We’ve all been hard at work these days, cleaning up the gardens after what has been an arduous, gratifying and successful season. The remains of our finished crops are still composting on the landscaping fabric, so one of the big jobs is to clean that off and roll the fabric back up so that it can sit in storage until next spring. In an effort to keep our soil as healthy as possible, we rotate our crops through the field, and the only crop we are planting this fall is the garlic. The garlic is going to be planted in the area we had the summer squash and the Brussels Sprouts, so on Wednesday, the crew went out to the Brussels Sprout patch and took down the protective fence that we put up a few weeks ago. Looks like the fencing worked, since the only damage on the plants was what was there before the fence went up. The stalks have grown so thick and sturdy that we needed a hand saw to cut them down, and we then sat and tore the leaves off,
leaving nothing but stalks full of delicious sprouts. Third time’s a charm – it finally worked, and we have a crop to sell! We’ll be bringing some in this week, and they’ll replace the patty pan squash on our table, since last week was the last batch of the smaller summer squash that we were able to bring in.
We’ve been protecting the cucumbers for the last few weeks, heading out at dusk on the cooler nights to cover the plants with huge (20ft x 40ft) insulated tarps to extend their season. They haven’t been growing very fast, what with the much shorter days and the cooler temperatures, but we and our customers have fallen in love with the pale yellow Salt and Pepper variety of pickling cucumber. The variety is new to us this year, and we’ve grown accustomed to having them available. Descriptions in a seed catalog are great, but you never really know what sort of taste you’ll get from a new variety until you actually try them in your own soil. Next year, we’ll still be planting the more common variety of pickling cucumber (for us, the Excelsior), but we’ll definitely increase the number of Salt and Peppers in our field, since once people tried this variety, we weren’t able to keep up with demand. But it’s time, now, to let nature take its course. We’ve rolled up all of the tarps and put them into storage, so when the nights get cool enough for a frost again (which looks like it might be later this week), that’ll be the end of the cucumbers for the 2014 season.
We’re excited to finally bring in some bunches of celery this week as well. They’ve been
doing really well in a bed in the cold frame, so the leaves are still in fantastic shape, and they make a great addition to soups and stir fries. In the grocery stores, you can rarely find good celery with the leaves still at the top, and the grocery store celery has much less flavour than our local, farm-grown stuff. In the industrial food system, celery is often blanched, meaning it is covered at the base so that little light gets through. You’ll notice that the celery we have is much darker green in color, and there is so much more flavour in these bunches than what you’re used to, if all you’ve had is the bunches from the grocery stores.
Even as the season winds down, and we clean up our mess, we already have our eyes set on next spring. While it was a good idea to try growing snap peas and shelling peas out by the big fence that protects our berry pushes, it was a big fail on execution this year. The cardboard boxes we used to make beds at the base of the fence ended up wicking away much of the moisture, and the fence isn’t close enough to the ground in many spots to allow the young plants to climb up early enough in their lives. So one of the projects we’ll be starting soon is building proper beds underneath the fence, using 2 x 4’s, and we’ll make sure these new beds are filled nicely with rich soil. Sugar Snap Peas are such a summer treat, and we were all pretty bummed out to not have a successful crop this year. We’re determined that next year will be better!
We’re also expanding our ‘shoulder season’ capabilities, and have been building a second cold frame. Greenhouse #2 will be set up oriented east to west, and will double
the amount of space we have to plant in the spring. This second greenhouse will also be heated by the wood-fired furnace. Having a second space in which to grow the early greens like spinach, lettuce, beets and chard will allow us to grow even more early-season carrots in the other greenhouse with the underground heat, which should help us try to keep up with the extremely high demand come next May/June.
So we’re just about there. The end of the 2014 outdoor growing season is well within sight – we just have to give one final push. We just booked our celebratory trip to Mexico for the end of October, which is serving as great motivation, and soon we’ll be calling it a wrap! Of course, we still have all of our indoor production on the go, and we’re able to bring in the wheatgrass and wide variety of shoots over the winter. We are attempting to grow more herbs indoors, as well as the very popular garlic shoots that we discovered and sold last winter. We’ll make sure to add more website content about the shoots over the next few months, as well as content on our storage crops like the winter squash, carrots and beets as we continue our efforts to grow, all ways, here at Sunrise Gardens.