“But now in September the garden has cooled, and with it my possessiveness. The sun warms my back instead of beating on my head … The harvest has dwindled, and I have grown apart from the intense midsummer relationship that brought it on.”
– Robert Finch
Pearl has beautifully cleaned her garden and cleared it away. My cousins in the midwest, I have heard, have done the same. But I always struggle to let go, to actually let summer pass into fall.
Early last week I thought the zucchini looked weak and perhaps were nearly “over,” so I watered them once more, gathering an arm-load of fruit, planning to uproot and end their time over the weekend. The very next day, however, they were alive again with large yellow blooms, shouting their worth and prolonging their stay.
Some of the garden will make it through the cold.
But these cold days and cold, cold nights are going to do all the tender plants in. Ultimately many of the flowers, including the petunias and nicotiana and zinnias, will make it through this frigid spell and will shine like stars in the universe in October as Monarch butterflies dance around them, captivating my fancy while I should be doing something productive. And if I cover my tomatoes and peppers, which, of course, I will, they will suffer some, but keep producing – almost until Thanksgiving, the Lord willing and I remember to pay special attention.
Some of the garden won’t make it through the end of the week.
But the cucumbers, the zucchini and the spaghetti squash will likely not make it past this week. Their tender leaves are taking a hit that will be irrepairable. I have already pulled most of the green beans.
It’s so hard to say good-bye.
But it is hard to let them go. It is difficult to watch the yard begin to retreat into its winter-ready clothes where once it danced merrily in dazzling color and sizzling heat. It’s hard to hear the sound of dry, rustling leaves where children once splashed in water to the frog, toad and cricket’s song of the castinets.
The harvest is dwindling.
Today I brought in 2 armfuls of baby zucchini, lemon and English cukes and some other variety of cucumber. I ate a couple of small beans right there amidst the soil and fading green. I grabbed some huge, very happy-looking peppers (where a fridge full of their colorful cousins await being used), and I grabbed the reddish tomatoes, which are too soft inside to expose to such cold, but will continue their ripening on the counter and be delectable in the next 2-3 days.
If you try to plant too many things, you will be defeated. But if you start with one or maybe three things that you simply must grow for they cannot be purchased to perfection like you could grow them, then you will not only survive, you will thrive. And since you are only really counting on those one-to-three things, since they are getting all your love, you’ll end up realizing, Well, I could probably tuck a basil plant here since I am here frequently, and maybe a few radishes under the shade of the zucchini leaves. And soon you’ll be companion planting and actually doing more than you thought.
But if you go to the store and buy 37 packages of seeds, you are doomed. Doomed.
I started out gardening with ZERO experience in 1997. I am a city girl with a farmer’s heart – except that they have to pretty much work the farm 24/7 365 days a year and I am not quite that committed. I decided on tomatoes.
My Aunt Rosie always served us home grown tomatoes fresh from her garden and regardless of whatever else was served, they were like having the best Texas steak you have ever seen on your plate.
So when I decided to do it, I actually went to the library and checked out about 17 veggie garden books and one wholly devoted to tomatoes and read and read and read. The author of the tomato book basically said, “If you’re going to grow tomatoes, you should grow the best ones on the block. Do not go into it half-heartedly. Do everything possible to have the sweetest, biggest, most amazing tomatoes anyone has ever seen.” So, as a tribute to all the books I’d read about them, I actually planted about 17 tomatoes plants and they were the BEST tomatoes I had ever seen in my life! Now-the neighbors and everyone I knew dreaded seeing me coming, but I kept everyone I knew fully tomato’ed!
Other stuff I like to grow
Zucchini and yellow squash are great to grow for grilling. But they take a lot of room. I grow them mainly because I can feel haughty when I am in the store and they are selling for $1.00 each and I have just picked 7 or 8 of them for dinner. ALWAYS pick them young, slice in thick on the diagonal, toss them in extra-virgin olive oil, season and grill. You get great grill marks and they are delectable!
Peas are the gardener’s candy. Sugar snap peas are wonderful because you can eat the whole pod or not, as you wish. Great stir-fry. Very sweet. The grandbabies and I snack while we work!
Radishes. Don’t try these in the heat of summer. They get too hot. But they grow quickly and are very fresh and crisp early. Plant them outside now if you want.
Beans are easy. Every kindergartener starts out this way.
Peppers are great. They are pretty plants, too, so they make a great potted plant and there are just so many varieties you can’t get in the store.
I also like lettuces, and sometimes okra and the eggplant is so pretty (but I always forget how to fix them). So many directions a person could go. And don’t forget to tuck in some marigolds and nasturtiums while you’re at it. They’re edible, add some beautiful color and keep the icky bugs away to boot!
My real bottom line.
But there I go again – telling you too many things at once.
So, if I could only plant one thing, it would be tomatoes. Those transparent-barely-pink things on your fast food burgers are NOT tomatoes. Late summer, you can find some great tomatoes at the farmer’s market, but there is nothing, I mean nothing, like growing your own.
They are worth the effort, the babying, the prep, the watching, the watering and weeding! And if you can grow the tomato, which is THE most wondrous thing, you can now grow anything! Good times!
I Corinthians 15.35b The Message: We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.
Tomatoes, of course! And maybe…
About three years ago I was in a meltdown during planting season. It was the middle of June and I hadn’t done anything. There sat my 3 4-foot-by-4-foot boxes: empty. I knew I had no strength to accomplish anything, to plant, but I needed something. I planted a purchased tomato plant in one. One had 3 green bean “volunteers” coming up, so I just put a trellis in it (seeds from the previous year had gone into the soil and were growing with no effort on my part) and I found a zucchini seed or two in my produce drawer in a little baggie and popped those in to the final garden square.
