Sunday, October 2, 2011

Gardens are always ending - and always beginning

Last Wednesday, the Plant-a-Row-for-the-Hungry garden group met for the last time at the Smith Gilbert Garden in Kennesaw, where it's been for the past six years. We harvested the last of the summer crops that were still in place - peppers and sweet potatoes - and we hauled the debris to the compost heap.

The final total of donated veggies for our 2011 garden year was 2710 pounds. Some of us still have at home some of the Seminole pumpkin squash that were too green to give away when we pulled up those vines, but those will all have finished ripening soon, and they will go to the Center for Family Resources - the pantry where we take our harvest - in another week or so. (Their weight hasn't been added to our total, yet.)

We had a great turnout for our last day at Smith Gilbert! This particular group of gardeners is just wonderful to work with. I feel very fortunate to know such great people every time I'm with them.

I'm in the plaid shirt, in front. Notice how I'm so short that I don't have to crouch down for the people behind me to be seen.

Some members of the group (but mostly just Fred) who have had a little free time have been looking into places to move the garden to, and we will have a few spots from which to choose. I am very happy that the group is ready to begin again! We will be meeting in about a week and a half to make a final choice, and to celebrate what we've accomplished this year.

When we have made that decision, it will be time to start getting the soil ready for next year. The fun will start all over again!

At home, the summer garden is thinking about ending, especially since we are getting some nighttime lows in the 40s. In spite of the onset of actual fall weather, we still have plenty of tomatoes. This is why I make that second planting in late June.

My fall veggies are mostly planted, but it isn't too late for one last crop of one of the faster-maturing radishes, and in a couple of weeks it will be time to plant garlic and multiplier onions that will mature in June, as part of next summer's garden.

This overlap of beginning and ending is one of the best parts of gardening. There's always something to look forward to. Even though it will be a little sad to bring in the last of the tomatoes in a few weeks, it also will be great to harvest the first bok choy, lettuce, spinach, beets, and other fall veggies. Some of these cooler weather crops will start to come to the kitchen before those last tomatoes are brought in.

When one season is coming to a close, another is opening up. When the soil temperatures drop and plant-growth slows to the point that it seems there's no growth at all, there is less work to do in the yard and more time to plan next year's garden -- what to plant and where, and how to improve the soil. And some of that work on improving the soil can begin in the less-rushed season of planning.

It's also a time to think about how the work of "putting food by" has panned out in terms of meals. That's part of gardening, too. If my little family's plan of making most our pasta sauce (and other foods that usually include a can of diced tomatoes) from our dehydrated tomatoes is successful, we will be very pleased.

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