Garden round-up 2015.10.07


Yes, I realize that I’m now averaging one fresh column every two weeks. I’m sinking into a new schedule.

This column from 20 years ago tells about our meager garden harvest. We had another of those this past summer. Our best crop was the “volunteer” squash of some sort. They’re sprinkled here and there throughout the garden. I need to harvest them soon.


It was the sight of those three shrunken heads on the back porch that caught my attention, that made me realize the gardening season was really over.

I don’t mean to butt into our gardening columnists’s territory, but her concept of gardening—and that of most serious gardeners—probably doesn’t have much to do with what goes on in my back yard. Besides, Virginia Shoemaker’s column this week related some entertaining stories about baking pies, so I’ll take a walk through the garden.

I walked up the porch steps Saturday and saw those pitiful little heads lying there. The saddest examples of cabbage I’ve ever seen. But wait a minute: maybe they were the finest Brussels sprouts ever grown. It’s probably all a matter of attitude.

I don’t know if we planted any Brussels sprouts this year. Probably not. I’ll check with the chief gardener when she wakes up. My wife came from the Bronx to study soil science at Michigan State University. She changed her major, but the intent was there and that’s good enough for me.

Our garden always begins with good intentions. We buy seeds. We buy little seedlings. We make plans. We take action, some years a little more than others.

I can’t recall how much action we took this past spring. Once the weeds take over, it’s hard to remember. Besides, that’s always a busy time of year for me, and my participation is limited.

This year Colleen applied some mulch from last fall’s leaves, as well as a layer of straw. This did a good job of weed control for several weeks, but then what happened? I think the rain slowed and only the weeds really thrived.

“I thought this was going to be a good year of gardening for us,” said she who nearly studied dirt. “And then something happened.”

We had the usual fine crop of Chinese elm seedlings. The mother tree was cut down several years ago, but its children are more than just a memory. Once again, we had a decent crop of mulberry shoots here and there along the fence.

Pigweed, motherwort, poke berry, lamb’s quarters—we had them all, and we had them in great quantity. Not that we did any harvesting of these wonders, but we did harvest plenty of tomatoes, a little broccoli, and a dozen winter squash. There was a watermelon the size of a tennis ball and one pitiful little cucumber.

Aside from the tomatoes, it seems that our best efforts came from the compost pile, but to be truthful, the only effort came from carrying garbage to the pile.

From our compost sprung several pumpkins and other squash plus one little ear of corn that yielded a handful of kernels. It was also a source of crickets and worms for the family salamander.

We won’t be left hungry through the failing of our backyard efforts. If things get tough, we can head for the woods to scavenge for wild grapes and beech nuts.

There’s always the healthy crop of poison ivy fruit, but we better hurry. An immense poison ivy vine grows in back of the old Doc Raabe building next to the Observer—I think it’s the largest one in town—and the starlings are having a great time eating those little whitish drupes.

For us, there’s always net year. That’s when we’ll plow up the entire back yard and put in a crop of soybeans.