This year I feel like a different gardener than in years past. It isn’t about cancer– all that did was lose me a year of gardening. But I’m more confident about all the crops, more in tune with what is ready when, have a little more time to “experiment” with multiple plantings and new items, and also I’m finally getting a handle on the garden improvements.
This year I finally got a workable fence around the garden, thanks to Steve, and in the last two weeks I’ve put down landscaping fabric between all the aisles and around the raised beds, basically the first real weed barrier. It was a good six hours of “laying carpet” on my hands and knees, but now Steve and Jeff are going to do the hard part and cover all that space with gravel. I spent way too much time fighting weeds and complaining about them this year. I will still be using my friendly weed burner around the outside of the fence and salting the exposed edges. I’m looking to replace the hard-as-a-rock clay bed where I’ve tried to grow onions, potatoes, and winter squash. After nearly a decade of amendments, the ground still gave only a sad, small potato yield this year. I’m moving on.
Of course, the greenhouse has made the biggest difference this year. And now I’m really experiencing the benefits. Every October we experience the “first hard frost” of the year, and that shuts down the gardens. This year we had three nights of frost. I covered the lettuces and greens, but the tomatoes and peppers all froze. The Brussels sprouts and kale are fine, but usually this would be the beginning of the end of fresh veggies.
We did return to warm days, and plenty of cool but sunny days when the greenhouse needed to be opened up. Out there, I continue to have loads of tomatoes and, best of all, a good number of eggplants. Eggplants! I’ve always been lucky to get two or three before the frost. But We’ve already had three rounds, there is babaganouj in the freezer, and there are two medium and 6-8 emerging/baby eggplants still on the vines.
Also, if I get even half of the tomatoes out there, we’ll be eating tomatoes fresh and in sauces until Thanksgiving. Tomatoes don’t need sunlight to ripen, just heat and ethylene gas, so it just depends on the temps. We’ll keep going until the temps are freezing during the day or the ponds start freezing. At some point we’ll have to turn off the water. I’ve started clipping off new shoots with flowers on the tomato plants, to get more energy into the existing fruit. But it doesn’t seem like the plants will give out on their own!
Last night and today we’re getting our first snow! The chickens took one look out there and went back in the coop. Except Goldie, who is intrepid, and took a brief jaunt to lay her egg in her prairie nest (the only one I can find and thus source of my one egg a day collection!)
But, as someone pointed out, I have the ingredients for fresh ratatouille on my counter!
So the greenhouse has been a definite game-changer. I am becoming OK with the fact that I don’t grow a tremendous amount of food (I’d love to say I grow enough for all three families on the farm, but I just grow “some” for the other families and enough for meager gifts to family in Chicago at Christmas). Seeing the amazing way cucumbers grow in the greenhouse, and eggplant, I’ll do even better on them next year. I’ll provide more calcium early to help the tomatoes, and I’ll probably grow fewer varieties. I might leave the beets for outside, but I’d like to try cantaloupe again and keep an eye on the mites for more prolific plants. I also already planted some scallions that will hopefully pop up early in the spring.