In a normal year, the end of September is given over almost entirely to harvesting, storing, cooking, and freezing the produce from the garden.
This year has been anything BUT normal.
It began like an average New England spring – late. By the end of April I had the cool-season seeds planted – carrots, beets, lettuces, peas and radishes – and the winter bed from the year before had begun to put on new growth.
As we began to anticipate Mother’s Day, the traditional date for setting out the tomatoes and planting beans and squash, the heavens opened and it rained. And rained. And rained. (apologies to all of you in drought-stricken areas – I wish I could have sent you some of our excess!) I was extremely grateful for my raised beds and their improved drainage. Gardening in the plain ground would have resulted in rotted seeds and plants for sure!
Things got done eventually, and began to grow. Slowly. VERY slowly. In fact, we did not get our first ripe tomato until the end of August, and the flavor isn’t up to par. The summer squash(pattypan) and winter squash(sweet dumpling) produced poorly in the cool temps. The peppers are almost non-existant.
The worst was yet to come. It should have been a banner year for my apple and pear trees. Alas, not so. The squirrels stripped them bare a month ago. John said he’s never seen anything like it, and he planted those trees 20+years ago. We do have apples on the little espalier tree in the kitchen garden, thanks to the dogs, so it’s not a total loss.
By now you’re probably wondering if anything grew well in this odd year. Yes, a few surprising things. The beans(Kentucky Wonder) went wild. I stopped picking a month ago to allow some to ripen fully – I discovered last year that if you let them dry they make an awesome soup bean. should be pulling them soon. The lettuces revelled in the cool, damp weather, as did the carrots and the beets. Green onions and the herbs were great, too.
The biggest shocker was the cucumbers! I always over-plant cukes, and usually only get enough for a few salads before they fall prey to squash bugs or fungus. The temps were too low for the mildew to take hold, and the extra-wet weather kept the bugs from hatching at the normal time, so they ALL grew and produced. I’ll bet I harvested 40 or 50 lbs. over a 2-month period. Made some great cucumber salads and even tried my hand at a batch of refrigerator pickles.( They’re really good – maybe next year I’ll learn to can and make real ones.) I was almost relieved when they finally gave up a couple of weeks ago!
So, now it’s clean-up time. Pull up, weed out, put to bed. Garlic and shallots get planted next week and the winter greens go in as well. Almost time for that “long winter’s nap.”