I pulled up the majority of my vegetable garden a couple weeks ago. The green beans and yellow wax beans were just about spent, so up they came. I got a LOT of beans out of the garden this year – so many that John and I were sick of them and I was giving them away to friends by the sackful. Planting the vining green beans against the fence was definitely the way to go. They got plenty of support and weren’t crowded by other plants. I only wish I’d planted the yellow wax beans in their own row, because they did so well that I could have used space to walk between them and the green beans. Live and learn.
I picked all the oddball gourds from the volunteer plant that came up in the early spring and basically crowded out the cucumbers. I had a good initial crop of cukes but the gourd plant just took over that part of the garden (and any other part it could get into). I kind of wish I’d pulled it out when I realized it was a gourd and not a melon or squash plant, but by then it was too late in the game. I did start cutting it back rather sharply, but I still got more than two dozen gourds off it. This is my kitchen stoop, with the basket of gourds at the top and another basket of tomatoes, late beans and kung pao pepper.
Speaking of peppers, I had a good crop of both the kung pao variety and the red bell peppers. The latter were late to get started; in fact, both plants are still producing as I write this, in mid-October. Today I roasted four big bell peppers and put them into an olive oil and balsamic vinegar marinade – yummy. I’ve been picking the kung pao peppers as they ripen and stringing them up to dry. If nothing else, they’re pretty:
The big disappointment of the growing season was the potato crop. Once again, I only got a disappointing two dozen potatoes out of all the labor involved. Other people tell me they don’t have any difficulty growing potatoes; I’ve planted them three years running and just can’t seem to get it right. Buying potatoes in the grocery store is a lot cheaper than growing them myself, so I don’t think I’ll be growing them again. They’re labor-intensive and take up a lot of room, so not growing them will free me up to trying something new next year.
As far as the tomatoes go (and are still going – still producing as of today), I had a pretty good crop – that is, what I was able to salvage once the squirrels got through with them. I’ve had squirrels snatch a tomato or two in the past, but this season was ridiculous. Squirrels were stealing tomatoes before they even ripened, and I feel like I spent all summer chasing them out of the garden. The chipmunk that lives under the kitchen stoop always helps himself to a few tomatoes every year, but I don’t mind so much because at least he/she eats them all up. The squirrels, on the other hand, will eat about a third of the tomato and then drop it. I’ve found chewed toms in the front yard, on the deck rails, on the front porch – squirrels are definitely old hands at al fresco dining. I fear I will have volunteer tomatoes all over the yard next year.
The really annoying thing is that I have volunteer tomatoes at the edges of the garden this year. Rather than pull them up, I left them for the squirrels. They are producing tomatoes about the size of a large grape (a scuppernong, say) and they’re perfectly edible. About the same time the volunteers started producing, I covered my cultivated tomatoes with netting to keep the squirrels out, hoping they’d start taking the volunteer fruit instead. No such luck. The little buggers would run right past the volunteers (right over them, in fact – they are on the fence line) and worry their way past the netting and start raiding my cultivars. When I’d come out to shoo them off, they’d act the fool, flinging themselves hysterically through the plants and against the netting because they’re too stupid to remember how they got inside the netting in the first place. I’d have to unpin the netting and chivvy them out. I also had to unpin the netting every time I wanted to pick tomatoes, which meant I did my picking on hands and knees – not fun when you’re being devoured by mosquitoes. I finally gave up and cut much of the netting away, so the squirrels are having a field day. I’ll have to put my thinking cap on and think of a good way of keeping them out before next spring.
I was pleased with the performance of the two kinds of plant supports I bought this spring: the cucumber trellis did extremely well and I liked the way it kept the cukes off the ground (and the gourds later on). The two tomato towers I bought also performed well, even with the squirrels ricocheting off them on occasion. I was looking at the garden this morning and it appears that the basil plant is pretty much finished for the season, although the flat-leafed parsley seems to have gotten a second wind. Since there was a freeze warning for my area last night (as well as tonight), I picked a lot of semi-ripe red bell peppers and are hoping they’ll ripen on the windowsill. Tomorrow I might have a dead garden – or I might not. Gardening continues to be a grand experiment for me, one I look forward to year after year – successes, failures, squirrels and all.