Garden Diary - October 2019

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Summer's End
Sunday, 29 September 2019

It's the very end of September, Sunday 29 September to be exact. I'm taking cardboard over to Janet, for under mulch weed barrier. And also some of the lovely chicken of the woods mushroom I foraged a couple of days ago.

Pumpkins are piled on the bench. Janet doesn't save the seed from these
pumpkins. They are all 'naked' seed varieties - no shells. Saving the seed
would mean isolating the plants, right? That would be too much trouble.

Of course we go down to the garden. Luscious production of tomatoes and
peppers. Calendar may claim it is now autumn but the garden is abundant.

Eggplants, now, they are a summer season vegetable. It's different abroad.
In the UK they would need a poly tunnel or a greenhouse to produce at all.

Back in August the beets were just brave little seedlings. And now they are
really beginning to look like something. Beets are good for late season crop.

Green peas are another vegetable that enjoys cooler weather. Sow them for
an early crop in spring, and a second, later sowing for an autumn harvest too.

And sweet enough to enjoy eaten fresh and raw, right from the pod.

Flowers, too, are still going strong. Annuals such as these vivid pink cosmos

and the Chinese forget-me-nots, Cynoglossum amabile, popular with bees.

Butterflies are "cropping" also. We saw several of these beautiful black swallowtail
butterfly caterpillars. They feed on Umbelliferae flowers, such as carrots, as here and
also dill and parsley and Queen Anne's lace. These two are almost ready to pupate.

Janet's daughter and granddaughter are visiting. We fill the little girl's
little wagon with vegetables: broccoli, zucchini, cucumbers and peppers.

And I was sent home with delicious, freshly harvested vegetable too.

Autumn Harvest
Sunday, 6 October 2019

Strange, strange weather. Unexpected too. The temperature plunged on Friday night, all the way down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, according to my rooftop weather station. A kiss of frost.

image courtesy Alfie Grillo. All rights reserved.
A call from Janet Saturday morning. The entire bed of sweet potatoes are blackened.

For reasons not worth going in to I cannot get over there today.

image courtesy Alfie Grillo. All rights reserved.
The sweet potatoes cannot wait. They will be dug today, then put down inside to cure.
Starchy when first dug, they must be stored in warm, 80 degree Fahrenheit and humid
conditions to develop the wonderful flavor we know. Janet cannot manage 80 degrees,
but can do 70 degrees Fahrenheit, intermittently spray with water. It just takes longer.

But I do get over to her garden on Sunday.

First things first - downstairs to admire the sweet potatoes. They are graded for

size. Each tray is labeled with the cultivar name. There are 3 heirloom varieties.

The original stock was bought in 2007 from Sand Hill Preservation Center. Janet start slips from her stored crop each spring, something which she says is very easy.They are:
Tennessee Top Mark, which is semi-bush, has a cut leaf, with dark pink skin, pale orange flesh, excellent mid-season yield.
Wakenda is an early, vining variety with a normal leaf, dark pink skin, dark orange flesh, excellent yields.
The third kind is Willowleaf, which is also early, semi-bush, has a cut leaf, light orange skin and flesh, excellent yield.

In the garden Janet plants Wakenda between the Tennessee Top Mark and Willowleaf, to separate the two cut leaf varieties. She raises her own slips to replant each year.

An aside: I remember when I was a little girl my mother would grow a sweet potato from the supermarket as a house plant. She'd choose one with little purple nubbins at one end. Three toothpicks wedged into the sweet potato to hold it upright in a mason jar of water. Roots would start to grow down, long leafy shoots would grow from the top, and there we had a fascinating vining, twining houseplant.

Another room in the basement has trays and trays of onions, and pails of potatoes.

Shelves hold jars of pickled cucumbers, and thick tomato puree made with
a steamer / juicer. The tomato juice is the jars off to the right, amber in color,
and the other jars are tomato puree. A steam juicer takes the place of boiling
down the puree but creates a lot of juice. Janet likes to drink the juice and
uses it for soup stock, etc. I've seen this called "tomato water" and it is nice.

Upstairs in the kitchen are two crocks of cucumbers, pickling in a spicy vinegar.

Down in the garden the tomato plants are fine but the more sensitive zucchini
have leaves limp and blackened by the touch of frost. Pity, as the next week or
even longer will be milder, frost free, suitable for continued growth. Not these.

Where the peanut plants had leaves touching the ground there is damage.
The leaves up in the air are fine, show no signs of damage. "Let's see . . ."

and Janet carefully forks up a clump. Yes! The peanuts are just about ready.

We go over to the compost heap where last spring's discards had been tossed.
They volunteered, covering the mound with such dense vines that weeds were
smothered. Janet pulls the heavy mat aside, digs a little and - sweet potatoes.

The seasons turn. The northern hemisphere of the earth tilts away from the sun.
Temperatures drop. The fall of the year, its descent into winter. But first, the harvest.

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