Well, here we are, already at the tail end of the gardening season. I’ve been busy raking leaves over the gardens and making plans to plant garlic. I’ve also been pondering the possibility of digging a few holes around the yard and tossing in a tulip bulb or two in a last ditch effort to bring a little color to my dreary northern landscape come spring. Maybe this weekend…or maybe not. This is kind of how this growing season has gone for me. Despite my better intentions of going to the garden a few times a week and reporting my discoveries here, the entire summer and fall has slipped away without a word from me.
Thankfully, though, the plants don’t seem to care if I pay attention to them or not. While I was off camping with friends, traveling cross-country to visit family on the West Coast, or squeezing in another training run for the Twin Cities Marathon (Yay! I did it!), most of the plants thrived. With each sporadic trip to the garden I was rewarded with something unexpected…like the butternut squash, with vines that snuck into the weedy trenches of the raspberries and beyond. I think I harvested ten squash from one plant alone! (If you have any good squash recipes, send them my way… I think my family is getting a little tired of squash soup;)
And these purple cauliflower gems! My Brussels sprouts and cabbage, which have done well in the past, produced nothing, nada, zilch. But the beautiful purple bouquets of cauliflower more than made up for it, and I harvested three giant bunches. Roasted cauliflower has become one of my faves, and it looks and tastes amazing when mixed on a tray with cubed squash, broccoli, and carrots. Yum.
Another gardening surprise was just how prolific the apple tree was this year. We planted our Honeycrisp apple tree as an espalier on the south east corner of our house a few years ago. Last year was kind of a bust. The squirrels pretty much made off with the few small apples the tree reluctantly sprouted. This year, though, the tree went gangbusters. I think we may have harvested 40 plus apples, which is a lot for this tiny space. We’ve had apple brown betty, apple crisp, apple pie, and today I’m making a batch of roasted apple sauce. More yum.
Of course I don’t want to leave you with the idea that neglecting your garden will lead to great results. Those apples I was just telling you about weren’t perfect. While they taste good, I’m convinced they have a condition called bitter pit, a calcium deficiency caused in part by inconsistent watering. Next year I’ll water more thoroughly during those hot, dry days. The raspberries were also disappointing. For the past couple of years we’ve been dealing with wormy fruit…I know, not very appetizing. I think we may actually pull the plants in the spring and let that soil be for a season. I’m feeling like we need a fresh start, but I don’t want to sink new plants into larvae-infested soil.
These are all lessons learned in the course of a gardening season. I’ll celebrate the successes and replace the duds with something new. My main take-away? I’m not going to let myself get all consumed with guilt over not making it down to my community plot as often as I’d like. Whatever. Life happens. Savor the squash and purple cauliflower!
Not quite ready to put away your gardening tools for the season? Check out a few of the fun, windowsill-friendly projects from my book, Dig In! 12 Easy Gardening Projects Using Kitchen Scraps.