Well, it’s that time of year again. At least for gardeners in the north.
And while we usually don’t experience a frost until the beginning to the middle of October, this year our first frost occurred three nights ago. A few days before that, my husband and I tore out all of the spent plants. I don’t think we have ever done this so early, but because many of the tomato plants ended up with leaf blight (at least I think it was), and two of my three zucchini plants petered out weeks ago, we decided to clean everything up at once.
Ugh! Bad Fungus!
The only vegetable plant left is a gigantic zucchini plant, and I am waiting to pick three more little guys before it, too, decides to give up. We covered this plant during the frost with a drop cloth, and even though the days have been chilly (and zucchini appear to prefer cooler temps to extremely hot ones), they are slowly growing.
I have one raised 4 x 16 bed in the yard and that is where many of the tomato plants were placed. I made sure to space them out, and even when grown they barely touched each other. They were planted deeply, watered thoroughly at the base every few days and fertilized when necessary.
This is the same regimen I have implemented in previous years, with good results. This year, however, the blight arrived early. I trimmed and sprayed, but to no avail. I still harvested some tomatoes, but the stars of the tomato show was of the cherry variety.
I don’t know the reason why we could not find more than one type of cherry tomato—most nurseries carried none. And the cherry tomatoes we did find at one local garden center offered no information on the plastic tab stuck in the dirt of the pot other than a vague “red cherry large.” We shopped at a time when there should have been copious amounts of veggie plants to choose from, but many nurseries we visited were out of even the basic varieties. I suspect that the pandemic convinced more people than ever that a garden is a great teaching tool for kids and is a way to ensure fresh vegetables for their families.
I have a few observations after this year’s growing season:
I will have to enlist my husband to build another raised garden bed next spring.
I am awaiting an answer from the extension office, and my question to them is whether we should put something in the dirt where the tomatoes were to reduce the chance of blight returning next year. If the only answer is to plant something else, then that bed will be the home for more zucchini and yellow squash (and maybe pumpkins to extend the growing season), and the tomatoes will need a new place to grow.
We experienced a zucchini explosion.
I harvested many more zucchini this year, and most of them came from one lone, enormous plant. It grew in the raised bed next to the tomato plants and engulfed the corn, a yellow squash plant, a cucumber plant, several marigolds and the chives that I had planted the year before. I clearly did not apply good spacing principles here (but to be honest I have never seen a zucchini plant grow so large). On the plus side, my family and I enjoyed several meals of deep-fried zucchini (See recipe).
In the future I will never plant sunflowers and corn anywhere except directly in the ground.
Both the sunflower plants and corn seedlings took off, and I had high hopes for both. I was able to pick enough corn for a few meals, and I was glad for that. But the sunflowers grew so tall in the planters on the deck and in the large pots that when a particularly high wind blew through, every one of them broke in half. I will not post those photos here as they have been labeled “shocking” and are therefore NSFG.
The amount of space I have to plant carrots is not enough to bother with.
Next year I will plant more leaf lettuce. It grows so fast, I was able to trim each plant every week or so for our daily salads. But, alas, they decided the August heat was just too much and decided to just stop growing.
The August sun is their evil nemesis!
I would really love to have a greenhouse to garden in a more controlled environment, and my husband promised to build me one next year (keeping fingers and toes crossed).
He has just finished an indoor project (see photo) and an outdoor project (extending our backyard fencing so that our dogs now have three times the running and roaming space). This winter he will concentrate on our family room, ripping out old paneling and replacing the popcorn ceiling and walls with drywall, and then he will reface our kitchen cabinets to match these. But come spring….
Despite the disappointment of blight, I was able to utilize most of the vegetables I planted. I made two batches of tomato soup and a large batch of spaghetti sauce, plus picked hundreds of cherry tomatoes to adorn our salads. Here’s to hoping we have a blight-free 2021!