Despite my crazy baking week, I still found time today to take the last harvest from our garden. The never-ending grape tomatoes are long frozen, the remainder of the red serranos hang limply from the bush, and the pumpkins are the only color in a sea of greenish-grey. Today's harvest was the roots: potato, carrot, and just a few onions that sprang to life when the cooler weather set in. It's sad to see the garden completely depleted of its life, but I've already planned next year's garden, and, quite frankly, it's going to kick this year's garden's butt. Here's my final haul from the bounteous earth, some of which will be in tonight's Boeuf Bourguignon:
I learned some things this year that I will share:
- We don't really like cucumbers, at least not enough to eat them regularly. We really don't eat pickles either, so next year there will be no cucumbers.
- Small cages are no match for indeterminate tomatoes. Next year I'll build an entire structure devoted to tomatoes and their well-being. Stay tuned to see that amazing action.
- Indeterminate tomatoes are my heart's love, but I'll likely plant both determinate and indeterminate next year to better facilitate canning. Then once the canning is done, half of them will continue to produce sweet fruit until pinched off by the frosty fingers of death.
- Roots neither grow nor harvest well in clay. I knew that up front, but I'll be composting, wood-chipping, and top-soiling my way to better drainage for next year. It's just not fun to chip unbaked pottery off your 3 inch carrots or worry that washing your potatoes will cause irreversible plumbing damage.
- Start indoors earlier. This is actually a timing and method thing, and I think I'll have next year's tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cauliflower, and herbs ready and strong for spring planting. I started indoors this year, but most of my starts withered. The ones that did survive were severely behind schedule, and I scarce had a chance to enjoy my jalapeños before frost took them from me.
- HERBS—I need more. I think I'm going to plant squares of herbs next year rather than mix them in with the vegetables, although I don't know if I'll be able to resist surrounding my tomatoes with genovese basil. This year we enjoyed basil (sweet, Thai, and boxwood,) oregano, parsely, thyme, sage, rosemary, mint, and cilantro that went to seed while we were out of town, so now it's coriander. What to add? More basil, marjoram, tarragon, fennel (bulb and seeds!), maybe cumin, lavender, and dill. I may even throw in some other mint. I learned that you can freeze fresh herbs and they retain the properties of fresh herbs, although not the texture. That means no drying, crumbling, or substituting. Think fresh pesto glory all winter. More flavour, less work? Yes, please.
- I love squash and I want more of it in my life. I think the beds next to the house are going to be transformed from a rocky wasteland of ever-rotating weeds to a fruitful garden of squashes. Pumpkin, patty-pan, zucchini, acorn, butternut—hello autumn love, goodbye squash that strangle my every other plant.
- The garden should be more than a patch of dirt in which to plant food. Well, mine should be anyway, and next year it will hopefully also accommodate outdoor dining and a space for reading under the maple tree. I'm also hoping for a homey picket-style fence that separates it from the rest of the backyard (and from the rabbits.) You should definitely come visit and enjoy a summer evening with us in the garden. See how easily that rolls of the tongue? Now you try it: in the garden . . . in the garden . . . in the garden . . .
- I want berries. I think next year I'll try strawberries as a border on the inside of my fence. I would also love raspberries and blueberries, but I'm not sure I'm up for the bushes and fighting with the birds for them. I'm not lazy, but I know when mother nature has defeated me.
- I'll never again be without a garden. If I'm forced in to a small apartment with only a balcony, I can guarantee you that on that balcony you will find a summer bounty that will likely make it impossible to use the balcony for anything else.
So there you have it—an overly long ode to my garden and the promise of its return in the spring. May your winter preparations hold as much joy and anticipation as mine.