The compost turned out pretty good this year! It's hard to believe that all the stuff that was pulled out and chopped down has condensed itself into a small pile that will just barely be enough to feed the vegetable garden.
This year I worked quite a bit harder than usual on the compost since I was planning a Winter garden and needed it to be broken down enough by Fall to plant seeds in. I turned and watered it fairly regularly throughout the year and it even felt hot to the touch a couple of times. A word to the wise here: when you pull up tomato and squash vines in the Fall, take the time to cut them into manageable chunks. If you don't, turning your compost the first few times will be a bit like lifting a 900 pound forkful of spaghetti. In July, I sifted quite a bit out with a nursery flat to give the vegetable garden a little midsummer snack. I felt just like a prospector shaking that flat back and forth over the wheelbarrow, collecting the precious black gold. I stopped adding new material in August, except for lawn clippings and kept turning through the heat even though I didn't want to and felt like dying a time or two. Why would I do this? Why go through the pain and discomfort of composting when I could just go to the feed store and have the nice young man load several bags of ready-made compost into the back of the truck. Do I need to build my character? Maybe. Do I need awesome biceps? All of us older ladies could use a little help there, for sure. The reason I do this is because homemade compost is different than anything you can buy. There is a quality to soil that is fed this way that soil scientists would have a hard time quantifying. It's alive!
Feed your soil well and your plants will be fine.
What's that Mr. Earthworm? You like your compost extra twiggy? We aim to please. In the garden, you're not alone, and you're not really in charge. Everything is built upon the backs of little creatures we can't even see. When you feed the soil, you're feeding them. They're the ones who really feed your plants. You can't put that in a bottle and sell it. Decomposers also help feed the microorganisms. Their presence is a sign of healthy soil.
Larger creatures are a sign of a healthy garden overall. Here's a good friend of mine. He had a happy home under the squash vines.
But I'm afraid it's that time of year again. Time to start a new batch of compost, time to get ready for Winter.
Here was my poor, worn out Summer garden a few days ago. Not pretty anymore, but there was still a lot of good stuff to be gleaned.
After gathering up all that was left to harvest, I tore out most of the plants.
I felt like such a murderer of infant vegetables.
But a box had arrived. Garlic and shallots. I've never even tasted a shallot, but I feel ever so fancy now.
The strawberries put out a ton of runners that needed a better home. So I tore up the first two beds and replanted them for the Winter.
When I got to the third bed, I just couldn't do it. Would you look at what's going on in there? The Rooster Spur pepper came up on its own. I'll have to pot it and bring it in. The lettuce is almost too pretty to pick. Last year a seedling volunteered in the driveway. (That being the area that you can drive on, differentiated from the dirt/mud on either side by a fairly thick layer of rock.) It grew through the Summer with no water at all. Even the crabgrass around it died. It flowered and set seed. So I took the seed from this miracle lettuce and shook it out over the last bed around the end of August. It had no problem coming up in the heat. It even tastes good!
There's also at least a dozen heirloom tomatoes that could possibly ripen if they don't freeze.
Plus, the sunflower's still alive.
These guys are too small to transplant anyway, so it's not like I have to pull those plants up. Okay, I admit it, I can't kill the sunflower. It's that last little bit of Summer that I'm not ready to give up yet.
So, here we are today. The first bed is garlic, peas, strawberries, and asparagus. The second bed is shallots, parsnips, carrots, and radish. In a couple of weeks, the third bed will be leeks, spinach, and lettuce. I plan on putting the various brassicas around the edges of all three beds so that some of their enormous size can be accommodated by the walkways. Can you see that it's raining? It feels so good to have our first rain watering in the freshly planted garden.
Here's the little apricot tree I thought I'd killed last year. It looks like it's on fire! Whether it's Fall or Spring where you are, I'd like to take a moment to say thank you, blogging gardeners. Your ideas and encouragement have opened my eyes to many possibilities. Not that many people care about gardening anymore. It's becoming a bit of a lost art. You are treasures, all of you.
Please join Daphne and friends today for Harvest Monday. What a nice gathering of gardeners from all over the world!