Veggie Patch Lullaby

It’s that time of year again when we put the vegetable garden to sleep.

I’ve been asked if it isn’t bittersweet ripping out limp, frosted tomato plants and tilling under the rotting stems of zucchini and cantaloupe.

Leaves are gone and frost is frequent, but Rosslyn's veggie patch is no crying matter.
The leaves are gone and frost is frequent, but Rosslyn’s veggie patch is no crying matter. Far from it!

And you know, it really isn’t bittersweet. It’s a celebration of another bountiful summer, eating delicious, fresh produce harvested from a small plot of dirt a short walk from my kitchen. And it’s a celebration of the bounty yet to come. I know that sounds sort of “woo-woo” Pollyanna-ish, but I genuinely mean it. Putting this summer’s garden to bed is actually a way of starting on next summer’s vegetable garden.

I love composting almost as much as gardening!

Besides, there’s still so much happening in the garden. Shortly we’ll begin harvesting leeks and that’ll continue through Thanksgiving, maybe even Christmas if the ground doesn’t freeze.

I've stripped the Brussels sprouts in the hopes of fattening their frost-sweetened treats.
I’ve stripped the Brussels sprouts in the hopes of fattening their frost-sweetened treats.

And I’ve just finished knocking most of the foliage off of our Brussels sprouts so they can continue to fill out. I’m about a month late, so it may not have as much effect as it would’ve otherwise. Under the best of circumstances this practice helps fatten up the sprouts.

The artichokes provide the only bittersweet harmony in my veggie patch lullaby. Out of a dozen plants, only six survived the swampy May and June early season. Plants that thrive in the sandy, dry, relatively temperate Monterey Peninsula struggle in clay soil flooded by rain after rain after rain. And of the six plants that survived, they developed slowly and bore no chokes. Three of the plants are at prime July first condition today! I’ve accepted that we won’t be eating any homegrown artichokes this year, but I’m not giving up hope for next year.

The Imperial Star artichokes remain healthy, but they failed to produce even a single choke this summer.
The Imperial Star artichokes remain healthy, but they failed to produce even a single choke this summer.

Given the decent artichoke crop me managed two summers ago and the outstanding bumper crop last year, I’m going to continue growing artichokes at Rosslyn. In fact, I’m going to undertake a bold experiment.

Ever since discovering that Imperial Star Artichokes can be grown successfully in our abbreviated norther season, I’ve been tempted to defy conventional wisdom.

Although artichokes in more forgiving climes can be grown as perennials, severe North Country winters and a short season require transplanting healthy, established juvenile artichokes and accepting that the crop will not endure from season to season.

It's time to start harvesting the leeks, perfect timing for outside grilling and soup.
It’s time to start harvesting the leeks, perfect timing for outside grilling and soup.

Annual artichokes are certainly better than no artichokes, but given our fruitless season I’ve decided to see if I can’t successfully overwinter our plants.

I plan to cut them back almost to their base once they’ve actually stopped growing and become dormant. And then, before we get any deep frosts or snow, I’ll bury the plants in straw, leaves and organic mulch to try and insulate them over the winter.

Nothing lost in trying!

November greens (and purples) that continue to nourish us.
November greens (and purples) that continue to nourish us.

And I’ve overlooked the still productive raised bed, still flush with greens. Although some of the spinach has browned off, and most of the kale is gone (some pest really did a number on it late this fall), the beets, beet “purples”, Swiss chard and lettuce continue to feed us.

So you see, the veggie patch lullaby is a happy, hopeful tune!

How do you feel when it’s time to put your veggie patch to bed for the winter?

About virtualDavis

A writer, storyteller and unabashed flâneur, George Davis (aka virtualDavis or G.G. Davis, Jr.) is the author of Rosslyn Redux: Reawakening a home, a dream and ourselves, a transmedia chronicle about rehabilitating an historic property in the Adirondacks with his bride. He blogs about storytelling, poetry, doodling, marginalia, flânerie, publishing, and other creativity-inspired esoterica at virtualDavis.com; posts sometimes exhilarating, often unnerving, occasionally euphoric, and always pollyanna "midlife mashups" at 40x41.com; chronicles his sailing adventures (and misadventures) at Sailing Errant; and delves into matters of parenting, babylandia, and childfreedom at Why No Kids? George formerly taught and coached at Santa Fe Preparatory School and The American School of Paris, and he co-founded and launched Maison Margaux: "Paris à la parisienne" in Faubourg Saint-Germain. He currently owns and operates Adobe Oasis in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his bride. George meanders on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and Flickr.
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