It seems like only yesterday that I took you on a garden tour in July, but here it is, somehow September and full harvest season in New Hampshire vegetable gardens. I was traveling a lot in August, so September has also been weeding season for me, as the weeds were happy to move in while I was away on my road trip and other adventures. Here is a little update on each of my gardens...
In the Veggie/Cut Flower Garden
August was cucumber month in the veggie garden. Each year I plant more cucumbers and each year my family manages to eat more cucumbers. This year, I planted a whole 20 by 4 foot bed in cucumbers in order to have enough cucumbers to can pickles, but somehow we ate all of them again. We must have averaged like five cucumbers a day! But honestly, if you've never had a straight-from-the-garden cucumber, you can't understand. I have a few cucumbers still on the vine to harvest for seeds*, but otherwise cucumbers are done for the season.
Late August and early September is tomato harvesting time. I planted three varieties this year - a giant heirloom, a small purple, and a paste - and all three did okay. Not great, but okay. For one thing, I didn't water them enough in August, but some plants also got a disease which stunts their growth. Luckily I planted enough so that despite these issues, I am still harvesting a ton of tomatoes and am working hard to turn them into sauce and soup (the only difference between sauce and soup is how much I blend it!).
My beans were a total failure this year thanks to the bean beetle, but it was my fault because I know how to avoid the beetle (row cover) and I just didn't get around to doing it. We got a few dinners' worth of beans, but nothing to save for the winter months. The other, more annoying thing I didn't get around to doing was putting up my usual butternut squash fences. Usually I trellis my squash on a metal fence because it takes up way less space and lets more air flow through the leaves of the plants (and helps me see the squash beetles), but I didn't this year and now they are running wild across the paths and through my pepper bed. The squash (and the peppers) look to be healthy and happy however, so no harm done.
We had a nice little potato harvest in August (pulling potatoes and carrots is my kids' favorite part of gardening) and my biggest yet garlic harvest (pulling garlic is also pretty satisfying). These storage veggies can last us pretty far into the winter, along with the butternut squash, onions, and carrots. The Brussels sprouts and pumpkins are almost ready to harvest and I let the broccoli go to seed* so I can harvest the seeds for next year. It looks a bit messy, but it made my day when I discovered a hummingbird sipping from my broccoli flowers one morning - who knew?!
Most of my cut flowers are past now, but the sunflowers are going strong. They are self-sown and randomly throughout the paths and beds, but I almost never pull a sunflower because the birds and bees love them and I love the birds and bees. I will sometimes take a flower head home to the chickens, who also LOVE them and I also save sunflower seeds because they make nice gifts.
In the Pollinator Garden
I have really enjoyed the pollinator garden this summer. Because I am working to certify my garden (I sent in my application in August), I had to make sure I had at least three distinct native species of flower blooming in my garden during the early, mid, and late season. While this was a bit frustrating to do, I am loving that there is something new and interesting blooming all summer long. Right now, the asters, black-eyed Susans, sedums, echinacea, and anise hyssop are all putting on a show. I also put in a small all-native pollinator garden at the community garden where my veggies are and I am really liking the Ohio spiderwort, blanket flower, and butterfly weed blooming there. After two years of labor, I am very excited to see how these gardens take off and spread next year. I loved watching the bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and goldfinches visit my garden this year and I can't wait to see how many more come once it is established. I have been harvesting seeds* all season and will continue until through the fall to help the garden thrive next year.
In the Herb Garden
As I said in July, my herb garden is a work in progress, but I am loving how some of the herbs - specifically the hyssop, lovage, and salvia are starting to become bushes and fill in the garden. It is my dream to have a mostly self-sustaining herb garden that comes back year-to-year without much input from me. For this reason, I try to plant perennial herbs like thyme and sage. I only plant basil (an annual) in the veggies garden as a companion plant to the tomatoes (and because it's delicious). The dill (reseeding annual) is definitely helping me fulfill my dream by self-sowing all over the place in all three gardens (it helps that my kids understand how to gather and spread seeds*). Dill is not only wonderful in salads, but it seeds are actually coriander, AND it is a favorite treat of a lot of caterpillars. Dill, like sunflowers and milkweed, is allowed to grow wherever is likes in my gardens. I don't think anyone would accuse me of having an overly organized or aesthetic look to my gardens, but that is definitely not what I am going for. :)
I have been harvesting more and more seeds from the garden (and from the wild) over the last few years. I have realized that seed-saving, for the most part, is not difficult, and that I derive an extraordinary sense of satisfaction from harvesting and planting my own seeds. The other major benefit (aside from my happiness and saving money) is that the seeds I harvest are uniquely suited to my particular location because they have been gathered from plants that have grown, thrived, and flowered there. I am happy to write about seed saving, but the basic idea is to wait until the flower or fruit is very ripe/brown and then harvest. Seeds need to be kept dry, dark, and cool. I just fold them up in scrap paper labeled with the type of plant and the year and collect them in the back of a closet.
Putting the Garden to Bed
Over the course of this month I will be putting the garden to bed, which means pulling the diseased plants (leave the healthy ones for wildlife to use), mulching, and storing my fences, posts, and tools. It's a sober time of year for a gardener, but also very satisfying as you put each garden to sleep for the winter.
Happy September, New Hampshire!