You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2008.

I pulled down sunflowers and corn stalks today, and dug and raked one of the vegetable garden beds. There’s a lot of work to do, but I’ll get to it. I also pulled down the safflower in the herb garden. The birds don’t seem to be interested in the seeds, which is a shame. Oh well; I’ll know not to bother to leave some next year.

I received a trade today: tomatoes and Fresno chili peppers and carrots and radishes, and huckleberry and stevia starts. I had no idea how starts would fare through the mail, but they made it here safely and look pretty good–the stevia is a little wilted, but that’s not unreasonable. They’re in pots now, quietly draining. I have no room for them in my plant window. I’ll make room. I might use my little greenhouse–I’m not sure what to do with it; it’s blown over several times over the year so I won’t trust my pots in it without securing it down,  but there’s nothing to secure it too. So maybe an indoor plant rack is my best bet.

I opened up my Garden Planning spreadsheet today, to enter in the new seeds and delete some old ones that I either ran out of, traded away, or don’t want to use anymore. I’m interested in planning next year’s garden,  but not yet. I’m caught in this odd mental space where I’m quietly putting away this year and quietly working toward next year, but without really thinking about next year. Which is okay, since I know more than I did this time last year–which is always the goal–and I know I’ll figure it out, probably in manic sketches and seed-catalog-skimming sessions in January and February. For now, I’m in a little bit of shutting-down time. Holiday time, I guess. Hibernation time. Or at least preparing my garden for its yearly rest.


I do not know the fate of the shiso just yet. It’s still hanging in there, covered now if the wind hasn’t uncovered it (which is what happened previously, so my lack of attention wasn’t disastrous). There are seeds in the little cups on its flower stalks. They’re deep purple. They’re hard, but juicy. Are they harvestable? I don’t know. I figure it won’t hurt seeds to be exposed to frost, though, since that’s what happens naturally (well, maybe not to basil-type herbs. I don’t know where it originates, but I’m assuming somewhere hot).

I’ve sent off two packets of seeds in trade so far. “When it gets reasonably nice and we’re not unreasonably busy, we’re working on the porch and I’m cleaning up the garden,” I told Eric tonight. “Where ‘reasonably nice’ means above freezing, and not raining.” It’s getting to be hat weather, which is getting to be too cold to do things in the garden. I remember digging carrots with frozen fingers last year.

I’m not sure how far into freezing weather I can delay harvest, though. I’ve got leeks and lettuce and carrots and parsnips and turnips and broccoli, which are all supposed to be fine in a little frost, maybe even somewhat improved; but at what point do they become endangered? I’m assuming I have at least until just before garlic planting–the first real freeze. My best bet is probably to get the parts of the garden that are empty (of harvestable food) cleaned up and ready for spring, and keep an eye on what’s still growing. Or drying, in the case of the seeds.

I cut the last head of garlic off my little braid today. I see I must grow much more garlic in later years. I bought some more from the farmer’s market to make up for it. Also peppers, four for a dollar; apparently this particular farmer wasn’t going to cover his crops anymore and was getting rid of them. Also a cabbage for making pasties for Eric. Also small sweet peppers and yams because why not? Also jalapenos to make roasted tomatillo salsa.

It’s still cooking, but I’m a little dubious about it. Mainly because the smell reminds me of a Korean fish dish my mom used to make. I can’t tell you why; certainly she never used tomatillos or jalapenos in it. It’s probably just an accidental similarity in the mingling of the hot pepper and the onions and the vinegary tomatillos, seasoned with my imagination. When it cools it won’t smell like that anymore, and I’ll be able to tell whether I like it.

You know what I haven’t done? Uncovered the shiso. Huh. Maybe I’ll try to remember to see what happened to it in the morning.

The weather channel predicted 30 tonight, so as soon as I got home from work I went to the garden and picked all the frost-tender, non-seed-bearing herbs I had. Also two heads of broccoli. Have I mentioned I love growing broccoli? Now to get it to happen in the spring.

I brought in my Big Blue Bowl of Harvesting, filled with herb stalks and the aforementioned broccoli. I hung some lemon basil and oregano to dry and potted my second annual oregano cutting in case the outdoor plant doesn’t make it through the winter (it didn’t last year). I plucked every good leaf off the basil. The bugs seem to have noticed it more as the year went on. Is that because it was older, or a second growth, or the bugs have gotten more desperate?

I ended up with about a cup of good leaves, enough to make a small batch of pesto, which I accordingly did. I also chopped the last of the dill into fine bits and froze it in ice cubes. This is the same dill that we used for pickle-making earlier in the year, and the new growth was pretty decent, I thought, considering the abuse it took. Onion-dill bread is in the near future.

The Scarborough Fair herbs are still out there, plus cutting celery and shiso (which is covered; I’m hoping to coax it to ripe-seed stage but the forecast isn’t looking good). They’ll be all right for a while. I’ve had a good year with the herbs; I’ve flavored several batches of sauce and pasta salad, made a decent amount of pesto (including walnut-cilantro pesto; did I never mention that? it was sooooo good), and put away plenty for the winter.

Also there are several hundred parsley seedlings in the strawberry patch. I know what I have to do, and I will.

