As summer draws to a close, the vegetable garden burgeons with produce. Otto, the German Shepherd, is eager to greet visitors to the garden. A fence of plastic lattice half-sheets lashed to pressure-treated deck stair balusters keeps dogs, chickens and strays of all sorts from the garden.
The indian corn grows to heights of eight feet or more. Each stalk produces at least two large, colorful, decorative ears. This high starch corn can be hung to brighten a doorway, ground into meal, popped into flavorful kernels, even fed to livestock. The stalks are bundled for autumn décor.
My garden always overflows with various squashes. Summer eating squash have tender skins and are consumed raw or cooked and are kept cold until they are eaten. This year I grew Sunburst summer squash, a bush variety having yellow fruit with green end decoration. They are very yummy! The flowers can also be eaten raw or coated with batter and deep fried.
I grow tiny, Jack-Be-Little miniature pumpkins for decorations. These may be eaten and are quite sweet and fine textured. Mini pumpkins like to climb the garden fence.
Also, there are pie pumpkins, especially sweet and tender fleshed without a lot of heavy stranding, just what you need to make the perfect pie.
The garden giants, the carving pumpkins for Halloween jack-o-lanterns, are still green, but will soon turn deep orange. Carving pumpkins are called field pumpkins and can reach sizes of 40 pounds or more.
The squash compliment is not full without the winter variety. These are Carnival acorn squash and have beautiful white and orange stripes. They make lovely fall ornaments, but really are for eating. Their tough outer shell will allow these squash to be stored for use during the long winter. I like to cook these whole in the oven or microwave, then scrape out the seeds and flesh. The seeds can be roasted with a little salt for a fiber-rich snack. I use winter squash to make nourishing soups and hearty vegetable side dishes.
For the rabbit and horse friends on the farm as well as for our winter supply, I grow several rows of carrots. These are near harvest, and some of the stalks are beginning to die back. The carrots are between 4″-8″ long when I pull them. I like to get them before they grow too large and develop a woody texture.
Most years I have yellow, wax string beans and I can 20 pints or more for winter eating. This year the crop failed, even after two re-plantings. The weather was too wet and cool for the beans to grow well. Any plants that did sprout quickly shriveled and died. That’s part of farming life, sometimes you lose the crop.
In the past I also grew tomatoes, but have stopped. The neighbors always give me more than I can use. Tomatoes seem to draw small rodents to the garden. Once they’ve eaten the tomatoes, the mice and voles chew pumpkins and carrots (right in the ground!) so by removing the enticement of tomatoes, perhaps the rodents will be less of a problem.
This year there is a new addition to the garden. It is a perennial and has a whole corner dedicated to its growth. Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, are actually a member of the sunflower family. They produce a plethora of showy yellow blooms and their tuberous root is edible. It has a taste that reminds me of sunflower seeds and can be eaten raw or cooked just like potatoes.
The garden also has decorative sunflowers, one can be seen towering on the right side of the top photo. These produce masses of small, fragrant flowers and black oil seeds the birds devour. The plants can reach heights of 10 feet or more and are susceptible to the violent winds that come with the early fall tropical storms.
The leaves of the trees are beginning to show a hint of fall color beneath their green. Soon frosts will arrive, light at first, then deep and killing. By the end of October the garden will be completely harvested and resting in anticipation of next year’s abundance.