We finally got frost a little over a week ago. Not a below freezing kind of frost, more of a close enough to kill the tomatoes and squash vines frost. The asters still have a few flowers and the sage and oregano are still hanging in there too. We are going to hit the freezing mark tonight though and just below freezing for a few nights following. All that to say the gardening season is officially over.
It has been such a difficult growing year, I am relieved to be done with it. The wilted tomato plant went into the compost bin. We emptied the rain barrels and turned them over. I cut the tall nettle stalks and stripped their leaves, brought them in to dry so I can then turn them into cordage. We cut the amaranth flowers and brought those in to dry too to harvest for their seed grains. The late start pumpkins are not looking hopeful. I don’t think they will get ripe indoors. We had a lot of green (cherry) tomatoes that I picked before frost. James decided to try fermenting them along with some ripe cherry tomatoes we had from our final CSA box. You put them whole in a brine and let nature do her thing. We have never tried this before so I have no idea what the result will be. I’ll let you know.
And since it’s frosted and the ground is not frozen, it’s sunchoke time! We’ve dug a good amount of sunchokes twice now to cook up with dinner instead of potatoes. They taste so good plain or with a little black pepper to compliment their subtle sweetness. Yum!
The leaves are coming down, but there are still plenty on the trees. I raked up the ones from the sidewalk today into the garden beds in the front yard. I don’t generally put these in the back garden because they are full of perennial prairie seeds that I do not want growing in my veg beds. Even though I’m careful, I still have to dig out grasses and coneflowers and asters that find their way.
I did get a nice trash barrel and a half full of oak leaves from the empty house nextdoor. Is that stealing? I raked them up off the lawn and poured them on top of my garlic bed, then put some old mesh fencing on top to keep them from blowing away and to keep the chickens from digging in them. After the frost finishes off the oregano and sage this week, I will pour some leaves on top of the herb spiral too so they have a cozy blanket to help them through winter.
That is the extent of my garden “clean up.” I don’t believe gardens need to be clean and tidy. I leave the arugula and beans and squash where they are to decompose and whatever is left in spring that is too big to dig into the soil goes into the compost bin.
The perennial prairie garden in the front yard doesn’t get cut back until spring either. Having a sleeping garden with dead plants and leaves is a refuge for overwintering bees and other small critters like the toad who makes me scream in surprise every summer because I forget about ki’s presence until we meet while I am weeding and out ki hops from under a shrub or the raspberries.
This year it was the bunching onions that had flopped over and made a right nice little tent. I had planted some radishes in the same bed and as I weeded I moved the onion greens a little and hop, hop, hop! I screamed because I was startled, not expecting anyone to be living in the onions. And then I laughed in delight, my friend Mr. Toad! I worry the chickens will find Toad sometime, but Toad is really good at hiding.
Speaking of chickens, Elinor had her molt and is growing back her feathers. Mrs. Dashwood is almost completely refluffed after her molt. The Nuggets are getting closer and closer to all grown up. They have their big girl voices now, no more peeping, but they are still a noisy trio.
The Dashwoods have not fully accepted the Nuggets to be part of their flock yet, but I increasingly catch them hanging out together in the garden. Eventually Elinor tires of them being so close and casually takes a few steps towards them, enough to make them scatter. When we give them treats though, like leftover air-popped popcorn from movie night, Lucy, the black Australorp, can rush right into the treat scrum next to Elinor without repercussion. Our laughing Margaret was an Australorp and she was BFF with Elinor. Elinor knows Lucy is not Margaret but they look very much alike so perhaps she is kinder to Lucy because she is like her dead friend?
It is a time of endings and beginnings, so to celebrate the season of Samhain, James and I were going to attend a Dia de los Muertos festival in a nearby park this afternoon, but we are still COVID paranoid and didn’t feel comfortable being out in a crowd. Next year.
As part of our private celebration we tried out potato and (homemade) sauerkraut latkes. This is in remembrance of ancestors for both of us—his Jewish, German and eastern European, mine German, Irish/Scots/Welsh and some northern European mix. We had the latkes along with chickpea cutlets and it all tasted delicious. And there are leftovers to enjoy later in the week. While we ate we spent time remembering family and friends who have died. Earlier in the day we reminisced about non-human kin.
And now, this evening, I am thinking about the coming darkness, the indoor projects (mittens, hand spinning, mending, sewing) and the mental composting and intentions I might plant in that compost.
However you celebrate the season, may it be safe and happy and fill you up for the long nights of winter.