Equinox Thoughts

Half of the foliage filling the kitchen garden is signaling the end of spring and summer vegetables, yellowing corn stalks, withered squash leaves and leafless pole bean vines. The other half signals the rise of autumn and winter crops, robust tops of parsnips, carrots, turnips and celeriac, full leaves of kales, chard, leeks, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, all in healthy shades of green.

fall-equinox-yellow

fall-equinox-green

fall-equinox-green-leeksPoised between seasons, the garden at the autumn equinox encourages a look ahead to the meals promised by the green side, but just as much it encourages a look back at the garden year so far, at spring plantings and summer harvests and at the surprises and discoveries that this garden year has offered.

Sunchocola cherry tomato is my vegetable surprise of the summer. It has a kind of silly name but the Territorial Seed Company description tempted me to try it: “The 1 1/4 inch round, henna colored fruit are juicy and divinely sweet, with an added depth of slightly smoky, low acid flavor that’s unusual in a cherry tomato. Rambling indeterminate plants yield generous trusses of fruit early in the season and continue for the long haul.” All true!

tomato-sunchocola

tomato-sunchocola-vine

It’s a perfect cherry tomato, imagine a mini Cherokee Purple, and the vines are spectacular, requiring a ladder now for harvest. Eaten out of hand, halved in salads or, when there are just too many to eat fresh, roasted into a syrupy sauce, it’s truly delicious and has earned a permanent place in my greenhouse.

Then there is summer-grown kale. As I wrote in May, spring-seeded kale was surprising in its succulence and flavor, slowly converting me from my bias toward frost-sweetened kale. The conversion became complete this summer. We ate kale salads every day for lunch from kale that volunteered throughout the spring and early summer and grew into robust plants producing tender leaves. I still planted a winter kale bed in mid-July, and still look forward to frost-sweetened kale, but summer kale has been an unexpected treat.

So many pears this year, how to make time to dry them all? Our extra-abundant crop left me looking for ways to speed up the time it takes to peel and slice them for the dehydrator trays. I remembered that my friend Debbie uses a mandoline to slice pears for drying and that she even leaves the skins on. In one of the biggest equipment discoveries of the summer, we tried the mandoline and it works, cutting our preparation time from over an hour to fifteen minutes. And it doesn’t take that much more time to peel off the skin before slicing the pears with the mandoline. Ours is a Swissmar Borner V-1001 V-Slicer Plus Mandoline.

Another equipment innovation this summer was an electric raccoon fence. After losing most of our corn crop last year to raccoons, we knew we needed to be more prepared for predators this year. Our friends Maxine and Debbie showed us the electric fence they use to foil raccoons and gave us the Premier 1 Supplies catalog so we could order some. It will be a few years before the corn harvest pays back the cost of the fence, but it’s completely worth it to have worry-free corn harvests. In fact, the corn fence was so successful that I may plant a little less corn next year.

Deciding how much to plant each spring is a puzzle I return to every year. This year, I radically reduced the number of storage crops I planted: half a bed of potatoes instead of a whole bed, the same for onions, only one bed of winter squash instead of two beds, the same for bush dry beans. Looking back on the harvest from this vantage point of the autumn equinox, I think I made the right choice. Harvest was certainly quicker, storage easier. It won’t take so long to shell the dry beans. I made the change because I’d noticed that, in our mild winters, leeks and winter roots growing in the garden were more tempting than onions, potatoes and squash stored in the shed. By spring there were still storage vegetables left, some of them spoiled. Maybe winter will surprise me this year with extra cold temperatures and some crop failures, but it’s a gamble I’m willing to take, one I’ll assess next year at the spring equinox.

 

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7 thoughts on “Equinox Thoughts

  1. I really enjoy your newsletters.  PLEASE update my email so I will continue receiving your wonderful works.  New email  ****     boldheart@att.net   *****

     Maggie Shelor-Nicol  512-718-4218 Austin, Texas Simply Metal Structures, LLCwww.simplymetalstructures.com we design, sell and erect quality metal buildings

    From: Lopez Island Kitchen Gardens To: mnicol50@yahoo.com Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2016 12:29 PM Subject: [New post] Equinox Thoughts #yiv5054754041 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5054754041 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5054754041 a.yiv5054754041primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5054754041 a.yiv5054754041primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5054754041 a.yiv5054754041primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5054754041 a.yiv5054754041primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5054754041 WordPress.com | Lopez Island Kitchen Gardens posted: “Half of the foliage filling the kitchen garden is signaling the end of spring and summer vegetables, yellowing corn stalks, withered squash leaves and leafless pole bean vines. The other half signals the rise of autumn and winter crops, robust tops of par” | |

  2. Thanks for the info on both a racoon fence and a good model of mandoline. Our strawberry crop succumbed to racoons and our fruit trees have crazy shapes from limb destruction by racoons. My neighbor told me that Phil Hastin used to have a racoon trapping service.

  3. I enjoyed seeing the garden photos. While I am in NH, a whole country away, we have similar issues with predation. This year it was drought encouraging deer to be very bold. They ate entire plantings of greens and winter squash..of all things. No apples or pears on our place this year due to thigh Spring temperatures at exactly the wrong time for blossoming! The cherry tomato..that inspires me to grow some one a trellis that I want to set up ver the sidewalk to my kitchen door!

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