Thursday, October 6, 2011

You see that bright thing in the sky?


It's called the sun.  Remember that?  Don't look right at it.

The disappointing (to me, at least) 2011 vegetable growing season is gurgling to a close.  At the Derwood Demo Garden, we are not yet finished working, but we'll be cleaning up over the next month (fall and winter gardening is great, don't get me wrong, but try getting volunteers to show up once a week in January).  Our big event of the year, the Harvest Festival, was rained out Saturday - some intrepid folks came out to enjoy the farm in the chilly rain (the Italian ice truck was not mobbed, though I think hot cider and roasted chestnuts did pretty well), but the Master Gardeners left en masse about 1:30 to go home and thaw.

It's lovely now, of course, and we did get some work done Tuesday, including harvesting.  Not post-mortem time for everything yet, but I can tell you pretty much what didn't do well (I have probably complained about that ad nauseum already) and what did... well, let's be positive.  All the edible gourds did well, the cucuzzis at least until Irene did them in; bitter gourd and luffa are still producing.  We had, as usual, a wonderful sweet potato crop:

Barbara Knapp harvests her sweet potatoes

On the other hand, potatoes were very disappointing, though if we'd harvested in July when they were ready, they would have been okay - keeping them in the ground, which we do just to accommodate the Festival, did not work out this time due to all that rain.  Most of the potatoes rotted, and many sprouted and grew new plants.

Phaseolus beans - i.e. regular green beans, dried beans, and limas, from the Americas - are producing now but did poorly over the summer.  African and Asian Vigna beans, cowpeas and long beans, have done very well.  We also have a nice crop of mung beans coming along, though I don't know if they will have time to mature and dry on the plant (started them late).  Also started late and not likely to mature completely, the sorghum, shown here next to its African neighbor cowpeas:

At least the sorghum is still alive, unlike its relative popcorn, a total bust (stink bugs and weather, as well as a poorly-selected location between Jerusalem artichokes and sunflowers).

Carrots did well this year, despite rabbits chewing on the greens, and now that the harlequin bugs seem to have vanished, the few fall greens that germinated in all that rain should produce nicely.  I have a fantastic crop of cutting celery, which has now formed stalks thick and tender enough to qualify as snacking celery, at least that's what I was doing Tuesday.  And we also had some beautiful celeriac, grown for its bulb.  Also some lettuce, and a bumper crop of upland cress.

Malabar spinach on left, hyacinth beans right
As usual, the Malabar spinach grew fast and thick in the hot days of late summer, even though it got off to a slower start than usual:


And as always we had plenty of mouse melons!  We also had success with several useful flower crops, but I'll wait for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day to post about those.

So, some real successes, some significant disappointments.  Time to regroup, think about how to do better next year (assuming that there will be horrible weather and lots of pests), and reread the late great Henry Mitchell:

Now the gardener is the one who has seen everything ruined so many times that (even as his pain increases with each loss) he comprehends - truly knows - that where there was a garden once, it can be again, or where there never was, there yet can be a garden so that all who see it say, "Well, you have favorable conditions here. Everything grows for you." Everything grows for everybody. Everything dies for everybody, too.

There are no green thumbs or black thumbs. There are only gardeners and non-gardeners. Gardeners are the ones who ruin after ruin get on with the high defiance of nature herself, creating, in the very face of her chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises.
And the pride of beans and tomatoes, too!  Next year we'll have them, perfect and in abundance... defying stink bugs and hurricanes along the way.

Happy October!

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