I have not totally abandoned this here little blog, but instead found myself in my usual post-growing season period of disinterest. I have noticed this the past two years that I’ve gardened, and I am not proud of this characteristic, but seemingly by the time late August-September roll around, I am just ready to be done gardening. Any gardening project I have in the works or necessary end-of-season cleanup I find difficult to get motivated to complete. I think this will be especially weird to get used to living down here in Zone 7b/8a (Birmingham is riiiight along the dividing line between these two zones). Where I come from, we have our garden beds about emptied out and tucked in for the winter by the end of September, early October – here, I can still plant a late fall harvest of greens or overwinter them. It is just a different way to experience the seasons. I finally feel like it is autumn, as the trees are lovely and the air is cooler most days than they were for most of September.
I have been puttering around doing different growing and outdoors activities, though. On September 9th, I planted some seeds in my little community gardening plot.
I even brought over one of my trellises I had made last year for cucumbers and melons. They are easy to take down and reuse for more than one growing season, and I am so glad I didn’t let Chris talk me into getting rid of them when we moved (I prevailed with the majority of my gardening tools and equipment, hehe). I scattered a ton of different greens seeds – kale, lettuce, my remaining bush bean seeds, and some carrot seeds. Along the trellis I planted two types of peas – sugar snap and snow pea.
It was a particularly lovely September Sunday late afternoon and Chris was able to finish driving the fencing stakes to support the compost heap we had helped make the weekend before.
I think I got back out there once more to check on things, but didn’t bother to take a photo until I swung through on September 30th. Things were not growing as well as I would have hoped!
About the only thing growing well were the peas; the only other plants hanging in there were couple bean plants, a few fuzzy carrot tops, and a couple sprouts of kale. I think this fall has just been way too dry, and I have not made the effort to head out there and water. There was about one weekend in September that I remember it rained nicely; other than that, nada.
I decided on October 7th to see whatever grew underneath the lush sweet potato vines I grew in the tall potato bags, as well as what grew in the bucket of straw and potato eyes.
You are looking at it! Some very tiny potatoes, about 15 of them, with a few no bigger than Robins eggs. The potatoes that grew were along the bottom of the bucket, where the soil was, and there were none in the straw.
The sweet potatoes were not very large, and I think I was overambitious and put far too many plants per bag. I should have done one or two plants maximum per bag. The potatoes that did grow were tangled and twisted up – I think I got about seven or eight. They seemed to want to grow outwards, not downward, as they really only took up the upper half of the potato bag. Interesting.
I also decided to clean up my pots from this growing season. I don’t think I mentioned yet that grasshoppers and at least one other pest (some hornworm looking thing) completely decimated my beautiful swiss chard, kale plants, and green beans that I planted. I didn’t notice the damage until they were too far gone, so I waited till they were skeleton-like plants and then tore them out. I am wondering whether I should be concerned about eggs or larvae currently hibernating in the soil of these containers? I also am surprised that they even found my plants in my tall containers, but a good lesson for me to not be so lazy.
My herbs are still going strong – parsley, basil, sage, thyme all look great. My mint, which I don’t have a photo of, dried out a bit as did my rosemary. I am hoping if I start watering them better, I can resuscitate the rosemary so it will overwinter. We’ll see.
I stopped out at the community garden today with Dixie to get a little fresh air and let her stretch her legs. My sad little plot still has some vigorous peas climbing up the trellis with some blossoms as well. I ripped out the two bean plants that were shriveled and dead. The carrot top fuzz is a little bigger, and there are a couple kale plants doing fine.
I was also inspired by a story on winter greens in this month’s Organic Gardening to re-plant a box of arugula, a box of spinach, and more Swiss chard in my containers in the backyard. I realized that though I am really enjoying all the squash and apples I can get my hands on, in any form, eventually I will want some greens again. Isn’t it so much easier to step outside in the chilly air in December and snip the greens rather than paying too much for produce that has been shipped from far away? I say yes, and hope I have some success. I am going to see how cold it gets and how far I can push just keeping the greens out in the open without having to cover them. Should make for an interesting (to me, anyways) experiment. I feel almost certain my desire to garden and see green things will pick up here after a month or so of late fall/early winter and limited exposure to sunlight.
I have been coveting owning a home and land lately. I am trying to make the case for buying a house next year (I know, we just sold our house by the skin of our teeth!) but I am just ready to own again, even if it is only for a few years before we have to pick up and move again. I have been checking out the real estate listings for acreages. There are actually a lot available just outside the city, some with upright small barns and pastures to boot, all within commuting distance to Birmingham. I keep telling Chris – if our dream for the future is to someday own a small family farm in Iowa and live as off the grid as possible, why not practice at it and hone our skills while living wherever we are living? It would definitely be risky, but I think it is a discussion worth having. We are really lucky with our nice, new rental home and our friendly neighbors. But I think we are both wanting way more space to stretch out in. I know Dixie wants more space, too.