Sunday, October 17, 2010

Garden Lessons

I decided that today, my homework could wait. It's a beautiful crisp fall day in Seattle, and I knew that our supply of these lovely days is rapidly dwindling. So I pulled on an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, wandered out to my garden, and proceeded to do the final harvest of 2010. Save a few carrots I'll pull up and eat later.

I've been neglecting both garden and garden blog lately. I started my M.Ed program at UW Bothell, and it's been keeping me quite busy. Between that, working as a T.A., and attempting to find time for friends in the midst of a grad student's crazy schedule, I hadn't been as diligent in the garden. I waited too long to plant fall crops, and do not have a fall salad garden this year. On the flip side, my basement is full of the fruits of Canapalooza, my annual weeks-long canning project. I have multiple different kinds of salsa, five different kinds of jelly, basil beans, dilly beans, pickled zucchini, tomato sauce, and good old fashioned dill pickles. I also have 17 pints of peaches. I may make a peach tart or peach pie out of some of them.

While pulling out the tomatoes, I learned that they send out amazingly long roots. Their roots had taken over half the garden! I carefully harvested a few pounds of green tomatoes, putting them in a paper sack in my kitchen to ripen up. When I was done pulling out all the plants, I looked at my empty garden, wondering what I would grow next year.

For starters, I've decided what not to grow. I will not grow broccoli, as it takes up too much space and I'm not the biggest broccoli fan anyway. Gone are the strawberries, for the same reason (although I do love to eat berries). Likely gone too are the brandywines. While I did get some red brandywines (the plant I thought was a yellow brandywine turned out to be red), they ended up kinda mealy. We had a cool summer, and that may have affected their taste.

Here's what I think will be in my garden next spring: lettuce, radishes, kale, spring onions, carrots, chard, and possibly spicy purple mustard greens. For summer, I'll grow cherry tomatoes, Stupice tomatoes, yellow taxi tomatoes, Paul Robeson tomatoes, striped zebra tomatoes, striped German tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, red peppers, and zucchini. I may try to grow cucumbers and winter squash, too. We'll see.

I refuse to give up on zucchini, even though I learned that I still can't grow zucchini to save my life. It was too cold this summer for peppers, but I have hope that next summer's yield will be bigger.

Life started settling down in June. I think my garden kept me grounded. There's nothing like digging into fresh dirt, or eating a salad one grew oneself. As I wrote back in early March, it's hard to be sad when there are little green plants in one's house. Everything moves on, and life settles back into a happy medium.

The garden will stay sleeping until March, when the first spring plants go in. I'm exciting to see what next year's growing season will hold, but I'm in no hurry. I've got a lot of new wonderful things going on to enjoy first.