The Vegetable Garden and Orchard
September is over and with it the vegetable garden. In the hours just before sunrise on Sept 29 with a huge but waning moon setting in the western sky temperatures dropped to a very cold 28 degrees. Frost settled everywhere in that moment taking down any tender plants not covered with hay or cloth. In the days before that I had harvested all the remaining winter squash and tomatoes setting them out on tarps in the sun to finish ripening and covering them in layers of frost blankets at night. Most of the dry bean were picked, those that remained would be able to stand the cold and could be left on the vines to finish drying. The corn, sunflowers, and amaranth were harvested, dried or drying, their stalks cut down and fed to the sheep. So except for root crops and cole crops there was nothing left to harvest and those could easily stand cold nights.
My freezers are full with this summer’s produce. The harvest so far is:
32 packs (about 1 pound each) of shredded squash
18 packs (about 1 pound each) of kale
6 packs (about 1 pound each) of cabbage
11 packs(about 1/2 pound each) of tomatillos
9 quarts of paste tomatoes (more when they are ripe)
57 quarts of rhubarb
60 quarts of apple sauce
14 pounds sliced frozen apples
8 quarts of dried apples
11 quarts of plum sauce
1 quart of dried plums
13 pounds frozen sweet corn kernels
There are about 80 pounds of green tomatoes ripening and 35 butternut squash, 10 tonda padana squash, 4 zapalo plomo squash, 43 spaghetti squash, and 86 winter squash curing. Consider an average weight of 5 pounds per squash and that comes to 890 pounds. I don’t eat that much in a year so there is plenty for the sheep, the chickens, and the dog, too, as she gets cooked squash in her food everyday. Add to that three packed wheelbarrows-full of fully ripe summer squash (scallopini and crookneck) for the chickens. There is a lot of squash.
Except for onions (about 100 pounds) and garlic (25 pounds) the root crops haven’t been harvested yet but I expect about 200 pounds of potatoes, 30 pounds of carrots, 15 to 20 pounds each of parsnips, beets, and chicory root, about 5 pounds each of turnips and rutabagas, and a few roots of gobo and salsify. Jerusalem artichoke will be however many pounds I want to dig up. I hope to get 25 pounds of cabbage in the freezer (lightly sauteed in oil with some white champagne vinegar) and about that many pounds more of kale.
The amount of dry corn should be large but it is hard to estimate pounds right now. However, there are 12 full shopping bags filled with dry corn on the cob.
The apple wine has failed because the crock had a minute fracture on the inside glaze. As the apples fermented the liquid worked its way into the fracture and then found another weak spot on the outside where it leaked out all over the floor. A very nice mess and a banquet for fruit flies. I’ll try again next year. The brandied apples are looking good, though.
Weather and Phenological Changes
Most of September was very warm even at night until the 29th when a hard frost hit like a hammer. Fortunately, most of the garden was done producing and what wasn’t either cold hardy or was harvested to ripen in a safe place. This was probably the first time in years that garden crops died of old age and not frostbite. The average high temperature for the month was 78 degrees and the low 49. Rainfall was 5 inches.
Leaves on shrubs and trees had been slowly changing color all month. By the 26th many aspen were turning yellow and pines were shedding old needles. The last few nights of freezing weather will speed up the color changes.
The catbirds and cedar waxwings have left after eating all the black elderberries and mountain ash berries. Ruffed grouse are moving about in the woods finishing off the last of the bunch-berries and blackberries and some are now heading to the small crab-apple trees I planted for them.
Warblers began passing through on their fall migration on and were soon gone. White throated sparrows and juncos have arrived and are staying for the time eating crabgrass and other seeds in lawn and along the driveway. Some are also eating grain amaranth from the few stalks I left standing. I am thinking about planting a bigger patch next year to provide seeds for migrating birds.
Flocks of goldfinches have been busy feasting on the oily seeds of wild sunflowers that grow in so many places here. Last spring I planted twelve clumps of wild sunflowers near the road on the north edge of my land. They bloomed this summer and I have plans to add more sunflowers there and in several other places where they are not now growing.
Some things to do in October
Summer is over but the gardens need to be made ready for next year. Weeds must be pulled (again) from the rhubarb and new currant plantings. Crop debris needs to be removed and piled up to rot with a nice mix of chicken manure to heat it up. Garlic, shallots, and bunching onions are on the “to do list” for planting in October. I’ll be cutting a few more poles for beans and hauling in others I cut back in July.