Friday, September 24, 2010

The Full Harvest Moon and Autumn Equinox

This week we had a rare thing happen. The Harvest Moon fell on the same night as the Autumn Equinox, making things super harvesty! This doesn't happen very often, so it's nice for it to happen during the first full year of this garden. However, Texas being how it is, there's not a lot of actual harvesting going on now. It's still a time of transition, but the summer crops are mostly gone, and I'm planting winter crops now.

I've been working on getting my winter greens started. Winter is the best time to grow things like broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards, lettuce, arugula, and other green leafy vegetables. They can handle our light freezes just fine, and are much sweeter when grown in cold weather. The problem is starting them while it's still hot outside. I'm having trouble with them either drying out or rotting. Tiny little seedlings are very sensitive. I've had to start over with most of my Brassicas because the first batch didn't make it. I've always had an easy time growing collards and kale, but this year I'm trying to branch out into broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

I'm still waiting for my fall potatoes to show up. Right now all that seems to be growing in the potato beds are weeds. I hope they didn't bake down there in August. I recall my spring potatoes took a long time to sprout too, so that I ended up digging some up to check on them. Except that was when temperatures were cold, and plants grow more slowly in the cold.

The surviving summer crops are really enjoying all this rain we've been getting. The sweet potatoes are going nuts, at least above ground. Vines are rambling all over the place. All the weeds are going nuts too, and I've just about given up on trying to control them, but the veggie plants don't seem to care. You're supposed to let sweet potatoes grow all season, all the way up until right before the first frost, and then dig them up. The idea is to give them as much time as possible to grow big roots, but you can't let them freeze. That damages them. That means the day the weatherman says, "It looks like we're in for our first freeze tonight!" I'll be out there with my garden fork in a sweet potato digging frenzy. I hope I get a lot of nice big fat ones.

As usual, I'm having trouble keeping up with the okra, keeping the pods picked before they get too big and tough. They grow very fast, especially now that they've gotten some rain. It's getting hard to reach the ones at the top.
The jalapenos are happy too, and might give me another crop before frost. I already had one good harvest that I let ripen so I could save the seeds and make chipotles at the same time. Maybe I should consider making some jalapeno jelly if I get another good batch. That stuff, strangely enough, makes a really good peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

My fall tomatoes didn't make it, but I still have some eggplant seedlings in pots I need to set out. Hopefully it's not too late to get a quick crop of Thai green eggplants in before frost. I really should have planted them sooner, but it's been too hot and humid for me to want to be out there digging. Perhaps it's just as well, since my tomatoes fried in the heat when I tried planting them out. The eggplants might actually have a better chance now that it's cooler and wetter.

Now, the one crop that really says Autumn to me, and probably to most Americans, is winter squash. Pumpkins, butternuts, sweet dumplings, hubbards, acorns, whatever the variety, they're the vegetable emblems of Halloween and Thanksgiving. After being ravaged by Squash Vine Borers all year, I'm happy to see that the one variety of squash I have left, the Chihuahuan Landrace Cushaws, are bouncing back! I really hope the SVB's are gone now. I haven't seen one in a while. The squash vines have been running rampant with this tropical storm rain, and now they're setting a new batch of fruit!

Look at them go! I'm having trouble keeping them from taking over the whole garden. I keep try to redirect the vines back away from where I have other things planted so they won't smother them.

I also have to keep pulling them back from going through the fence into my neighbor's yard and smothering her dogs!

It's hard to tell how many fruits are growing now. I counted three just standing in one spot, but I'm sure there are lots more hidden in that jungle of huge squash leaves. I still haven't gotten one single ripe cushaw squash this year. Squash Vine Borers chewed into most of them, causing them to rot and be aborted by the plant. The last one split when we had a heavy rain, causing it to absorb water too quickly. But with how fast these squashes are growing now, I'm optimistic that I'll get a good crop in. It would be really neat to be able to make some "pumpkin" pies and "pumpkin" bread with these babies. It would be very traditional, actually. Cushaws grow much better in the south than your traditional orange ribbed pumpkins, and were considered to be THE pie squash in the south. That is, if you were going to make your Thanksgiving pie out of squash instead of sweet potatoes. Or pecans, for that matter. And that reminds me, while I don't have any pecan trees in my yard, there are some areas of town that have some mature pecan trees which are starting to get some nice, big, fat pecans on them. When they ripen, they fall off the tree and end up rolling all over the place. No one seems to mind when I start picking them up off sidewalks and parking lots.

Mmmm, pie.

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