Next year…

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Many famous gardens are referred to by name, starting with the Garden of Eden. Some are named for their location such as Sissinghurst, others simply for the gardener as in Monet’s gardens while still more are named because the description fits such as Sage Mountain, Rosemary Gladstar’s famous herbal retreat in Vermont.

I always smile when I see names posted like Growing Concern, Garden of Eaten’ or the oft used Garden Of Weeden. Serenity, Green Tangle or Fairy Lane are nice names too. However, if I were brazen enough to give my own garden a title the letters on the sign would probably read “Next Year.” Lord knows, I say those words often enough while tending the plants and soil.

In an area that gets—on average—85 frost free days, this year we were granted 120. Us! The ones in a frost pocket! The ones who always get both a late frost in the spring and an early one come fall. Some years we have only made 45 days between frosts. I don’t ever remember getting four straight months without the temperature dipping below zero before and I have lived here for half a century. Of course, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, just that I don’t remember if it ever did. If I wasn’t worried it was the result of global warming, I’d be delighted. Of course, this was also the year I gave up on wasting space on winter squash, sweet potatoes and other long-season heat-lovers that always get slapped down with frost before producing anything worth eating. Ah well. Next year.

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There is nothing like garden fresh kale tossed into a salad just seconds after picking…and it just gets sweeter with frost.

Even with the long season, there were the usual hits and misses. I had a bumper crop of potatoes, beans, lettuce and kale and a decent amount of beets, carrots and strawberries. The deer ate most of the peas so next year they are going back down in the orchard with its eight foot fence. The onions were terrible and I only got a few measly garlic and shallot bulbs for my year-long effort. The raspberries grew lush with all the rain but only produced a smattering of berries. There were so few we only had enough for eating straight off the bush, and even those didn’t taste very good. The new growth of canes look very lush and promising though, so I’m hoping for better results next year.

Tomatoes in my dehydrator...French tarragon waiting its turn on top!

Tomatoes in my dehydrator…French tarragon waiting its turn on top!

Things in the greenhouse did pretty well. I still have tomatoes ripening, though it’s long past the time to do the final harvest and bring them in, green or otherwise. I dried a few jars worth in my dehydrator. It’s an Excalibur and works wonderful. My only regret is that I cheaped out and bought the economy version instead of springing for one with a timer. It takes a long time to dehydrate things like tomatoes and it would be nice to be able to wander off and not worry about wrecking a batch. If you’re interested in getting one of these dehydrators just click on the picture and you can price them out. They’re expensive, but worth it. Dehydrated produce retains more nutrients than any other method of preservation and you don’t have to slave over a hot stove or worry about your freezer if the power goes out. You can also try going directly to Excalibur’s site and see if you can find a better deal there. But really, any dehydrator will do and there are small ones that work just fine and are far more affordable  if you’re only interested in doing a few small batches a year. If you’re real handy, you could even build a solar dehydrator!

My Sweet Success cucumber lived up to its name. A single plant produced so many cucumbers we couldn’t eat them all and had to give some away. There are still a couple dangling from the vine even now and here we are in the month of October! And of course the zucchini kept its prolific reputation intact. Just like the cucumber, one lone plant gave us more zucchini than we could eat. My peppers, however, are just starting to blossom so it’s a wash for them. Next year.

My leaf harvest for the compost—which you would think would be a sure thing—has come to an abrupt end before it scarcely began. Rains came and made the falling leaves a sodden mess. There are still some leaves on the trees so I haven’t lost all hope of playing with my new leaf vacuum, but it doesn’t look good. Oh, well. Next year.

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Not exactly appetizing but once it has been composted and worked into the garden the produce will be!

At least the horse manure for the compost is a crop I can count on. I’ve hauled over 20 wheelbarrow loads out of the pasture in the last week alone. Despite the fact that the average horse produces 7.5 tons of manure a year giving me a typical yield of 15 tons annually, I have collected most of the good stuff. I don’t want the dried out sawdust textured piles that have had all the nutrients leached out of them. Instead I go for the fresh piles, the steamier the better. Okay, that sounds disturbing even to me. But it’s true. It’s got to the point where I am practically rolling the wheelbarrow right up under the horses’ tails and tapping my foot.

Of course, the key to safe compost is time and heat. You want the pile to heat up sufficiently to kill off any pathogens or weed seeds in the manure and then you want the worms to move in and do their thing before transferring the rich, brown, gold to the garden. Next year.

How about you? What were your hits and misses this garden season? Plans for next year? Green tips for extending the season etc. ? Let us know…the more we share the more we grow!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone…

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3 Comments on Next year…

  1. Deb Weyrich-Cody // October 14, 2013 at 9:19 pm // Reply

    Hey Shannon, Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!
    Boy, if only had a buck for everytime I’ve heard a farming friend, beekeeping buddy or gardening lover say “… next year” But aren’t we all just perennial optimists? (HAH; )
    Sorry to hear about this year’s failures (but we all know Stuff happens). Have you ever tried the Shepphard Pepper? They’re an open pollinated, heritage type originally from Italy; can take a wide range of temperatures (starting MUCH sooner than Bell type: ) start out green – ripen to red with a heavy bodied banana pepper shape and just an all-round amazing pepper.

    • Hi Deb, Thank you so much for the pepper tip. I hadn’t heard of it before. It is definitely going on my wish list for the spring!

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody // October 15, 2013 at 1:05 pm //

        LOL, now I get the “growing wish list” bit – well, that’s what I get for reading things out of sequence; ) Nice double entendre: too hey?:D
        Once you get going with either the Sheppard or Kentucky Wonder you’ll be able to save seed. (One of the reasons I like KW so much? I had left some tiny, scraggly “not-worth-harvesting” pods on the very bottom of the bean trellis (which subsequently got frozen in by a snap freeze and left in thegarden all winter): Would you believe that they self-sowed and came up the next year without any assistance from the “Gardener” at all, thank you very much! I had pole beans on jury-rigged mini-trellises all over the garden that year (and yup, I certainly DID save the seed off of those ones!)

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