They filled my three boxes. They actually looked beautiful and tended to. They grew though I was barely functioning and every single day they gave me the hope I needed that normalcy would return and I would grow past the place I was in. Every day a new leaf or flowering would appear, I knew I was another day past the sorrow – that life would happen again.
Those were all I could handle. Yet, we had zucchini and beans and tomatoes that summer as if I had worked for them. It was like God tended my garden when I couldn’t. It was God and it was good…
So go easy on yourself and garden!…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: I am not behind, either.
pictured: scouting out last year’s tomatoes one evening…I spy!
It is COLD out today! It is also overcast and funny-looking and I fear the rumors of a spittering and sputtering of snowflakes arriving this weekend may, indeed, be true.
I just went out and walked among the gardens, which are slowly but surely finishing up their work year. There are gazillions of tomatoes left and just yesterday, bright yellow zucchini flowers were still trumpeting their intent to produce. But today, all bets seem off and I think the zucchini has resigned itself to closing up shop.
But they are the winners! The zucchini wins for the garden of 2008. I have never had zucchini last into mid-October (I am calling it mid-October even if we are still in the first third – they deserve that). Usually they are wondrous for a month or so and then get some sort of zucchini-acne-powdery-weird disease and die off, which is why an attentive gardener will do successive plantings and why I am usually kicking myself for not doing so. But these sweet 5 plants, roundabout the yard, tucked in here and there as if I weren’t expecting much, have consistently outdone themselves, and oh how I have loved turning my nose up at their grocery store cousins! For I have harvested the best.
So, tonight: what shall I do? Shall I throw floating row covers over the green beans and cucumbers and tomatoes and zuchs – knowing full well that in a few days we could be back into the higher temperatures again (the beautiful, little-known secret of the Rocky Mountain Region)? Or “should I,” as Doris Day sings in Pillow Talk concerning Rock Hudson, “surrender?”
The garden – is it over or is it not?…TBD…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: Enjoy the gorgeous dazzling-orange-red Maple leaves strewn about the yard, even though they are from the neighbor’s tree!
pictured: the garden shutting down; see the blackbirds eating the decrepit sunflower’s seeds?
I sent Stephanie home yesterday with an armload of zucchini and she was searching www.allrecipes.com for a fresh and creative way to serve it and happened across the article on how to properly celebrate this holiday. I am only printing portions of it here, but you may verify the whole thing by linking the title in the first paragraph.
By the way, my 3 favorite ways with zucchini are
Tossed in an extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkled with garlic powder, salt and pepper, maybe some Mrs Dash or crushed red pepper flakes and grilled just long enough for some beautiful black grill marks, as it caramelizes and gets sweet.
Same as above, except popped under the broiler until you see the carmelization begin.
Severed into 1/4″ succulent slices, dipped in Tempura batter (grab a box from the Asian food aisle for the simplest, crispest breading ever using very cold water) and fried in canola oil until light and crisp (not brown). Dip in Ranch dressing. This breading and frying technique works for mushrooms, cut up leftover chicken or pork, green tomatoes, corn on the cob. Mmmmm.
Dave, of course, still prefers his zuchini shredded beyond recognition and turned into sort of a “stuffing-type” casserole. Yes, he likes church-dinner food.
Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Night
By: Allrecipes Staff
Celebrate this fun holiday on August 8!
Established by Pennsylvanian Tom Roy, this day encourages sharing. “Due to the overzealous planting of zucchini, citizens are asked to drop off baskets of the squash on neighbors’ doorsteps.”
About the holiday
A few suggestions from Tom Roy’s “Top 20 List for successful sneaking of Zucchini or otherwise ridding yourself of unwanted surplus summer squash:”
(Note:Allrecipes does not endorse any of these activities.)
(ANOTHER NOTE: Nor does Jeanie)
Carefully place a dozen or more zucchini in a large, sturdy black plastic trash bag, then add a couple layers of unwanted clothing. Drive to nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army, hand over bag to nearest volunteer. Politely refuse any offered receipt. Leave quickly.
Look for out-of-the-way places which have signs posted, “Clean Fill Wanted.”
Under light of full moon, either stark naked or wearing full army camouflage, carrying a machete or any garden implement, run amuck in your zucchini patch, cutting and slashing. Be sure to thank Mother Nature for her bounty before and after this cathartic experience.
Gather all available plastic containers and freezer bags. Puree all zucchini, even if it takes all night. Package, freeze, and create an artistic, holiday label: “For Zucchini Nut Bread Recipe.” These gifts are now ready to be freely given, along with copies of recipe, to everyone on your Christmas list.
Do you have any ideas to add?…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: I am keeping mine: Zucchini summer pasta…zucchini brownies…stuffed zucchini…zucchini marmelade…zucchini parmesan…zucchini relish…stir-fried zucchini…Mexican zucchini soup…Crab-stuffed zucchini…chocolate chip zucchini muffins…need I say more?
Seriously. Don’t trust a zucchini. Not ever. Just don’t.
You go out to water early in the day before the sun has shown it’s face. You see a little fruit looking so tender, so true. You think about picking it, it is almost perfect. But then it says to you, “Just wait until this evening-just before you want to put me on the grill. I’ll be perfect then. I’ll have plumped up becoming even more juicy. I’ll just wait here.”
But 12.2 hours later, when you return, that same green fruit has gone from bomb pop size to summer sausage size (while you were unaware) and is now the size of Popeye’s forearm. Just like that!
Watch them. Observe them closely. This is the time of year they will outwit you and become useless for anything other than a shredded zuchini baked casserole and that is just not right.
I’ve warned you before. I hope you’re heeding it…Jeanie
This google image is some novice proudly displaying their 11-pound zuchini, as if they had anything to do with it. Only non-gardeners are impressed with this because we who know the beast know that this is a monster from hell out of control!