fall garden

Fall 2016 Update

Well into the fall planting season, you might be wondering how my garden is growing.

Fantastic! My corn is thriving. Lined with lettuce, everyone is happy!

corn-and-lettuce

The corn is sprouted its first silk, lovely as a blonde beauty and a sure sign harvest time is nearing.

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My tomatoes are burgeoning with fruit. Brushed with Dipel Dust, the worms haven’t got a chance!

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Dipel Dust is the white stuff on the leaves!

tomatoes-and-dipel-dust

Broccoli is expanding its reach. Still young and tender, but showing great promise. Those are my newly planted sweet onions next to them. For the most part, the peanuts have been pulled and boiled, making room for Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

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I’ll also be introducing a sole rosemary plant. I have a herb garden close to my house, but since I’m about to till it up for soil refreshment and bug removal purposes, I decided you can never have too much rosemary. Soon, I’ll have it near and far!

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My squash is satisfied and going strong. Can’t wait!

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Alas, my peppers are waning but still producing. An assortment of green and red, they remind me of the upcoming holidays. Joy to the world…my garden is gorgeous!

Broccoli Babes

As my peanuts finish out for the season, it’s time to introduce a new crop. To best utilize my garden space, I interplant based on crop rotation rules. Crop rotation is an organic gardening practice where you change the placement of your plants from season to season. Doing so improves the structure and quality of your soil as well as minimizes the risk of disease and pest infestation. I use a rotation of beans-leaves-roots-fruits. Basically, this means that after my “beans” have produced, I plant “leaves.” In this case, beans = peanuts and leaves = broccoli. Peanuts fix nitrogen into the soil and broccoli requires lots of nitrogen to produce big green leaves so this rotation makes good sense.

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In between the broccoli sprouts will be spinach. Both love nitrogen and are good companions in the garden. Other crop rotation considerations are how my tomatoes followed peanuts from earlier this season, corn followed my bush beans. These peanuts (shown above) actually followed okra, although I normally try to follow a fruit group, say tomatoes, squash or peppers.

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Above is my fall garden to date (just prior to the insertion of my tomato stakes and cables). Blueberry bushes are located in the farthest row. Black beans are in the ground next to them. Then there’s my corn, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, broccoli and spinach. Still to come this season are sweet onions and carrots, cabbage and chard. Potatoes will go in around January. Can’t wait!

Why I Adore Fall Gardening…

It’s cool outside, somewhat cloudy overhead, the ground soaked through.  Rich, composted dirt, lush green growth, there’s a sense of calm hanging in the air.  Walking alongside my beds, admiring Mother Nature in all her glory, it occurs to me that there is more than vegetables and produce here.  There is color, texture.  Emotion, peace.  It’s a sensory experience.

Take my black beauty eggplant and cinnamon basil.  I never noticed this before, but they share common coloring.  Side by side, they’re beautiful, striking.  Leaning close, the scent of spicy basil is distinct, memorable.  Moving further, I’m drawn to my red cabbage. More

Picky Eater?

Okay, call me crazy (most folks do), but I have a finicky eater chomping away at the greens in my garden.  This little pest is devouring my Brussels sprouts.  Not my broccoli, mind you, taking up residence in the very same row.  Only my Brussels.  Chomped this one clear to the stem.

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Baking the Sweets of our Harvest

One of the best parts of gardening is reaping what you sow.  Or should I say, cooking what you reaped is one of the best parts of gardening.  This week the kids headed to the kitchen to prepare a feast of sweets using their recently harvested sweet potatoes.  On the menu was sweet potato fries and sweet potato pie.  Mmmm good!

First, we had to wash our potatoes.  When making sweet potato fries, we leave the skin on and since these babies came from our garden and not the supermarket, guess whose job it was to scrub them clean? 

Yep, you guessed it–upper elementary received the honors!  We used the scrub side of a brand new sponge to do the job, but you can also use a nail brush (any small brush will do) to gently clean the dirt from the skin.  CAUTION: gently is the key word here.  You do not want to remove the skins, only rid them of dirt. Some of the boys needed a bit of practice with this lesson. 🙂

While these kids cleaned our future fries, another group boiled our pie potatoes.  Boiling your sweet potatoes first will make skin removal EASY. 

When potatoes are soft enough to pierce through with a fork, remove from heat and allow to cool.  (Peeling while hot hurts!) But don’t wait until entirely cooled because then the skins tend to stick. 

While these kids squished out fresh boiled sweets for our pies, another group spiced up our fries with a rosemary garlic spice combo I picked up at the local supermarket.  Personally I find this spice to blend perfectly with the flavor of sweets and many of the kids agreed. 

“Wow, that smells good!”

Simple and direct works for me!  After the spice, we coated our fries with olive oil and lined them on a shallow baking pan.

Meanwhile, our pie sweets were getting their own set of spices–cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla–and blended until smooth.  Then both hit the oven to bake for about 35 – 45 minutes. 

For full recipe details, check the recipe section of this website.   And be sure you do, because from primary to middle school there wasn’t a frown or scrunched nose to be found.  Bravo to our amazing cooks!

But how could anyone not delight in these delicacies?  Don’t they just look delicious?

Trust me–they were.  In fact, I went straight home and made a few pies of my own.  Well…  Thanksgiving is the time of year to feast and give thanks, isn’t it?  And I’m thankful for a school full of willing participants who make gardening fun, a garden full of wonderful healthy produce and family and friends with whom I can share it all. 

Happy Thanksgiving!  (gobble, gobble…) 

 

Mandie’s still growing strong!

Most of her garden is cleared out now, but her tomatoes are still thriving.  Sort of.  Despite the weeds and stake neglect, they’re still producing —  Whoa, Dolly, look at them go!  While they may not be pretty (July heat is tough on a girl), they’re still supplying Mandie with fresh from the garden goodness. 

And just look at that sweet potato!  Off to a wonderful start, this plant will literally take over and fill the planter box with sumptuous golden sweets, with little or no effort on her part.

A good thing.  Apparently, Mandie’s summer has been a busy one, taking them in and out-of-town and around the state.  But didn’t I say, summers are for vacation?

They are indeed.   But don’t forget:  August starts Central Florida’s fall planting season, with pole beans, broccoli, collards, corn, onions, squash–the list goes on!  In fact, I’m seeding my tomatoes right now for transplanting in September.  Didn’t have good luck with my spring batch, but fall is a new season and hopefully new results. 

We can all hope, can’t we?  Besides, my local ag center is offering a course in master gardening which I just might check out.  Would make this whole gardening adventure a lot more fruitful if I knew what I was doing.  I’m mean really knew what I was doing.  Then I might actually warrant Mandie calling me Master!  (Not that it’s proved an obstacle, mind you, but it would make for a nice feather in my cap.)

For now, Mandie is holding her own, looking forward to starting her fall garden.  This woman is hooked

But fresh vegetables will do that to you.  They not only do they taste better, but every bite’s infused with pride, pleasure, and the will to continue the process.  So get ready and plan YOUR fall garden — right along with Mandie.   If she can do it, YOU can do it.  Trust me.  Too busy means nothing until you’ve walked in this woman’s shoes.