The tree kale has assumed monstrous and wonderful proportions out in front of the store, long octopus arms sheathed in purple leaves, stained magenta.
The cold makes the leaves sweeter, too. Below the tree kale, amaranth is blooming, all seed and burgundy velvet drape. I swear sometimes I could eat color with a spoon.
Sunset marmalade of orange cosmos. dusky ocean green of broccoli heads, shaped like cumulus clouds. Dark midnight of Opal basil. And so on. It’s true that beauty nourishes, in a very meaningful way. I tell myself this as I tear out vegetables that are scraggly at the end of the season, though perhaps they might still have some green and unripe fruit on them.
Out with the zucchini. Out with the cucumbers. Ruthless as Kali, I make room for a new season. In with peas and kale and broccoli! and chard! Out with pumpkin vines and the rough trunks of sunflowers. Room for potatoes and onions, soon. Not so ruthless as to take out tomatoes and tomatillos yet, though. Or the one tiny mouse melon that came up late amidst all the wild parsley, and is just now coming into its own. They are spared for another month. Seeds are gathered, stored in jars and sprinkled on the ground. Green vines heaped on the compost pile, trapping airspace between them, will break down over winter to become the fine, friable compost for next spring.
We are still waiting for rain as of this writing, though the forecast hints of possible rain this weekend. In the meantime, the late summer sun has begun to bake the earth. It happens often this time of year, that we see more drought stress than usual in irrigated gardens. It’s a delicate balance; I like to irrigate tomatoes well while they are growing their vegetation, but ease slowly off of the water as the fruit ripens, concentrating the sweetness.
Peppers and cucurbits appreciate a continuous source of water, though. The ground had gotten a little dry, so I water deeply, even as the clouds gather overhead.
It’ll help get the water down deeper into the soil again so that the early seedlings of kale and broccoli will have a moist home to sink their roots into, and not dry out when the weather warms again. As soon as the weather cools, and the rains begin, the garden will sprout a new crop of volunteers, both weed and vegetable. Even this deep watering will bring on a crop of seedlings, a fascinating glimpse of the way delayed germination in seeds allows species the maximum chance of surviving to set seed themselves.
I don’t like to mulch too heavily until the rains really get going; a thick layer of mulch now can delay the moisture from sinking into the soil. But as I remove plants and reroute irrigation lines that have grown too tangled to bear, I sprinkle straw lightly over the earth, enough to let the rain pass through and to hold in moisture when the rain finally comes. It helps prevent erosion, and build mycorrhizal communities, to boot. All the wins.
Soon it will be time to cut back grapes. It’s time now for pruning young fruit trees, too, the summer pruning that keeps their height in check is particularly important in the first years. Summer pruning is less about fruit production and more about controlling shape and height. Make some moves on your young trees now, or on older trees that may have gotten out of hand. Which reminds me, I should get out to the demo garden soon, and attend to the apple tree.
On my way there, I'll stop in for a snack of alpine strawberries. These are beautiful, generous plants. Lately, I've been enjoying the dried berries that miss being picked when they are ripe; they dehydrate on the vine into tiny, leathery nuggets that are just the flavor of a perfectly dehydrated fruit roll.
I won't get far before the raspberry patch calls, either, with the fall crop of Fall Gold raspberries hanging hidden in a bramble of berry leaves. Not enough for preserving, but perfect for a handful, in between tasks, savored sweetness amidst the garden tasks.
Over to You
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