and I will take pictures of everything, especially the mud on my clothes. I don't care for them green, but when we travel further south into Alabama, they are sold at roadside markets freshly picked and boiled. I have never tried them but I think this year I will.

  4. Frost might come in the middle of October? That would really be early, - I am surprised. But I understand now, that there is quite a
    lot of work to be done in your garden. On one of the pictures I see
    nice plants of Genuese basil. I hope, you will be able to make big portions of pesto with it. When dried, basil looses lots of aroma.
    As to tomatoes, I believe that the big beef tomatoes are more sensitive than many other kinds. I like the Roma type of tomato and
    also the little "Yellow Submarine". Both are sturdier and also good for cooking ( as they are not too juicy. I like to have many sorts of tomatoes, so we have the choice and we can see which of them is really robust until late summer.
    Your garden has such a big choice of vegetables! Enough for a large
    family. Have you ever considered to plant lamb´s lettuce for winter?
    Good for a hoop house. Or is it not suitable in your climate zone?

    1. I have not grown it or even see it. I just did a search of my favorite seed catalogs to see if I could order it quickly and try growing it. No one carried it which might be due to the lateness of the season. They must be sold out. I did find a map that said it would grow in my area and it is also supposed to grow wild. I don't think I have ever seen around here, but I could be wrong. It is something I would like to try.

      I did make pesto and it was so good. It is all in the freezer waiting for winter. The basil plants are growing again and hopefully there will be enough so I can make more. There is never enough pesto for me. I agree basil loses so much flavor when it is dried. It does not taste the same.

      Frost will be coming soon. October 15 is the average date of the first frost for my area, sometimes it is earlier, sometimes later. I hope it is later so my winter vegetables can grow some more. We usually have a frost, then it turns warm again.

      I will miss my fresh summer garden vegetables.

  5. Your garden is pretty amazing! It's inspiring me to come up with a way to incorporate some edibles on our smaller lot.

    1. I was inspired by the book, "The Backyard Homestead: Produce All The Food You Need On A Quarter Acre" by C. Madigan. It changed the way I looked at gardening because it is possible to produce almost all of your food on a small lot. I began to take food production seriously and learned how to work smarter, not harder.

      Please copy anything I have done, avoid my mistakes, and start trying new things. Who knows what you will do?

  6. I think I've been more neglectful in my garden lately than you, Jeannie, and our first frost is due in a couple of weeks. With so much to do, you have made a good start preparing for winter. I had the same problem with my Big Boy tomatoes this year -- too wet. I'm going to stick to the plum and grape tomatoes I think. Whatever the problems, whatever isn't done -- there's always next year! P. x

    1. Pam, not "next year" but there is always "next season!" I am learning to garden year-round. The frost won't stop me, but will change what I am growing and how I grow it. The requirements are different for various climates. Don't stop doing what you love because the weather is bad.

      I stopped this month because I was tired and needed a break, or maybe I was just lazy.

  7. Wow, your garden is so prolific! Do you manage to eat everything that you grow, even with your boys away from home now? Or do you have enough traffic to start a small farm stand?

    I also read the grow-everything-you-need-on-a-guarter-acre book. Very interesting. Of course, having only a balcony I am somewhat limited, but grew up (peas on the walls) and down (French breakfast radishes, as they are long) as much as possible. I also started seed indoors before the last frost (fail, not enough light), used cloches, and kept on planting anytime anything failed (cough *peas* cough). My DH calls the balcony "Las Amazonas", so I think it's a start! I def learned lots to implement next year. I wish I had the amount of sun you have! But not the humidity. You can keep that. :)

    P.s. - Scooter is SOOOO adorable!

    1. Margaret, you ask such hard questions!
      When the boys were here everything was eaten plus the garden extended all the way to the fence. The back area by the woods held herbs and flowers, the field side had asparagus and other things that ran up the fence. All of that has gone to weeds. I can't keep it up.

      We eat from the garden daily. Today's lunch was a big salad, then we snacked on tomato salsa with corn chips, this evening I will be frying okra, eating leftover green beans, sauteing some squash, shredding the rest for zucchini muffins (your recipe) for Bill's breakfast tomorrow. Dessert will be strawberries and cream, but I only picked a cup so it won't be much split between two people. Protein will come from boiled eggs (on the salad) and leftover hamburger. This is an example of a typical day's meals. I check to see what is needing to be harvested, then plan my meals around that. When you eat so much from the garden, it needs to be big.

      I also freeze, can and dehydrate as much as possible but with the boys gone, I am not adjusting well. I think I have planted way too many sweet potatoes (but they will store until next summer in the basement), and way too many peanuts (but they will also store until next summer), and maybe too many Lima beans. This weekend I waded out into the weeds in the field and drug back a wheelbarrow full of squash from the one Tahitian Butternut squash plant growing in the compost pile!!!! There is still some left on the vine on the fence. What will I do with that much? They too will store in the basement until next year. I need a bigger variety but fewer of each thing. I too am learning.

      You didn't mention your sweet potato plant. How is it doing?

    2. My various sweet potato plants are growing v. slowly. Some have long vines and some don't. The roots of one were showing, so I checked the tubers (the biggest one was the size of my baby finger) and then covered it up with a nice layer of manure with some fertilizer. So obviously they have a bunch of growing still to do. Does that sound normal? Or are they behind where they should be, growth wise? I will let them grow for another month, I hope, assuming it doesn't freeze before then.

    3. That sounds perfect and like they are right on schedule. They seem to do their bulking up right at the end. Watch the weather report and if there is a cold night, bring them inside then put them back out the next morning. The longer they go, the bigger they become. If by chance a freeze gets them, don't panic because the vines will die but the potato will be fine under the dirt.

      I let mine grow as long as possible. The only reason I try to get them dug before a hard frost is because I follow the vines to lead me to them underground. They grow in all directions and refuse to make it easy to find them.

  8. You anticipate frost, and we have probably had our last snow on the mountains.

    1. It messes with my head when viewing gardens from around the world but I love seeing the diversity, others are freezing while I am hot. I especially enjoy being able to see others' flowers when it is winter here. It gives me hope for Spring.