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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
- Essex Farm: Bittersweet Fall (essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Full and By Farm: Bank Barn Winter Preparations (essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Planting, harvesting and your fair share (sethgodin.typepad.com)