Ah, September 3rd. There is a noticeable crispness to the air at night now, the first few leaves are starting to turn, and all the basic girls are ordering pumpkin-spice-everything (I say it with love). Fall is just around the corner in the Great Midwest and I am welcoming her with open arms. She is an intoxicating season filled with a bevy of unique scents and sounds and colors.
The approach of fall means our summer season is winding down. With this in mind, I wanted to give you all an update on where the garden progressed over the past two months.
Here is what beds # 1, 2, and 3 (as I affectionately call them) looked like yesterday morning. The farthest bed away in the picture is bed # 1. Over the summer it produced Kohlrabi, carrots, and okra. The Okra stands alone now. It is still massively producing! We have an abundance so I have taken to pickling it (you can follow the same recipe as my pickles, just keep the okra whole https://tacklemayhemfarms.wordpress.com/2016/07/13/the-great-pickle-experiment/).
As you can see from this picture, the Okra is massive. I am 5’2″ tall and it towers over me. I actually have to stand on the cinder blocks to reach the okra at the top to harvest it! I am harvesting 2-3 pieces per plant per day, amounting to about 20 pieces per day. (Don’t knock my style, I call it “rolled-outta-bed-and-gardened” chic.)
This is my son Davis showing off one of our heirloom carrots. They presented in a rainbow of white, yellow, orange, and purple. We still have half a refrigerator drawer filled with heirloom carrots that are terrific in soups.
The Kohlrabi did not like the heat and were very slow to grow. Nonetheless, I had enough to keep myself and a few family members satisfied for about 2 months.
Bed # 2, which you can see in the picture is completely empty, housed cucumbers, redina lettuce, arugula, and scallions. The cucumbers were fantastic! I have never seen anything grow so quickly! I ate at least 1 cucumber a day for 2+ months, we gave them away to friends nearly daily, Jason took them to work most days, and I still had enough to make approximately 48 jars of pickles (of which about half remain after gifting them to friends and family)! I had great fun experimenting with the pickling process, and found three varieties that suit me thus far: 1. Red pepper flake, whose spice makes a great bloody mary, 2. Red pepper flake and black peppercorn, which is a great everyday pickle, and 3. Mustard seed, which turned into my personal favorite and has a more balanced and subtler flavor.
The arugula was the first crop we harvested and gave us 3-4 quality cuttings, after which it was too bitter to continue. We ate and gave away arugula everyday for most of May and all of June. The redina lettuce was very similar with a few weeks later harvest date, but produced all through June, July, and part of August. Again, 3-4 great quality cuttings.
The scallions were wonderful because I could just leave them in the ground until I needed them! The bulbs would just get larger. I replaced nearly all my onion usage for June, July, and August with them.
Bed # 3 was still being built when we planted #1 and 2. We didn’t officially plant it until late June. We planted two types of cabbage (green and red), Brussel sprouts, and parsnips. Unfortunately, it was too hot this summer and the Brussel sprouts didn’t make it.
This is the first cabbage, which I harvested about 3 days ago. They are beautiful! Very crisp and tender at the same time. Cabbage is another vegetable you can harvest as needed, which is great for me as I eat a ton of it!
The parsnips are also growing very well, and will be a great addition to fall and winter soups and stews. They are are a few weeks out yet from being ready.
The broccoli gave us several large heads throughout the summer, and is still producing enough small florets to keep it around for a few more weeks.
This bed held green beans and three tomato varieties. The front plant is a small yellow tomato that pretty much never made it into the house because it was my harvesting snack! The plant has about another week of viability. The two behind it both produced small red tomatoes and have been pulled because they competed with the beans. The beans do not look pretty! This is because they are done being harvested, and are drying in place. We do this to replant them the following season, eliminating the cost of buying new seeds.
This final bed houses three varieties of heirloom tomato; the Black prince, Beefsteak, and a traditional heirloom. Because of the heat this summer she had a slow start, but is actually ramping up production now. I am harvesting 3-6 tomatoes a day, which may not sound like a lot…
…but with a few this size each day we have more than enough! I am stocking them up right now to try my hand at tomato canning, which I am super excited for!
And this… this is what about 5 months of daily hard work looks like in the end – a wagon filled with decaying vegetable plants. We had unbelievably successful crops, and abysmal failures. We fought off an aphid infestation, and welcomed the honeybees. We battled with the unrelenting heat and the months of drought. I waged a back-breaking organic war on the weeds. It was quite the summer.
And. Every. Damn. Second. Was. Worth. It.