These days my longing–and I\’m not the only gardener to feel this way–is for a killing frost. The vegetable garden is in its late-summer, decadent, disheveled, yet curiously productive stage.
The squashes that I managed to save from the squash bugs are curing in the shed. The vines, with their cargo of killer eggs, nymphs, and adult bugs are returning to the Earth somewhere out in the front field. Meanwhile the pumpkin vine, which somehow escaped the bug plague, is succumbing to a different scourge. This one turns the green leaves first silver, then brown, but doesn\’t bother the pumpkins.
I have, for the first time in my gardening life, given up on the broccoli. The thirty-two plants that I bought in a blizzard in March have not stopped to take a breath since I put them in the ground. I have frozen all the broccoli that my freezer can hold. I have given away pounds of the stuff. Now I\’m just letting it bloom its heart out, and as soon as I can spare five minutes I\’ll pull out all the plants and give them to those magicians, the hens, who will transmute them into eggs.
The tomato plants have died of some mysterious disease that killed them from the bottom up. That has not, however, prevented them from producing quantities of fruit, many of which are still clinging to their parent\’s cadaver and ripening slowly.
The beans, which as usual I planted late, are just starting to set fruit, and there is frost in the forecast for later this week. I know I should leave the beans to meet their fate on their own, but my maternal nature rebels against letting those tender babies freeze to death. Since they\’re in a 4\’x4\’ raised bed, it should only take me a couple of minutes to throw an old shower curtain over them. And remember to take it off in the morning. And put it on again at night, and take it off….
The coming frost, unfortunately, will not help where the kale and chard are concerned. These will continue to haunt me well into November, demanding to be picked and washed and chopped and blanched and disposed of somehow. Thank heaven for the local food bank, which gives meaning and raison d\’etre to the otherwise absurd productivity of my nine 4\’x4\’ beds.
I cannot figure out how so much food can come out of so little space–and no particular thanks to my gardening talents. All I do is throw the used hen house litter on the beds in the fall, bung in some seeds and transplants in the spring, pull a couple of weeds while the plants are young, and then harvest until my arms give out.
Yesterday I gathered seventeen pounds of veggies for the food bank. (Wolfie helped by breaking off a number of kale branches for himself and Bisou to munch.) You think that finished my harvest season? Alas, I barely made a dent. I finally had to stop picking because of the mosquitoes, who were bent on storing up my blood for the winter. As I walked towards the house I could hear behind me the whisper of the kale and chard, growing new leaves.