The End is Near
9/10/2011 10:00 AM
By Robin Follette Maine Correspondent
The end of the “warm” growing season is near.
The average annual first-frost date jumps around so much now that I no longer know what it really is anymore. I’m sticking with Sept. 15. The 10-day forecast shows nights in the mid-40s.
There isn’t a lot left in the garden. Most of the extra bush beans I planted specifically to feed the soil are now … feeding the soil. Sometimes I get the “I’m done” bug and watch out garden, you’re going down.
Until the something-or-other on the three-point hitch came undone, I was a rototilling wild woman one afternoon. I called Steve, my husband, to explain to him what was wrong in hopes that he could tell me how to fix it.
“The blue one is hanging down, swinging back and forth.” He asked which blue one. I hadn’t noticed that all three are blue. He asked what was happening, or not happening. The tiller wouldn’t pick up. It turned, but I couldn’t lift it anymore. That was the end of tilling that day. I’ll never claim to be mechanically inclined.
My kitchen looks like a cannery. There are two roasters full of tomatoes in the oven, a pressure canner cooling on the sideboard, another canner heating up, jars of tomato sauce popping and salsa verde waiting to be put away. The countertops are lined with empty jars, boxes of shiny new lids and a bowl of rings, all waiting to be used.
I’m reasonably sure there’s a sink under the pile of dirty dishes in front of the window. I vaguely remember seeing the bottom of the sink for more than five minutes, though that was days ago.
The tomatillo jungle, a double-wide row of plants in one side of a high tunnel, will be pulled this week. I’m looking forward to that monstrosity being nothing but a bad memory. In their place, I’ll plant spinach, boc choy, turnip, baby beet greens and other cold weather greens.
I’m ready for the tomato plants to be, too. I have most of what I’m going to can put up. The cherry and grape tomato plants will stay in so that kids at a local elementary school can have them for snacks. I’ll save a couple of Jet Star tomato plants and two cucumber vines. The rest will be gone soon.
Opalka produced very well again this year, both inside the tunnel and outside. More cold weather greens will be planted when these plants are pulled.
Pumpkins, squash and gourds are my favorites. This year, thanks to aged poultry manure, I have beautiful pumpkins and gourds. Cinderella pumpkins are red and the warty Galeux is very warty. It’s a little too soon to be sure of what the seeded winter squash will do. They need more time than Sept. 15; I hope they get it. The winter squash I transplanted are just about ready to be cut.
For the first time ever, the watermelon have done well. They’re not as sweet as we’d like them to be because of extreme rain, but they taste good.
The onions are beautiful. I learned this year that I’ve not watered my onions enough. A very wet August finished off the onions beautifully. They’re spread out to dry now. Soon, the storage variety will hang in the dark pantry in mesh bags. The red onions will be eaten fresh and another variety will be sliced and dehydrated for use when the whole onions run out. The garlic is disappointingly small. I’m blaming the soil. The best garlic has been set aside as seed and will be planted in October.
The corn is taller than me this year. It’s nice to look out the kitchen window and see it standing there. I’m holding my breath, hoping it fills out before frost. I’m eager to have my fill of late-season corn and to cut the stalks for fall decoration. They’ll look nice bundled and sitting beside the great pumpkins on the back porch and out by the mailbox.
There’s still time for radishes, salad turnip, cold-tolerant lettuces, spinach and more out of the regular garden. When frost threatens, I’ll put low tunnels over the plants. They’ll be opened in the morning, closed in late afternoon and give me up to two months of additional growing time outside. Or maybe longer.
We’ll see how early the snow starts and if it stays or melts.