Food Friday: The Last Harvest


It is beginning to cool down, at night at least. The dogwoods look as if they are considering changing color as they rustle in the breeze. They’ve gone from dull green to slightly bronze-tinged this week. And our noble raised vegetable garden bed experiment has finally come to a seasonal end.

I looked out at the tangle of a garden that I have been avoiding assiduously for the past month, and realized that I needed to take pity on our neighbors, and take a machete to the jungle growth. It was a small 8 foot by eight foot garden bed, and we overloaded it with our ambitions and expectations.

It was a giddy day when we built the frame for the beans. We transplanted twelve seedlings in their precious little peat cups. The vines took off and grew like crazy, making us believe that Jack and the Giant would come tearing through the yard sometime this summer. We had a veritable curtain of bean vines. We picked exactly eleven individual beans. All summer. No Jack, no Giant, no golden goose. Just a lot of vines. There must be a reason for this.

After researching this problem, Google has a lot of answers for me.
I hesitate to think that we lacked pollinators, because the bee balm was abuzz all summer, and we had lots of visiting hummingbirds. So I am betting more on too much fertilizer, or too much heat. The garden got plenty of sun from eleven o’clock on, and the baking summer sun at that. Resolve: plant the seedlings earlier next year and actually analyze the soil.

We also over estimated the number of tomato plants that two people actually need. We started with a dozen small plants, but were clueless about how big they would get. It got Tokyo subway-crowded in that tiny little garden. There is science to be applied, and a lot of math, too, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Resolve: fewer plants in 2019

We also planted the basil farm, which is our favorite ingredient, this side of garlic. We had half a dozen basil plants, which were well-tended and yielded a hefty amount of basil through the spring and summer. The plants were all pretty leggy when I finally paid attention to things, but I managed to fill a gallon-sized Baggie with fragrant basil leaves to tide us over the long winter months. I am going to pop in another couple of plants until the first frost wipes us out. You can never have too much basil. Resolve: more basil in 2019.

The row of nasturtiums was shiny and bright with color for a few weeks. The plants did not self-sow, which was a disappointment to my lazy soul, because I never remembered to plant any more nasturtium seeds. And my neighbor had mentioned once that she just loved nasturtiums. Resolve: be a better neighbor, and plant more nasturtiums.

Our one triumph was the pepper collection. We planted half a dozen, and every week something edible was harvested. There was the one Sunday when I flitted down to the garden to get a pepper for the scrambled eggs. It’s funny how the jalapeno peppers looked exactly like the sweet peppers. Those were some eye-opening eggs! Resolve: better pepper labels in 2019.

The peppers in the illustration are the last harvest of 2018, unless I run out to the garden center and get some more basil plants this afternoon. I think I will. There won’t be a frost for ages! And this little bit of gardening should satisfy my primal urge to dig in the dirt, until the spring bulbs I’ve ordered arrive.

“It was a beautiful bright autumn day, with air like cider and a sky so blue you could drown in it.”
― Diana Gabaldon

About Jean Sanders

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