Sunday, September 5, 2010

Busy, busy summer. What now?

In the last entry I was commenting on the changes in the garden from spring to summer. Now the changes to fall are already beginning. There has been a lot of activity in the meantime, most of which was not in the garden itself.

We have been freezing what we can't eat (beans, spinach, kale, squash, and tomato soup) and have already begun making jam (strawberry and currant (jelly) in June and peach and grape more recently. Except for the currants none it was from our garden.) We have also been dehydrating melons and apples.

A large portion of our meals comes from the garden. That involves quite a bit of washing produce and cooking. Eating always takes less time than the preparation.

Parts of the garden are becoming available. The potatoes, garlic, soybeans, and most of the lettuce have been harvested. I pulled out the broccoli because it was producing too little for the space required. A couple of the summer squash were done in by squash vine borers (but I know what I need to do next year). The early cucumbers have dried up and been removed and I have to admit I don't know what causes that. But they were incredibly productive for many weeks.

A couple of weeks ago I sowed some spinach, lettuce and kale in the empty spaces, along with transplanting some Chinese cabbages, Brussels sprouts and collards. But the very warm weather of this summer continued and the lettuce and spinach pretty much died out. Yesterday I transplanted a bunch of kale and some Chinese cabbages and expect the cooler weather will be good for them.

When truly empty spaces begin to appear it is time to start a cover crop. I have also seen the suggestion that cover crops can be started around existing plants like tomatoes and peppers and the cover crop will be started when those crops are done.

I will be planting mostly winter rye and perhaps a little bit of clover. Clover should be planted at least four weeks before the first frost but winter rye can be planted up to the time of the first frost. Where I am adding compost I need to dig that in before scattering the cover crop seed. For areas that only become empty after a frost I will just cover them with a layer of compost (or straw) and leave that until spring.

Since I now have four cold frames I need to identify soon where those will go and begin starting the plants that will go in them. This will be my first year to try and have some greens that I can go out and harvest during the winter. Since those plants will stop growing (except mache) when it gets really cold inside the frames I will want to have them started soon enough to reach full growth by early December. So there is still a lot of work to be done.