Saturday, September 01, 2007

Gardening Friday on Saturday

I spent most of my week tied to the computer cataloguing plants and their characteristics for a new database. Interesting, but draining. I felt I would never get out of the maples (acer, to be more exact). The Japanese Maples took damn near forever. Who knew such variety could be had? Well, I knew, I just never had to sit down and type out the details of so many before. Thanks to the lovely and diverse acers, it took me two days to get out of the letter 'a'. I'm now on the letter 'd'. Life is that exciting...

So as I was writing about so many ornamental plants and their care, I'd glance out my window and notice how neglected my own gardens were. August is a draining month. It ranks second behind February in my vote for worst month ever. The heat tends to leave everything in the garden a little worse for wear. And as crops begin to ripen, it's easy to spend all your time out in the sun picking tomatoes, greenbeans, and way too many squash and cucumbers. With all the processing and saving of produce, there's little time to take care of the plants. My garden turns into a wild thing. The ornamental gardens tend to suffer the same fate and everything looks like it needs a makeover (much like me, who had to cancel my hair appointment TWICE this summer and am anxiously waiting Wednesday when I finally get to have my hair cut...).

Needless to say, I've spent all free time yesterday and today in the gardens weeding, pruning and tidying. Charlie joined in this morning and we tore through one perennial bed and half the vegetable garden. The Fuji apple tree was staked. Roses were pruned. Daylilies were divided. One peony was moved and another marked for moving tomorrow. Tomatoes were picked and diseased leaves removed. The compost bins were filled with cuttings and weed pullings. The last of the potatoes were dug and rows were weeded and prepped for planting. Planting?, you ask. Why, yes! Just because summer is almost at an end doesn't mean the gardening season has to be. There are plenty of cool weather crops to plant and a few warm season crops that can go a second round before frost.

We've begun fall planting. We started about two weeks ago. Already, there are new crops of kale, lettuce, beets and radishes popping up in the garden. I'm even experimenting with a row of leeks. Here, in the somewhat south, there is still time for another row of greenbeans. If they don't produce much, they will make an excellent cover crop until the first hard freeze. Tomorrow we will be planting peas, kohlrabi, more lettuce, and whatever else looks good in the leftover seed stash. Several rows will be getting a green manure cover crop of oats. I'm trying them this year for the first time. They won't survive the first hard freeze, but should make a nice layer of plant material to hold the soil over the winter.

If you've never tried fall gardening, I highly recommend it. The season can be extended even longer with row covers and some things, especially cole crops taste sweeter after a nip of cold weather. We'll be setting a few things in a cold frame made from leftover pieces of the old greenhouse (I'm thinking the new one won't be up until late fall/early winter).

And tomorrow after all that planting we will be sitting down to our last One Local Summer meal.
We found the centerpiece today at the tailgate market and it's so fresh and so delicious looking that I almost made it tonight. I stopped myself when I realized there was about 30 pounds of tomatoes in the kitchen sink that needed turning into tomato sauce and another ten or so that need to be dried. So the meal will just have to wait until tomorrow. Now go use your Labor Day Weekend for gardening good and plant a cool weather crop or two.

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