I brought my porch plants in over the weekend. Since we’d had one frost scare with another coming up tomorrow, and the days getting shorter anyway, I figured it was time. So my plant window is crowded once again–the two resident plants, aloe and Christmas cactus, are accompanied by the bay and one of the pomegranates on the ledge itself, and the resident peace lily and the papyrus (which really needs dividing), the other pomegranate, and one of the cotton plants are on the seat below. This cotton plant is kind of spindly and has only one seed bud, but we’ll see how it goes in the winter, and if it survives maybe I’ll plant it in the garden in the spring and see if I can get some cotton–I don’t think I’m getting any this year from the plants I have.

The Meyer lemon is in quarantine, on the landing between the kitchen and the basement. It’s up against the door that theoretically leads to the side yard. We keep it closed and chained because it sticks and we don’t have the key to the lock. When we bought the house this wasn’t a big deal, but now I wish it worked, because it’s only steps away from what is now my herb garden and that would be very, very convenient. Fixing it is on the list of household jobs, but the list is so long and turnover is so slow I have no hopes of getting it done before we move.

The Meyer lemon is in quarantine because it still has scale. I’d been scraping it at intervals over the summer, but I gave up. It has two big green fruits on it, and I’m hoping and waiting for them to ripen. Then I’m going to cut it down to the ground (or close to it), since I observe the scale never goes on the brown lower parts of the wood, and see if it survives. I’m hoping this is one way to actually get rid of scale. If not, I’ll start over. The lemon knows this. I’m hoping it takes heed.

We got another frost advisory yesterday and, since I was feeling better and also in need of a break, I enlisted Eric to help me bring in the frost-tender vegetables. We foraged through the tomato plants, Eric obviously a bit leery of reaching into the jungle. I considered tomatillos while he picked peppers. (My thought: the husk should keep them from being ruined by a light frost. Yes? No?)

“Does that zucchini need to come in?” Eric said, pointing.

I wheeled around. There on the fence were two long, green, skinny fruits. “It’s the luffa!” I cried.


“Loufa. I planted them way back when and I thought they had died!”

“Will the frost kill them?”

“Yes,” I said regretfully, fingering one. “But they’re supposed to be edible young.” So I brought them in. My summer squash days were not over after all.

No frost as far as I could see. My dreams of tomato pesto pie are still intact. Tomorrow night is forecasted to be even dicier, though, so I may consider ending the tomato/basil harvest–and bringing in my bay and papyrus.

This weekend I’m doing a bunch of freelance work, and Eric’s mowing the lawn. After I don’t know how many weeks–I’m ashamed to talk to my neighbors, frankly–he’s got no urgent grading or plans, and the lawn is to be mowed.  Or there are no more apple turnovers. And how could he not want more apple turnovers? I want more, too–plus eggplants and onions and maybe some more squash to replace my lovely Stella Blue Hokkaido, which is deliciously long gone–which is why I’m going to the farmer’s market, even if I don’t get outside any other time this weekend (except to pick the tomatoes and basil). If gardening isn’t getting me out in the fresh air, at least other people’s gardening/farming does.

“Patchy frost possible,” said the radio.

ALERT! ALERT! said the gardener in my head.

There are tomatoes and tomatillos and a couple of tiny peppers out in the garden. There is lots of basil and shiso, and pears on the tree. Frost is no friend to any of these.

I didn’t cover or pick anything. I got home late, I was tired and depressed (an unexpected $3000 hospital bill would be enough to depress anyone, yes?), and I decided to hell with it, the garden can take its chances. I shall see whether this was a stupid decision in the morning.

But whether it was or not, clearly I need to make room indoors for tender fruits, assuming they survive tonight, that will soon be coming in, and to rearrange the plant window to give the plants on the step their winter space.

My friend Carol has a jar of Cherokee Trail of Tears beans in her kitchen windowsill. She also has a huge bucket of potatoes on her kitchen table; or she did yesterday, anyway. I went up for a Getting Things Done day (she finished two projects and undid two, which kind of counts as progress as it needed to happen in order for her to finish them; I cut out a quilt’s worth of fabric pieces and started a short-row toe) and we decided to have potato-leek soup for dinner. So of course we had to dig potatoes for soup.

She grew three kinds: banana fingerlings, All-Blues, and a white kind I can’t remember the name of–Oway?–but that she said she wouldn’t grow again anyway. “The fingerlings are my favorites,” she said as we crouched on either side of her potato bed with trowels. “We eat them roasted with garlic. Does Eric like them?”

“He thinks potatoes made that way are bland,” I said, rooting out some All-Blues. “He mostly just likes mashed potatoes.”

“He thinks roasted with garlic is bland, but mashed isn’t?!” she said, unearthing a hand’s worth of fingerlings.

“I think it’s just what he’s used to,” I said. I’m going to have to see if I can get him to change his mind, though; I have fingerlings of my own (French) and roasting them with garlic and oil and salt sounds marvelous. I haven’t had potatoes much at all this summer, and I’ve missed them.

The potato-leek soup turned out wonderfully: tasty and attractive, lavender soup with light green highlights from the leeks. She says they had lavender mashed potatoes not long ago, too. Hooray for funny-colored food!

Flowers and even fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.

Marion Zimmer Bradley