We had frost on the ground this morning, and there’s rain scheduled for the next day or two, so I decided to harvest the last of our garden produce for this year. There’s not much going anymore, but I still brought in a good bowl full of brussels spouts (of various sizes), a nearly overflowing bowl of tomatoes (of various ripenessess), and the last seven unripe figs.
We did have a few figs ripen this season, which was more than I expected. The first was half-eaten by squirrels, drat them, but I brought two others in before they were quite ripe and they finished up in our fruit basket. Those were delightfully soft and jammy, with a berryish taste. There is one more undergoing the same indoor ripening treatment now.
As for the unripe figs, the thing to do seems to be to first boil them to death, and then poach them in simple syrup with some clove and vanilla. So that will be a fun experiment! If they turn out well, it looks like they’re fairly easy to preserve this way, which will be handy in future years when we can expect a larger crop.
All in all, I consider our first year of gardening to have been a success. There are definitely some adjustments we’ll make next spring — more strawberries, for one thing! — but with the 2-3 more raised beds we’re planning there will be plenty of room for all sorts of experiments. I do want to have one bed just for strawberries. The cucumbers and tomatoes both did very well, and I’d like to grow more of those next year with an eye toward learning how to can and pickle. And I think it would be great fun to try a three-sisters planting in one of the beds: sweet corn, some sort of squash (pie pumpkins?), and beans (pole? runner?) growing in harmony.
For my winter homework, I’ve got a handful of gardening books from the library to absorb. It’s been tremendously satisfying to be able to eat food that we’ve grown ourselves, and I can’t wait to see where our next season will take us.
Tomatoes: doing excellently. We planted two varieties of cherry tomato — one red and one golden — and they’ve been producing beautifully.
Cucumbers: two plants, ditto. We’re getting some big boys off of these vines; these make about ten full-size cukes so far, and there are more to come. Next year we will need to stake them properly.
Radishes: the radishes also did very well and it was fun to grow them from seed. However, I am the only one in the house who really eats them, and I can’t eat that many radishes. We’ll skip these next year.
Spinach: these seeds didn’t take; we only got the one plant and its leaves stayed quite small, so we didn’t get to harvest before it bolted. I’m not sure if we’ll try again next year or not.
Broccoli: we have two plants and I kept waiting for them to get bigger before harvesting, but like the spinach they just bolted. I’ve left these in the garden anyway, for the pollinators.
Brussels sprouts: what a big plant! We’ve got lots of little nubbins on the stem that will eventually become sprouts; so far, so good on this one. Something has been eating the leaves but it doesn’t seem fussed.
Garlic: I planted three bulbs in a large pot rather later in the spring than I should have. For a long time all the pot sprouted was various tiny mushrooms (it has been a very wet summer) but last week some definite garlic leaves surfaced. I’m curious to see what kind of a bulb we’ll get.
Strawberries: we have just one strawberry plant, but it is now starting to produce a second crop. We lost most of the first one to the birds before putting up netting, but there are lots of little green strawberries developing now and I’m looking forward to eating them! Next year I want to have an entire raised bed just for strawberry plants.
Blueberries: we’ve got a small blueberry bush in a large pot, and it’s doing pretty well. Earlier in the spring its leaves started turning red on the edges, but I added some coffee grounds to the soil and that perked it right back up. The blueberries have been ripening for what feels like six hundred years and they’re still green. Evidently we picked a late-ripening variety. I’ll be sure to make a note of when they’re actually ready to eat so that less of next summer will be spent on tenterhooks.
Figs: Figs! FIGS! We planted the Chicago Hardy variety, which should survive our winters with minimal insulating, and it’s been growing like gangbusters. I’ve been fertilizing it about every 2-3 weeks with an 18-18-18 mix (the Miracle-Gro tub with the tomatoes on the front) and it’s put on a lot of height and foliage. And now the first little wee figlets are starting to grow — just a few millimeters in diameter but definitely there. Note to self: purchase organza bags to avoid sharing these with the birds as well.
Back: our back flower beds are still very overgrown on the whole, but we’ve made good progress as far as the random tulips and daffodils growing out of the lawn. One more season, maybe two, and I think we’ll have gotten them all. My husband took out a number of bushes on the one side that were not doing well, and we replaced them with two flowering bushes native to our area. I seeded microclover throughout the lawn last fall and we have a few good-sizwd patches. Other than that, we’re just continuing to thin things out, which is easier now that we know where all the perennials are.
Front: there are two small circular beds in the front lawn that had pretty annuals in them when we bought the house, and nothing last year. This year we put in some native perennials, like foxglove, which have taken well (except for one tall plant that leans badly after having had a branch dropped on it during tree trimming). In the beds immediately in front of the house, I replaced/repaired some hardscaping and we discovered that plants grow better if you water them (surprise). There are a few patches still with not much going on; the dahlias I planted were enthusiastically ripped out by a nameless party who thought they were weeds. I am considering wild roses for next year.
And that’s how things are going! It is so lovely to have these green and growing spaces to work and enjoy, amateur as our efforts certainly are. Next year we hope to add at least one more raised bed, and probably two, and my husband also plans to build proper frames over them for netting (this year we wholly improvised with large branches from the bushes we ripped out and netting left in the basement by the previous owner). It’s been a great experience getting our feet wet this year and I’m really looking forward to further garden adventures!