Demo garden, late October, winding down

Our second-to-last official workday at the Derwood demo garden was this Thursday.  We hadn’t had a serious frost yet, but it had been chilly and wet. After the previous day’s rain, the early morning garden, covered with many-hued fallen leaves, looked magical.  Even the ubiquitous and much-maligned fennel had taken on a new look.

We took out most of the summer plants: tomatoes, peppers, basil, etc.  Many green tomatoes were harvested and taken home to fry or make relishes with.  Most of the flowers, and the hot peppers since they look so nice, were left until next time.  We dug out the lemon grass, which was a big job but worth it.  Always add a lemon grass plant to your vegetable garden or landscape if you have a few square feet available!

When we were done the garden looked very empty.  We added compost to the beds we’d cleared, all ready for next spring.

I would have taken out the mouse melons on the arbor, since they are pretty much done producing and the first real frost will kill them, but either the same praying mantis who’s been hanging out there since the Harvest Festival, or a relative, was still there… disturbing us by chowing down on a bumblebee.  (As you can see, the mouse melons are still making flowers, and the bees love them.  Fatally, in this case.)  Ria’s encouraging example shows us the value of these fascinating insects, but they will eat any bug that gets in their way, not just the ones we don’t like.  But we’re thrilled to be finding lots of mantis egg cases, and are keeping them safe for the spring.

Another task for next time is harvesting luffas for sponges.  Our crop is almost ready.  If you want to know how to grow your own sponges – and, if you harvest them younger, edible and tasty gourds – visit this site for lots of useful information, and also check out Wendy’s Greenish Thumb post on how to process the sponges.

When we’re finished with clean-up, all that will be left is to visit occasionally to harvest fall greens.  I took off the remaining row covers this week since the cabbage butterflies and harlequin bugs are gone, and everything we’re growing will be fine in the cold (the kale and collards will probably survive being buried in snow).  Broccoli is heading up and will be ready soon.  We have some tasty upland cress, and parsley which I’ll leave in the ground to come back next spring.  And we have a charming little row of pak choi under the maple tree!

I hope your fall garden is giving you lots of good things to eat!  On to spring planning – my favorite part of the gardening year, since the possibilities are endless and the problems are easily forgotten.

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