This week we started putting the garden to bed for the summer. Back in the Midwest, July through September were the pinnacle of the garden, market, and food preservation period. It has literally taken me years to get out of that rhythm and swing into a rhythm that takes into account the impact the heat has on crops here. You can take the girl out of Minnesota and all that…
So we are now at the end of what I call the early summer gardening season. This is when we do things like squash and tomatoes and many of the summer crops we would have grown June through September up north. But once July and the general trend towards mid-90 to triple digit temperatures hits, these guys struggle. Add to that the fact that some years we see very little rain during July and August and it really doesn’t make sense to push hard for a garden during these months.
So this week we chop-and-dropped the squash plants and covered them in a thick layer of hay and somewhat composted manure. The green beans and collard greens are on the chopping block for the same treatment next week. All of this is in preparation for a season that is generally cooler and generally sees more rain – the fall garden.
These cucumbers are still producing despite the heat, though I do think their flower production has slowed down. We are watering regularly using the solar-powered pump in our pond. That combined with the bits of rain we are getting have really helped.
But I imagine it won’t be long before these guys give out too and we’ll put this area to bed for the summer.
That leaves us with what I call the deep summer crops. These guys are the ones who stand tall on a 100-degree afternoon and tend to use less water. Sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, and okra are what we generally grow during this period and I’ve just started to see the first okra blossoms forming this week. Pumpkins and pole beans are being experimented with this summer as well.
So right now we are eating cucumbers, green beans, collard greens, garlic, and onions from our garden. This is the first year we’ve planted a larger number of onions and I am sold on it being a yearly happening. Stewart planted a few bags of bulbs last fall – maybe one to two hundred?
Well, I made the mistake of probably picking way too many green onions over the winter so many of them went to seed. Still, for a family that can eat 3-5 pounds of onions per week, I haven’t had to purchase onions for several months. I think we’ve probably eaten through at least 60% of them and the rest we’ll harvest over the next week or two since the tops are dying back.
I remember the day that the seeds from which this food came went into the ground. I remember the bags of onions Stewart meticulously planted in the pallet garden… and the bunches and bunches the girls planted haphazardly in the chicken field. I remember Stewart and Abram planting those 16 squash plants… and the squash hill he gave Annabelle. I remember the sunny spring day Ruthie carefully squatted next to Stewart to put the cucumber seeds in the ground. I remember the evening she knelt beside Stewart and I for bean planting. And I remember the night Annabelle, Stewart, and I planted okra just hours after the 2017 garlic harvest. We finished just as it began to rain.
There was also the day the boys helped me plant potatoes and the pots of eggplant and peppers they stood beside me to start. As has been the case every season, at least a portion of the crops we planted failed. It has been a part of every gardening season, though as the soil has been fed and enriched, the complete garden failures have lessened.
I’m not sure how to convey my gratitude for this process – the food yes, but mostly the process – and the way it has nourished our family in ways that can’t be seen at the dinner table.