September So Soon

Cucumber SeedlingI’ve got to be honest with you. Back in February when I started planning this year’s Big Garden Project, I certainly had a few far-fetched ideas about how things would go. Some of these ideas unraveled rather quickly — for example, the idea that when they “tilled” the soil for us this would mean less work in setting up the garden area. (Ha! I laugh in my face!) Other ideas, I discovered, weren’t necessarily far-fetched, but were simply not executed properly on my part — the failed bean trellising is one shining example.

In spite of my inexperience and eager naïvety — which I did expect to be righted sooner or later — my vision of what the garden would be like at the end of August has turned out to be, perhaps, the most far-flung of all my projections. When I envisioned sunflowers gleaming overhead; ghastly, tired, and dispirited tomato vines; dried beans rattling on the vines; and pumpkins crying out for harvesting, I was envisioning late September, not August! Apparently, mother nature has other plans! At the rate we’re moving, the garden will be all but empty by mid-September since we’re not willing to experiment with fall crops, this year. (The official closing date on our garden plot being uncertain is a fairly important deterrent to us, admittedly.)

My pumpkins — my little shining stars — have matured quite early. I harvested 7 sugar pie pumpkins, recently — each of them with their own, rugged, earthy physique. We did have one casualty amongst that variety. Sadly, it was the eighth and largest pumpkin I harvested. Something quite nasty had burrowed its way into one side. While the pumpkin looked pretty well intact, closer examination showed a split near the bottom and inside lurked something detestable and decidedly inedible. I knew there was no salvaging the pumpkin.

Sugar Pie Pumpkin Harvest

The jarrahdale pumpkins are still leading me on with promises of 2-3 pumpkins. It’s definitely interesting that the jarrahdales have not matured as quickly as the sugar pies. While the vines on the jarrahdales are still plugging along, almost every vine and tendril of the sugar pies has turned a ghostly yellow and all the leaves are drooping and dropping. No, it’s not some rogue pest. With all the long, hot days and ample rain, the pumpkins are simply convinced that it’s time for fall!

Dill Flower 1The good thing about pumpkins, though, is that — if harvested and stored properly — they will keep for three months or more without any spoilage. That’s a relief, too, considering that I’m not in the mood to process pumpkin, at the moment! I even hesitated to show you the harvested pumpkins — feeling a bit like the department store that puts out its Christmas displays on October 1. Since we’re a bit pinched for storage space, however, our dining room is now home to these pumpkins which are telling us that it’s autumn regardless of what the calendar says.

Dill Flower 2Though it looked as though the dill could keep going forever and ever, I cut the plants off at the soil level so that we could harvest all of the flowers and foliage. I’ve tried growing dill in containers a few times in the past. It always ended bitterly — usually the plant fell over or succumbed to dampening off. Happily, growing dill did not mean revisiting those experiences. We had lots of flowers to dry, seeds to collect, and leaves to eat and dry.

When I’d finished harvesting the pumpkins and dill, I turned to the bean bed. Kentucky Wonder Harvest 1 I grabbed a bag and expected to find just a few pods of dried beans. Instead, I realized that I was going to need some help in harvesting these if I was to get it done before dark! (James!!) The Kentucky Wonder pole beans were not the first to blossom in the bean bed, but they have proven to be the most prolific, so far (admittedly, this is due to the theft of some of our earlier Scarlet Emperor bean pods, but I’m trying to not be overly bitter about that). Tucked inside the bed were hundreds of bean pods full of fat little beige beans. James and I had a good time, a few days later, shelling all the beans. Kentucky Wonder Harvest 2Our first harvest brought in just over a pound of dried beans — a little more than I expected from the whole crop and we’re not even done yet! There are still flowers and pods on the vines!

The Silvery Fir tomato vines (a determinate variety) had to be removed from the garden. They were the first plants to produce and provided several rounds of plump, red tomatoes. But, now that summer’s nearing its end and they’ve met their pre-destined quota, they’ve unanimously given up the ghost. Nearby, in the same bed, the Celebrity tomato vines (also a determinate variety) are ripening their final fruits and are in the same process of shutting down.

Celebrity Tomato Harvest

I’ve been very impressed by both of these varieties, this year. The Silvery Firs had very unique foliage and produced giant clusters of fruit. The tomatoes were pleasantly tart yet savory. My only complaint about them was their water content made them not well-suited for making sauce or canning (at least not without a lot of cooking time and/or tomato paste). The Celebrities boasted big, beefy stems and giant, solid fruits. Their flavor was not necessarily unique, but their pulpy fruits were excellent for cooking, canning, or slicing.

IMG_1190So, while the garden is very clearly beginning its final push into autumn, there aren’t too many plants left to fawn over: the cabbages are beginning to form heads; the carrots are nearing harvest time; the sunflowers are blossoming and branching way over my head; the indeterminate tomatoes are chugging along their merry way; and the herbs are continuing to spice up the place. But, standing there in the middle of the garden, it’s clear to see that things are winding down.

I have a feeling that the next time I write about the Big Garden Project, it will be a closing summary. I’m excited that it’s been a surprisingly victorious season for my first real experience at gardening, IMG_1191but I’m equally saddened that it’s coming to a close so quickly. Then again, considering that we have 50-something jars of tomatoes in the pantry and I have become something of a pickle ambassador to all our friends, I should probably call it a season soon, anyway!

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~ by Jason on August 24, 2010.

2 Responses to “September So Soon”

  1. Jason, this is so interesting! My garden looks like it’s truly the middle of the summer. Half of my tomatoes have ripened but I bet there are still 100 left green and waiting. I still have new cucumbers growing, my basil is big & bold and beautiful. Maybe it’s because I planted much later than you did? (I didn’t plant in the ground until June 1). It’s just so interesting.

    I think I’m going to do pumpkins next year, in a separate patch from the garden. What did you do to protect your pumpkins and zucchini from that nasty squash vine borer?

    • We did start the garden in mid-May, so maybe that’s part of the reason why you’re still up and going. We also get absolutely NO SHADE, so the plants enjoyed well over 8 hours of unfiltered sun every day. That — coupled with the unusually ample rainfall — made for a lot of early things, this season, I think.

      I grew two determinate and two indeterminate tomato varieties, so I knew the determinate ones would start dying off before the frost — I just didn’t expect it would be quite this early. Then again, I didn’t expect that I’d have tomatoes in late June like I did, either! I guess there’s only so much scheduling you can do in a garden. 😛

      And my basil — while I did get heaps from it early on — kinda got away from me since I wasn’t visiting often enough to really keep it pruned back and happy. It’s up past my butt, now! Scary stuff!! And the Japanese Beetles really developed a taste for it, too, so that’s made a lot of the leaves less than desireable. Thankfully the sage and thyme are still chugging along virtually pest-free, so far.

      I think the saving grace for pumpkins and zucchini was sowing them directly but covering them with summerweight fabric that I bought from Gardener’s Supply. I planted the seeds and then covered them with the fabric so that sun & rain could get through but bugs could not. They were able to sprout without being hindered by the squash bugs or the cucumber beetle (two very big pests in our garden area). I uncovered the vines right as they were starting to put out blooms and were pushing up the fabric all by themselves. By the time the squash vine borer moth came around to lay its eggs, I think my pumpkin vines were too big and confusing for the moth to bother finding its way to the stem to lay its eggs — at least that’s what I’m told was likely the case. Personally, I think a little pinch of luck had to be involved, too. There were two blossom stems that I remember picking off of my pumpkins in the early days of July that appeared to have some sinister kind of eggs on them. I’m thinking I may’ve nipped them in the bud, so to speak.

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