Fading Summer Brings in Fall Greens, and Hollyhocks for Cheer
There’s a flurry of seed sowing and setting out of transplants going on here. Am I deluded that it’s springtime? No. Autumn is around the corner and there are vegetables to be planted.
For many gardeners, summer’s end and the garden’s end are one and the same. But planning for and planting an autumn vegetable garden bypasses the funereal look of waning tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and other vegetables that thrive only with summer heat and long days of sunshine, and puts plenty of fresh vegetables on the table. Having an autumn vegetable garden is like having a whole new garden, one that gradually fades in, like a developing photograph, as summer vegetables fade out.
Autumn vegetables come to the fore as tomatoes fade away
Which is why today I tucked two dozen endive transplants into a double row of holes spaced fifteen inches apart in …
Gentlemen (and ladies, and kids), start your engines. The 2014 gardening season has begun, here on the farmden, at least.
The day began with my lugging the big pail of potting soil from the cold garage to a warm spot near the woodstove. My home-made potting soil — equal parts peat, compost, garden soil, and perlite, with some soybean meal thrown in — is moist when I make it, so was frozen solid. Not usable or suitable for germinating seeds.
Once the potting soil defrosts and warms, I scoop it into a seed flat and a small plastic tub into which I’ve drilled drainage holes. Firming the soil in place with my Furrow Maker, a small board with spaced out,
The Furrow Maker in action
1/4-inch dowels glued to its underbelly, creates a miniature farm field. Into the tub’s “field” go rows …
“It takes a patient man to net an acre of blueberries.” The New England accent added weight to the declaration, as did the gentleman’s 80-something year old frame standing ramrod-straight and adorned with checkered jacket, a cap, and chinstrap beard. That was 30 years ago, and I was standing in the New Hampshire garden of Elwyn Meader, looking across the field at his acre of blueberries. Elwyn was a plant
breeder extraordinaire, then retired, who had developed new varieties of such plants as persimmons, chestnuts, lilacs, cucumbers, soybeans, watermelons, and everbearing strawberries. The honey-sweet Fallgold raspberry, my favorite, was Elwyn’s handiwork, incorporating genes from Korean raspberries he found while working there for the U. S. Army.
Now, many years later, I think of Elwyn’s words as Deb and I rush to net our small plot, two-hundredths of an acre, of blueberries. …
Sowing tomatoes was the big moment in the garden last week. The sowing was actually indoors and it was on April 1st, which is 6 weeks before the “average date of the last killing frost,” or, to those in the know, ADLKF.
I’m finicky about what varieties to grow because good tomatoes just waste garden space, never getting eaten if great-tasting tomatoes, are also to be had. But look at tomato variety descriptions in seed catalogues and on seed packets, and you’d think that every tomato variety tastes great and is worth growing.
I read those descriptors carefully to narrow the field. For starters, I avoid any tomato listed as “determinate.” Determinate varieties grow by branching repeatedly because each stem ends in a cluster of fruits. The plants are compact and ripen their fruits over a short season, which appeals to commercial growers. Downsides are that their lower leaf …
Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes! I’m awash in fresh tomatoes. Sparkling red jars of canned tomatoes are lined up on the kitchen counter. Thin discs of dried tomatoes fill other jars. And out in the garden, tomato leaves are dropping from disease. All things tomato are center stage in the garden.
Kellog’s Breakfast, strange name but beautiful and delicious
It’s been fun comparing flavors of fresh slices of tomatoes. Brandywine and Belgian Giant, for instance, are both scrumptious, with Belgian Giant being a little more tomato-y. Cherokee Purple is also delicious, this one with a rich, slightly smokey flavor. In addition to my usual favorites, one new variety (for me), Kellog’s Breakfast, will become a regular in my garden. This heirloom has an odd name and a flesh that is at the same time meaty and juicy. The skin of these large fruits …
Not that I needed explanations, but now I have two more as to why my tomatoes taste so good. A green thumb is not one of them.
Actually, the explanation is not why tomatoes plucked from my vines taste so good but, rather, why the perfect, red orbs — called “tomatoes” — dumped onto supermarket shelves don’t taste so good. For this study, agricultural scientist Harry Klee, at the University of Florida, gathered together a whole lot of heirloom and modern tomato varieties …