Garden Notes November 2017: Dry Stalks and Fava Dreams

Dry corn stalks rustle in a wind that blows hot, then cold. They produced such a beautiful crop this year. If you remember, we planted only a single six-pack of the Glass Gem popcorn variety. We thought that the pollination would be spotty, since it wasn't a proper block of corn for optimum wind pollination--yet the Glass Gem, when we pulled back the husk, revealed row after row of pastel kernels in every shade of the rainbow. Perfect pollination!

glass gem cornAnd almost too beautiful to eat. We have not yet managed to eat any, in fact, but they are adding seasonal color to a fall display. More color comes, too, from the masses of hanging flowers that are curing in the barn and elsewhere around the shop; we are harvesting from the garden and drying flowers to use in a wreath making class that we’ll be hosting soon. Another way to preserve the season.

hanging dried herbs
The lovely white moths that flutter delicately over the vegetables are a nemesis; they leave tiny eggs that hatch into voracious, secretive green caterpillars. The leaves of our Caraflex cabbages are riddled with holes; we’ve got to squish the eggs, and pick the caterpillars off of the underside of leaves in order to make a real dent in their population. The alternative is Bt, of course, but there have been so many lovely butterflies in the garden this year, that we are reluctant to pursue this option. And so the cabbage leaves have holes, and the cabbage moths flutter like a flock of twilight clouds, and the world goes on as it ever has.

moth evidence
There isn’t too much to report in the garden at this time; November, go figure! The arugula bolted in the strange late heat. We’ll try to get in another crop while the sun still shines. Broccoli is heading up nicely. The beans won’t make it till Thanksgiving, after all, as we fell behind on the harvest, and they gave up the ghost, secure in the sense that they had produced enough seed to quit for the year. The marigolds are going strong, and seedlings are popping up from that assortment of cosmos, bachelors buttons, and wildflowers that follow their own floral rhythm in the garden.

We’re looking forward to the time of year when the rains will do the work of watering for us, although of course the trade off is the end of tomato season and sun. Soon, but not quite yet, it will be time for winter pruning of dormant fruit tees. Winter pruning is when we make cute that will influence the fruit production for the next few seasons. Our young fruit trees in the demo garden will not require too many cuts, they’re still quite small, but we are still shaping the future of the harvest for next year and the years to come. Some grafts that Ryan spliced onto the apple tree are working nicely, so there’s a branch of pear that we will be nurtured by the apple rootstock now, too, as well as a few heirloom apple varieties. A fruity frankentree!

At the base of the stop sign, and in a few more places besides, we are seeing the fat stalks of fava beans begin to sprout from seed. Plants with large seeds like the fava always take off quick, as so much starch and food is stored in their large seeds. They will be let to grow until they are about to set seed, then ideally will be turned into the soil as a green manure crop, to aerate the soil and add nitrogen. Alternatively, they will set seed and we will get to harvest some of those thick greed pods for eating. Mashed lima beans were a little intensive to make last year when we tried them but the color was amazing, that brilliant green, and we think we may let some plants set seed, after all, just to get another taste of that color. Perhaps with some miso butter on top…yes, yes, a good plan.

There’s room for a bit more chard and leafy greens, too, as the squash plants get pulled out, and we’ll get to those just as soon as we finish typing this report! It’s best if all of the winter crops can get in at least a good few weeks of relatively balmy temperatures and sunlight, before winter comes to stay. Otherwise they languish small until spring, when the sunlight and warmth return.

I am sure to be forgetting something, but the days are short. And if I am ever to get those last plants in the ground before winter, and take out the last of the peppers and squash, and spread that mulch and start renovating the far end of the garden...well, I had better get started, hadn’t I?

Over to You

It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you grow beautiful, sustainable, gardens whether you have sprawling acres of farm or just a tiny plot along the highway. Stop by and say hello on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.