Where has this year gone? Can you all believe it is almost October??? It's hard to believe. Especially when I look at the vegetable garden which is still going strong. Above is a long shot of it and I tell you I never get tired of looking at it. It's a good thing since it is in my front yard and visible from the kitchen window.
The outer border on all four sides of the vegetable garden proper consists of a three foot raised garden where irises and zinnias grow. I love the zinnias and plan to plant them here each year if they don't self seed on their own. I am a lazy gardener so I am hoping all of the zinnias will drop seeds and come back on their own next spring. The zinnias are annuals and won't bother the irises; which are perennials. Additionally, the zinnias bloom and get big only after the irises are mostly done with their bloom; although I do have a rebloomer in this garden that keeps showing its pretty white face amongst the zinnias.
The zinnias are pretty to look at, but the best part of the zinnias for me is that they, and the short section of cosmos shown in this picture, bring in the butterflies. I garden for pollinators so I am really enjoying all of the butterflies, and bees of course. Right now monarchs are migrating and are stopping by these zinnias to partake of their goodness. I even captured a video of two monarchs mating right here in this garden. I posted the video at the end of the post.
Now on to the veggies. The southeast bed held watermelons, cucumbers, and cantaloupes during the summer. All three crops were a huge success and right up to this past weekend I was picking watermelon and cantaloupe. With the days getting shorter and the nights growing colder tho, I am sure I will not be able to harvest anymore fruit from the vines so I pulled all the vines and planted cold weather crops in their place. I prefer to start with seedlings and not mess with seeds of most cold weather crops. Cold weather seedlings should be showing up pretty soon here in Tennessee. In the first row I planted red cabbage, next are two rows of Brussels sprouts, then one row of cauliflower, and in the far corner under the dark brown leaves I planted about 30 cloves of garlic. Garlic is a fun vegetable to grow and will continue growing all winter long-underground. Come spring it will be the first bit of green I'll find in the garden. The garlic cloves I planted were from some heads of garlic I purchased in my local grocery store.
My garden beds are mostly devoid of organic material so I am trying hard to add in organic material in any way I can. Straw mulches help but take a lot of time to really begin to work. I happened to have some fairly well decomposed oak leaves so I not only added them to the top of the bed but I also hand worked the leaves into the soil as I turned over the soil. I also added a lot of rabbit manure and cedar shavings, an organic fertilizer, and some wood ash. I did NOT add wood ash to the area the garlic is planted in. Garlic and onions like an acid soil and wood ash will cause the acidity to decrease and I do not want that. My soil is naturally acid which is great for the garlic and onions but not so great for other crops. After these garlic are harvested next May or June, I'll add amendments then if I need to change the pH.
The northeast bed still has its summer bounty of eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and basil. It's getting its second wind now that the weather has cooled down.
I have harvested dozens of eggplants of the variety 'Black Beauty' off from just three plants. I also planted one plant of 'Ichiban' eggplant and have harvested about five fruit from that plant. I prefer 'Black Beauty' tho and enjoy slicing them, dipping the slices in a beaten egg, then in flour and frying them up. Yummy! Even Mr. Fix-it will eat them when prepared this way. He is not normally a fan of eggplant.
The three basil plants I planted at the western edge of this bed have gone crazy. The flower heads have produced thousands of seeds and I suspect I'll be pulling basil seedlings out of the gravel paths quite a bit come next spring. That is not a good thing for me as it means more weeding.
The strawberry bed is still loaded with strawberry plants. I did weed it a bit and cut off all the runners so they would not take over the gravel.
The herb garden has filled in quite nicely with herbs. The red zinnias I planted have all gotten mildew and are in decline. I'll soon be pulling them out and replacing them with a cold weather flower, probably pansies.
The southwest bed still has a big harvest of carrots to be dug, and at the far end are green beans. They keep coming and coming. I am pretty bad about harvesting them because I don't like them. Anyone want some green beans?
The final bed has been hand tilled and half of it is planted with a cover crop from Botanical Interests. I chose oats and field peas for my cover crop. I have never used a cover crop before so this will be a new thing for me. The cover crop is supposed to keep down weeds and improve the soil by fixing nitrogen and by adding organic matter to the soil once the cover crop is killed by frost. I am very interested to see if I can tell a difference between this half of the bed and the other half; which is planted with cool weather crops. I planted a lot of seeds in the half of this bed just past the A frame trellis. The seeds included: peas, beets, radishes, kohlrabi, mesclun, spinach, and lettuce. Almost all of the seeds germinated and it is pretty exciting to see them growing. I'll share more on them next month.
Normally our first frost for my area of northern Middle Tennessee is around the middle of October. Depending on the severity of the frost almost all hot weather crops and flowers will be killed. If it is a light frost and a garden has some protection over it in the form of a frost blanket or even a canopy of tree limbs and leaves, the season might last a bit longer. Here in Tennessee our seasons tend to be wishy washy with their changes. The seasons don't come on strong and stay for a while, they bounce back and forth between seasons for a while. Nonetheless, winter is coming to Tennessee as we can all see by the change in the tree leaves and the shorter days. This year I will most likely be using a frost blanket and also tunnels over some of the crops. I hope to have them all set up by the time I next post about my vegetable garden. So, until next time....
enjoy being in the garden....