State of the Garden: End of Summer

I tend to suffer a little burnout at the end of summer. It’s the only season I do. It’s hot, often too hot to spend any time outside during the day. Most of the time spent in the garden is essential-only, either watering or harvesting. Weeds are everywhere, bugs are biting, and I’m starting to look forward to cooler weather.

Last August I started doing this thing where on the official last day of the season, I take a picture of the garden from the open garage door. So I have winter, spring, and now summer, so far. I’m looking forward to doing a full cycle of the year post at the end of autumn, so I’ll save the other pics for that, but here is the state of the garden (at lest from that vantage) as seen on the 28th of February 2017 (so I’m late posting – end-of-summer burnout).

End of Summer

Urgh. This pic was taken after a long period with little rain. It looks it. You really only see a couple of my perennial beds from this angle, but you don’t want to see the vege plots right now. They’re full of weeds and unattractive.

As I write this, it’s actually heading toward the end of March. The sun is dropping in the sky, and the Northwest side of the garden is heading toward most-of-the-day-shade cast by the neighbours garage.

The kumara (sweet potato) are escaping the bed and I’m dying to dig them out, but we won’t get frost till mid-may at the earliest, so they can stay another month at least. Pumpkins all suffered badly from powdery mildew and aren’t much more than naked vines with pumpkins on them after a recent storm, but, again, I’m leaving them to cure as they are. They’re safe till frosts, so no panic there.

I’ve got a big crop of red onions still in the ground. They refuse to flop over on their own, so I’m going to have to bite the bullet and stand on them soon. In the same bed, there are carrots just coming up to harvestable size. I leave my carrots in the ground and harvest as I need them. They’ll stay all winter if need be, unless it’s really wet, in which case I’ll have to lift them lest they split. I seeded some parsnip about a month ago, and some more beetroot a week or so ago. I’m hoping they’ll both grow well before it gets too cold, so they can survive the winter okay.

I’ve given up on the climbing beans. They did really well this year, it’s just me that’s been fail. We ate lots fresh, I just failed to keep on top of picking, so there’s none in the freezer for winter. I’m letting them go for seed now.

My second crop of dwarf kidney beans doesn’t seem to be doing anything. They got seriously battered in the recent storm.

It’s been a shit year for peppers. For me, at least. My sister in law is getting a fantastic crop, but hers are all in first year raised beds made almost entirely of winter grass clippings. Mine, by contrast, have been shoved into perennial beds wherever they’ll fit, or into annual beds made of native soil and compost. I guess they really like that high nitrogen environment. Her fruit was late, unsurprisingly a lot of green leafy growth for much of the season, but now they’re cranking out the fruit, and will continue to do so until frosts. Mine have just struggled, while giving the occasional sad little fruit, despite a reasonably regular application of liquid comfrey fertiliser.

Tomatoes this year have been satisfactory. I’ve got a good 10-15 jars of whole and stewed tomatoes in the cupboard, and another 10 litres in the freezer to bottle when I get the chance. I’m not sure that’ll get us through the winter, to be honest, which concerns me considering I probably won’t have the space for as many plants next year. I put most of the plants in the aforementioned perennial beds, which could do with some better fertility, as they’re, at best, second year beds, so the tomatoes could have been better. I’ve seen some psyllids this year, later in the season, but I haven’t panicked about them. We didn’t get any last summer (it was a wetter summer last year, I have to wonder if that had an effect). There’s been some blight, just the odd plant, and it doesn’t seem to be spreading. It’s quite odd. Some plants, right next to those that have gone down with blight, are still really robust and strong. I guess those are the ones I should be saving seed from.

I lost all the apples to codling moth, and the pears and feijoa to the storm, so we’ll only have citrus fruit this year. We ate some grapes and I let the birds have the rest. We got a good crop of raspberries and a bumper crop of strawberries. Many litres of berries in the freezer to make jam when I can bear to heat the kitchen up again.

With the recent rain we’ve had, the native spinach I tossed around the place and ignored is taking off. I keep looking at it and thinking I should be harvesting it to dehydrate or freeze, while it’s so nice.

Native (New Zealand) Spinach

I put some popcorn in quite late in the season. It was looking fantastic, and then the storm flattened it. I planned to cut my losses and cut it out, but then it started tassling. So it’s still in the ground at this point.

There’s still probably a good couple of months before we get frost, so the growing season is far from over, but cooling temperatures are very welcome, at least because I’ll be able to spend more time in the garden. I’m out of the habit of spending an entire day out there, of course, but that will slowly return as the promise of all the fun autumn jobs come due (like chopping stuff down and clearing beds – for some reason I like that stuff).

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