Archive for October, 2012

After several days with highs in the 80s, a cold front blew through Thursday morning. A killing freeze is predicted for tonight.

With the way things have been this year, I’m not betting on anything weather-wise. Climate change has turned the seasons upside down, no matter what Mike Thompson and other global warming deniers say.

Frost or not, my calendar says it’s time to finish the job of shutting down the garden. It’s why I always schedule a week of vacation for late October, not that it takes me seven days to break down the rabbit fence, bring in the last of the harvest and till the soil to a fine loam rich in both texture and possibilities for next year.

I just don’t like to feel rushed.
What’s left to harvest? Thanks to our aggressive and expensive watering regimen this summer, we’re still bringing in tomatoes. Moving the soaker hose around daily during the worst of the drought kept our 50 tomato plants alive. Then when temps let up, they started producing again.
Sure, the Romas I picked yesterday are a little on the puny side, but not bad, as you can see from the photo. And the round Celebritys, they’re fairly respectable in size and taste, too.

What we’ll do with them all hasn’t been decided. Roxie might can some more puree. But I do know that, if this year is anything like last, we’ll be eating fresh tomatoes into early December. The ripe and not-so-ripe fruit pictured will go bad in a few weeks, if we don’t put them to good use.
But before night fall, I’ll be picking green ones, too. The big freeze, remember? Suppose to hit between 3 and 8 a.m. They’re the ones I’ll be slicing for sandwiches to eat by the Christmas tree.
As Roxie said in one of her previous posts, green tomatoes ripen just fine on the table in our basement. And while they won’t taste as good as the vine-ripened ones we picked in high summer, they’re several steps above those tasteless specimens you’ll find in most grocery stores this time of year.
The broccoli has continued to produce, as well. Snipped enough florets the other day off of our plants to fill a quart-sized bag with florets. Who are these people who yank their broccoli plants out of the ground after collecting that first, big head? They’re missing out on all the shoots that come later, if you keep your plants from going to seed.
Peppers: We haven’t had much luck this year with the sweet bells – the few we’ve harvested have been puny, most likely a result of the heat and drought — but once again we’ve been over run with hot peppers.
This week I made one batch of pepper jelly from our bountiful supply of jalapenos and froze the rest. Some whole and some seeded and chopped in the Cuisinart.
As for the salsa peppers, ay yi yi. Even a few plants are a few too many most years. But it forces us to be creative. I made two batches of hot salsa pepper honey mustard. It’s killer good, both for slathering on sandwiches and as a dip.
Close relatives take note: It’s coming soon to a Christmas stocking near you.
Now what to do with the rest? Hot pepper vodka? Rox figures that might be good for one pepper, so anyone with ideas for what to do with a few dozen extra salsa peppers (like a banana pepper, only smaller and hotter) let us know.

Recipes, anyone?

Next month, I’ll be hauling in horse manure and planting garlic – not necessarily in that order – and that will truly be the end of the gardening year. It’s been many months since we set up the grow lights in the basement last winter, so I’m ready to put the 2012 growing season behind us.
However it felt good to get back at it yesterday and today, having ignored the garden in recent weeks. Once again I felt grateful and bit smug to think our family has this plot of land in the back yard from which we fill our freezer and basement shelves with nutritious, chemical free food that tastes better than store bought.
But if you’re a gardener, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.
Posted by: Mike


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Never say never

The optimism of new gardeners never fails to give me hope. Last week, I got a close-up of a new community garden project in Raytown–the first plot of what will eventually be 38 on what has for years been a horse stables in the downtown.

The people starting it have a brave plan. Elisa Bedsworth had her crew of home-schooled children went out there to plant radishes and carrots in mid-October in one little plot. They plan to put up hoops and a cover so their hardy greens and root crops will grow throughout the winter.

Of course, October is not prime time to be planting a garden. But this did not matter to the kids who enthusiastically planted kale and spinach last week. It was enough to be planting something. The hope came automatically–part of sowing a seed.

Their parents, meanwhile, reminisced about the disappointments of their first gardens last summer. About the drought. The failures and non-starters. And whether they’ll try again next year.

Possibly you know someone who had a first garden last year. If you do, now is the time to offer an encouraging word. Yes, it was bad. But it won’t always be like this. In fact, after a historic drought like this year, there’s no place to go but up.

We speak from experience here. Our first year of gardening–in 1981–was similarly bad. We had a drought that started in March and didn’t really let up until late July. Nothing really got a good foothold in the traditional spring rains. By the time it started raining again, it was really too late.

It would have been easy enough to stop right there. But we didn’t give up. And things got better. We had some good years. And a few more bad years. But the important thing was, we didn’t quit.

And we hope those kids and their parents out at the 63rd Street Community Gardens in Raytown won’t either.

Posted by: Roxie


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