In between seasons in the garden, still, there is always something happening. Some peas escaped harvest last year and fell to the ground in their dried pods. They sprouted on their own a few weeks ago, in not exactly the right place, but I let them stay. I found some sticks and made them each a little pole to climb. Why not? The peas that I planted are not doing as well, but the 2 volunteers are now merrily inching up their sticks. A few garlic volunteers popped up, at the other end of the garden, amidst the kale. That patch of kale is doing fabulously, but another, planted in a different spot at the same time, is completely decimated, stripped to the bare stem by hungry caterpillars. It’s a hungry time of year for garden pests. I removed the sad kale, too far gone to try to nurse back to health, and planted a few rows of shallot there instead, a Holland red and a Dutch yellow variety. Alliums are not bothered by the darn cabbage moth! The individual shallots will grow to create whole bulbs, similar to shallots, multiplying themselves by 3, 4, or 5. I used stray sticks from the garden to mark these, too, because their first shoots look so similar to the weedy grass that comes up all over this time of year, too.
We use the fallen bits of hay, straw, and alfalfa as mulch a lot in the demo garden, because we have an abundant supply of it, and this garden needs all the organic material it can get! It makes a great mulch, but the downside is all the sprouting seeds, and sometimes, it makes too cozy a home for sowbugs, too. This early in the autumn, it is not yet moist enough in our garden to worry much about sowbugs, but we’ll have to keep an eye out for them later. In the meantime, the grass we pull is just tossed onto the surface of the mulched beds, becoming more mulch.
Arugula is taking off, from a six-pack planted a month ago. It’s in a little corner of the garden that doesn’t always get a lot of attention this time of year, so I had almost forgotten it was there. (Good thing for the irrigation system!) But one recent morning, after a yoga class across the street at Ease Mountain Yoga, I wandered through the garden, taking stock and nibbling on a few Sungold cherry tomatoes. And there was the arugula, too, bright and green and peppery, the perfect counterpoint to the sweet tomatoes and the gray morning and the flow yoga. Wake up to arugula! I made sure, after that, to get another six-pack for my garden at home as well. Arugula is very happy in this in-between weather; the heat makes it bolt too fast, but pounding rain damages the young leaves, so this is the perfect weather for it. Often, the arugula starts are very young when they come to us, still in their cotyledons, and only one set of their first true leaves. I often break the individual cells up into at least two and sometimes three groups of seedlings, to space them out a bit more. The patch in the demo garden, though, is just straight out of the six-pack, and it seems not to mind the close quarters at all. I will keep this patch well-picked to make sure it doesn’t go to seed. And, because it is delicious. Breakfast salads, anyone?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve planted lettuce, too, making sure to keep it well-watered in the dry times as we wait for rain. Plenty of other volunteers have sprouted in the moist soil, too, namely bachelor buttons, borage, and the ever-present cerinthe. I’ve pulled a lot of them already, but doubtless, some will escape. I want to make sure this lettuce has plenty of room to grow and thrive, though, so I’m going to be sterner than usual with the seedlings. Lettuce particularly is susceptible to damage from slugs and sowbugs that thrive in moist crowded conditions, so I promised these little seedlings that I wouldn’t let them get choked out by rampaging wildflower seedlings. Plus, the heads form so much better when they have space to grow.
The sunflowers are mostly spent now, and I took out the eggplant just last week. The plants were still green, but the cooler weather will not allow the flowers to set fruit, let alone ripen, so I got them out before they started to look too bedraggled. The fig tree bore a short, sweet crop of yellow figs, a 2-week blip of harvest before they were gone. Other varieties are still bearing fruit, though. I’m almost done removing the amaranth, too, for use in our wreath making class this year. The amaranth may be my favorite garden weed, with those long burgundy ropes of seeds. It’s a pleasure to see them hanging in the barn and storage areas, waiting to be made into something beautiful.
Speaking of made into something beautiful, I have also recently planted some flowers in the garden, namely some violas, pansies, and Johnny-jump-ups. We plan to use these to decorate some beeswax candles that we hope to make soon, wedding favors for yet another Mountain Feed employee wedding. We’ll dry the small flowers beneath heavy books, so they lay flat, then dip the candles in a fresh layer of wax to secure the flowers to the candle. This is a new trick for us, so we are still figuring out how to do it. Any candlemakers out there with tips?
As ever, we hope that the golden light of this season shines joy on you and your garden.
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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 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.