Friday, September 23, 2016

Cutting Back

Recently I've read several gardening blogs where the gardener is just gardened out.  It happens to all of us.  It usually happens to me in August but I don't start to complain about it until September.  I always look forward to autumn.  Spring is my favorite season because everything is fresh and growing but by Labor Day I am always wondering - "What was I thinking?"  Then I begin to count the days we have left until I can pull it all out or cut it back.

This year I took the easy route.  I cut back.  My husband doesn't see that I've cut back but I feel it.  In fact I sort of feel lazy not growing all of my stored food when I know that I can.  To make me feel better let's make a list of everything I can grow that I chose not to grow this year.  What I felt most was the spring gardening - peas, carrots, onions etc because skipping them meant my gardening started in May not March.

Garlic - When you grow garlic you start your garden a whole winter before.  That's really dragging it out.  I admit I love to see the green shoots come up first thing in March.  Then there's nothing to do but watch them.  They're very low maintenance.  And when you're done you get to make a neat braid.

Onions - I've grown a lot of onions of all colors over the years but I just don't use that many.  So I end up having to make the effort to store them properly and then end up composting half of them.  I like to buy the Long Day Sampler from Dixondale Farms.  The plants come in little bundles when your planting season arrives and you get to spend an hour on a sunny spring day poking holes in the soil with a pencil which is just the right size for the little guys.

Peas (like onions) get you out early in the spring.  They are also labor intensive with all the picking and shelling.  At first I really enjoy some leisurely pea shelling.  They are one of the best garden snacks to munch on when you're out working.  But then about the middle of your late planting harvest you walk by the pea patch and realize "crap there are more peas that need picking".  I consciously enjoyed not having to do that this year.  Luckily I froze enough to last two years.  Maybe I should buy a pea sheller?  I'll have to put that on my wish list.  Heaven knows I love my apple peeler.  Sometimes gadgets actually work.  I wonder if anyone is working on a garden sized pea picker.

Carrots -  I love pulling baby carrots.  I hate pulling, scrubbing, storing and using big ole ugly carrots that have to be pried out of the ground with a fork and I tire of baby carrots before they all get away from me and turn into big ole ugly carrots.  My favorite carrots are the finger sized new carrots with their stems trimmed to show just a splash of bright green on your plate, steamed and sprinkled with some brown sugar.  My least favorite carrots are the ones hanging out in the hydrator demanding to be chopped up and put into soup.  I hate demanding vegetables.

Radishes - I like them because they remind me of Easter Eggs. I love to grow a selection of colors. But I never ate them.  The only purpose they served was giving me early, colorful, gardening satisfaction.  Plus you can mix them in with your carrot seeds and when you are pulling radishes you are also thinning carrots.  Therefore I suppose that radishes add structure discipline to a spring garden.

Black Beans - Talk about labor intensive.  Plant them, pick them, shell them, dry them, soak them, cook them.  Sure, it's fun to cook up a batch of black bean soup with all your own beans, onions, garlic and peppers, but how often do I actually do that? Twice a year?  I wonder if the pea sheller would work on them too.

Sweet Potatoes on the left Norland Red potatoes on the right.
Sweet Potatoes - I've grown these for awhile with moderate results.  By far the best year I had was when I grew them in containers.  But most of them were quite small and a hassle to cut up. Turns out you can buy better frozen sweet potato fries than I can ever make from scratch anyway.

Silver Queen sweet corn 2007
Sweet Corn - The guy down at the farm stand does an excellent job and I get to choose which days I eat corn instead of the corn choosing for me.  I do miss not having dried corn stalks to decorate with in the fall.  And I miss the super sweet Gotta Have It variety.   I promise you there is no sweeter sweet corn. It can be fussy to grow because it needs really warm soil to germinate so you may or may not get the corn harvest of your dreams.  

Pumpkins -Now pumpkins are fun.  But they take up too much space.  And no matter how much space you have allotted them they will jump the fence.  They cannot be contained.  That must be why they were called Connecticut Field Pumpkins.  And I don't have a field.  I remember the day Tim came in and asked "why have you diapered the pumpkins?" That's not a diaper folks, that's a hammock.  Lazy pumpkins.

Acorn Squash - a pain to store. Butternut Squash - ditto

Artichokes - a lot of work for something I'd rather look at than eat

Broccoli - Worms.  Need I say more?

Cabbage - I don't actually remember growing cabbage.
But there it is.  I wonder what I did with it?

Okra - I would grow Okra just for its ornamental value.  However, it only blooms while I'm at work so this year I finally gave up.  Okra is a hot weather, long season crop, but I've had excellent results with Baby Bubba.  This variety is compact enough to grow in containers so you could start it early.

Chard - I ended up just looking at this too

Parsnips - Now that's not a very pretty picture of Parsnips, but that's what I think of when I think Parsnips. Cold - Mud.   By the time these are ready to eat, I'm totally over the whole garden thing.  Ditto Brussels Sprouts

These Scarlet Runner Beans looked like a living Christmas Tree complete with decorations
Pole beans - too tough and stringy - although easier to pick than the bush kind.  One year I planted both purple and yellow pole beans thinking they would be the ultimate in easy picking - shoulder height and visible against the green.  And they were, but they were nowhere near as good eatin' as my favorite bush varieties.  I usually grow the Purple Queen "bush variety" which climbs about 3-4 feet.  Maybe I'll try them on poles.  Short ones.

Of course, this year I still grew too many tomatoes because - well.... that's just what I do.  What I did not do with tomatoes this year:  canning, tomato sauce, Bloody Mary Mix.  Yep, I've been lazy.  Do I feel guilty about buying my black beans in a can?  A little.  How about the fake baby carrots or the worm free broccoli?  Not a bit.  Pumpkins?  I miss growing pumpkins particularly when I'm at the farm stand trying to choose one or two.  It's worse than choosing a Christmas tree.  When you grow your own you love each of them despite their faults.

One thing I kept noticing as I went back through the years of pictures is Bell Peppers.  Peppers everywhere.  Green ones, red ones, golden ones on beautiful compact plants.  What the hell happened?  Where did I go wrong?  This pepper thing is bothering me.  I want nice peppers.

A perfect, pristine garden path in the days before the raised beds.
Another thing that struck me as I was paging through years of garden photos:  I've had some really nice gardens.  I thought 2015 was the perfect spring and that my garden had never looked better, but 2007 and 2010 were looking pretty good too.  I wonder how many pounds of weeds I've pulled over the years?

I'm down to two tomatoes in the house and half a dozen on the vine.  My Pike County yellow tomato plant recently put out a whole second crop of new tomatoes which are just now ripening.  Just for that it has earned itself a place in next year's list.  Everyone else is done.  Even the Sungold.   There are only half a dozen cherry tomatoes each day not quarts.  But that's a relief because for the past month I've been struggling under an avalanche of tomatoes.  And somewhere in the middle of that I realized that I'd honestly be just as happy with a bacon only sandwich for the most part.  See, this is the sort of crazy talk you get when you eat too many tomatoes.

After this little stroll down memory lane I feel a bit more like a productive gardener.  Just think of the pounds of produce I've dealt with over the years,   It was interesting seeing how I had laid things out and remembering varieties I don't grow anymore.  I had sort of forgotten that there were years when odd things like Collards and Fennel kept me busy experimenting.  I am glad I didn't feel I had to can anything (I did 2 quarts of refrigerator pickles).  I have just enough potatoes to get us through the winter.  I don't have storage issues in the cellar or the freezer.  Life is simple.

No comments:

Post a Comment