December 2018 Garden Notes

I suppose I should have planted the cover crop earlier, but what with the smoke and the fires and the late rains, it’s been hard to find time to be out in the garden. The garden does not demand much this time of year, though, and now that the rains have come, at last, it seemed a good time to tuck in a crop of huge fava bean seeds, to nourish the soil while the rain falls. They’re an easy crop, tough and vigorous, who can be dug into the soil to break down in time for summer crops to benefit from their nitrogen-fixing qualities. If left to grow longer and bear beans, they make an abundance of food as well, that can be used to make everything from falafel to mashed fava puree to barbecued fava pods. I always intend to dig most of the crop in, since when they set their fruit, their nutritive value to the soil is lessened, but by then it is so close to the time the abundant beans are ripe, I usually cave and let them fruit, enjoying to abundant beans for weeks at a time. A win either way.
fava beans
It feels good to work in the garden after rain (finally!), feeling the damp of the soil and the relief from worry about fire. What a year it was for fire in the West! The rain is so welcome, though it makes work in the garden cold and muddy. And it is nice not to have to water the garden, instead of letting nature sprinkle rain down on the crops that remain after the bounty of the summer harvest.
Brassica is chugging along, broccoli and kale, for starters. Lettuce is thriving and making beautiful heads already. Let’s celebrate that for a moment! While the recent Romaine scare affected local farmers quite adversely, we were secure in the knowledge that should we need a Caesar salad in an emergency, we had an entire crop of gorgeous Speckled Troutsback lettuce that was almost Caesar-ready. Was it just last month that I was crowing about how well I had weeded the lettuce bed? Well, goodness, look at it. Clearly, I need to weed it again. I will find time, with muddy knees, between raindrops, to make room for the beloved, beleaguered Romaine and all the other mixed lettuces; Red Truchas and Nevada and butter lettuce too, and the slender upright dandelion green and the yellow chard, too. The peas aren’t doing as well this year as last; I fear I got them in too late and the bulk of them are not really doing much, though a few are making peas and climbing high as I hoped. Every year is different, though, and that’s truer all the time.
trouts back lettuce
The alpine strawberries still going strong, and are even beginning to spread from their roots. A few sweet bites can be found beneath the leaves, every visit to the garden. Raspberries, too, are still making a few berries a day, even as their foliage shades yellow and they prepare to lose their leaves for the winter season. Over and over, I marvel at the generosity that we have coaxed from the plant allies that make up this little garden. How generously they give and give of themselves. And how sweet that burst of berry is in the mouth, the concentrated essence of the long partnership between plants and people. This flavor never gets old.alpine strawberry

Over to You

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