A lot happened in the garden since my last post in July which can be found here. We had a large crop of green tomatoes, lots of greens, successfully grew two nice sized pumpkins and many other vegetables. We continued to battle pests throughout the summer and fall with slugs being the main culprit. Most of our apple crop was wormy this year as can happen in Washington. I am going to try netting my apples next year when they are small and see if that helps. We did however get three pears and they were quite frankly the best pears I have ever eaten. I am really excited for next year to see if we get more. We planted our pear tree about five years ago so it is just starting to fruit.
One of our pleasant surprises this year was our cucumber crop. I planted them late in a shady part of the garden and they did really well. We got several larger cucumbers and quite a few of the small ones as well. We got so many of the larger ones I had a hard time finding them and unfortunately we didn’t get to all of them before they turned bitter. However, this is the first year I have been able to successfully grow cucumbers so I am excited to try them again next year.
Another fun item we grew this year was giant beets. Ours did not get nearly as big as they were supposed to but I probably didn’t fertilize them at the right times. My favorite part about the beets we grew was the greens. I ate quite a few beet greens both raw and blanched for soup. They were delicious! We are going to try saving some seeds this year so I left a few in the garden for the spring and hopefully we will get some seeds from them next year. Beets are biannual crops and flower the second year so next spring will be prime beet flower time. Every time I think about beet flowers I remember the scene in a book from my childhood where the main character pulls out a gigantic beet or turnip that turns out to be inedible because it was on it’s second year. I can’t remember if that was Ramona or Ellen Tebbets but either way, I was fascinated by this when I was younger.
Our tomato plants loved the heat this year. I planted them in our garlic beds with a bunch of egg shells and they did fabulously! We got several large bowls of them and just finished eating the last of them about a week ago. I picked ours early because of a long wet streak of weather and ripened them inside. We have been very successful with this strategy in the past. I put them by our south facing windows with a paper towel on top and sometimes a banana. We were maneuvering around tomatoes for a bit but it was worth it to have a steady supply of fresh homegrown tomatoes for a couple of months. I did not can any tomatoes this year. We had a very busy fall and there just wasn’t any time to do it. Next year maybe I will plant more determinate varieties and try to can some pizza sauce or plain diced tomatoes.
We were very happy to get two nice sized pumpkins this year. I picked them a little green because I needed the pots and the squirrels were eyeing them but we baked them this weekend and they were delicious. I pureed the baked pumpkin and froze it. I guess you aren’t supposed to can your own pumpkin any more because it is too dense to guarantee it will heat up enough in the center to kill all of the bacteria but we have several cups of pumpkin in the freezer that should last us until spring. I also did not carve the gigantic white pumpkin I picked out at the farm for Halloween and I might bake that one as well. Right now I am really enjoying having it on the porch for a fall decoration though.
A major disappointment for us this year was our sunflower crop. I planted maybe 25-30 seeds, got about four plants and only one survived long enough to flower. Unfortunately our large flower barely got pollinated and we were only able to harvest about a third of the seeds. I definitely noticed a drop in the number of bees in our yard this year and I realized we simply didn’t have very many flowers later in the summer through early fall. I need to step up my flower game and plant more this year. I am not sure why we didn’t have as many in August but I didn’t buy a lot of flowers at the store and tried not cutting back the Hydrangea blooms this year and it didn’t produce more blooms so that may be part of it. We also had plants flowering later in the year as well. I have already started scoping out flower seeds in catalogs for next year and some native plants to help the bees as well. Hopefully next year we will do better on the flower front.
One thing I did remember to do this fall was to fill in my garden beds with more dirt. I actually added grass clippings on top of this dirt, then more dirt and left it for a few weeks before turning the soil and planting these beds with garlic. I have a couple more garden beds I need to fill and add egg shells to but I am hoping next year to have better soil quality overall. I am definitely working on my permaculture skills and finding ways to mulch with what we already have in the garden. Some of my plants I have to throw in the yard waste because they root from the branches but others I have been laying down around the bushes they come off of. I have heard this also helps with the insect populations because when you throw all of your yard clippings into the yard waste right away you are also throwing out all of your beneficial insects as well. Insect populations are definitely something I am thinking more about this year with climate issues becoming more urgent.
You can find more pictures of our garden and more frequent updates on Instagram located here. How has your garden done this fall?
Some of my favorite gardening links: