Autumn Garden Updates

Sunflower and Honey Bee, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone BlackwaterHappy autumn everyone!

If you’re wondering where I’ve been all summer, the answer is simple: out in the garden.  Autumn is my favorite season, but learning to grow food has vastly broadened my appreciation of the warm, sunny growing months.

Despite my goals to be more a more diligent blogger for 2009, I have instead focused the majority of my time on writing fiction and poetry, and growing food and flowers.

Kind thanks to reader Diana Hunt for encouraging me to get back to business at AppleJade.  To start us off, here’s a quick peek at what I was doing out in the garden during June, July, and August…

Foxglove Blooms, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

In June we were smitten with strawberries.  These plants have been growing here without any help from me for nearly 10 years.  They have happily consumed a sizable chunk of the vegetable patch, and this autumn many of them will be relocating to new beds which are being established in the rockier and less-hospitable parts of the yard.  My reasoning is that the strawberries are so hardy and so happy to propagate that they should make excellent (and tasty) pioneers.

Happy Strawberry Harvest, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The corn plants grew steadily through June and July, and I really should dedicate an entire separate post to what they accomplished this year by creating so much food out of so little soil.  We ate sweet, healthy corn all through the month of August.

Young Corn Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Pumpkins had a slow start, and I think we now have three pie-worthy squash out there which are just beginning to turn orange.  My plan for next spring is to start the squash in the cold frame as I did with the corn, and then transplant when it’s warm enough in May.  This was a successful approach for the corn harvest, so hopefully pumpkins and other squash won’t mind the transplant method.  Pumpkins will definitely have a post of their own so you can see their progress and learn about their flowers.

Young Pumpkin Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Sunflowers dominated the scene all around the yard this year.  We collected almost all the seeds from our Pennsylvania sunflowers, and those seeds waited patiently from 2007 to be planted here in western Washington this year and subsequently bloom upwards of eight feet.  They’re just finishing now.  I managed to get three of the largest seed-heads indoors to finish drying, but the rest have been claimed by the busy blue Steller’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri).  As with corn and pumpkins, the sunflowers deserve a post of their own to show just how much they accomplished this season.  (And yes, that’s me, standing in front of some of the corn and sunflowers just before the first flowers opened.  The purple-pink blush behind the corn is from the foxglove (genus Digitalis) and fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) two of my favorite local wildflowers, coming in to full summer bloom.)

The Gardener, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Marigolds, lettuce, cilantro, beans, and many others have boomed throughout the garden and pop up just about everywhere.  I moved all the arugula and other greens out of the cold frames when they went to seed, and let the plants finish in the cooler corners of the fenced-in vegetable garden.  They should be dropping those seeds very soon now thanks to the wind and rain, which will hopefully result in a fresh crop.

Marigold Treasure, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Tomatoes grew strong, vibrant, and healthy all season, but left me with a plethora of green fruits.  They have only just begun to ripen, and as a result many of them are coming indoors as soon as they begin to to show yellow or pink where they can finish among the warmth of the kitchen.  I’ll continue to keep them ripening outdoors until the tomato plants finally turn brown – which I’m guessing isn’t too far in the future.

Green Tomato Load, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

For now, I’ll leave you with a nasturtium, another friendly flower which can be found just about everywhere around the garden.  While all parts of nasturtiums are edible, I’ve resisted collecting too many flowers or seeds for dinners in the hopes that the plants will successfully re-seed themselves for next summer.  I’ll let you know my success when they reemerge next June.

Friendly Nasturtiums, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

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Fruit Blogging

Summer Apple, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

The Festival of the Trees is a monthly blog carnival featuring posts about trees and forests.  The upcoming festival #21 is a special-edition festival featuring fruit trees and orchards.

Our hostess Peg at Orchards Forever has invited us to contribute our blog posts:

“I’d like to try and adhere to a theme of fruit trees and orchards… but virtually anything that is even loosely connected to that theme is welcome! Gardening and growing, horticulture, heirloom fruits, food and recipes, environmental and conservation issues, folklore and mythology, travel, what have you!”

If you like to blog about cooking, gardening, health, nutrition, the earth, or your own backyard, then this month you have a great excuse to share your posts about fruits and fruit trees!  Publish your blog posts and then send your links to Peg at amberapple [at] gmail [dot] com, or visit the Festival of the Trees coordinating blog for more details.

Book Review: The Curious Gardener’s Almanac

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac (c) Copyright Niall Edworthy 2007

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac: Centuries of Practical Gardening Wisdom

by Niall Edworthy

The book for today’s review was provided by: Perigee Books, Penguin Group (USA)

At AppleJade I like to share the joy of discovery by bringing you glimpses of the garden in my corner of the world. Niall Edworthy echoes this spirit with his new book, The Curious Gardener’s Almanac: Centuries of Practical Gardening Wisdom.

In his introduction, Edworthy attempts to wrap his arms around this book and explain the “what” and the “why” to little avail. Perhaps I can lend him a hand: this book is itself a garden.

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac is essentially a book of happenstance. As in a garden, you wander the pages and find yourself distracted by flowers of thought here, nuts of wisdom there, and all the while cognizant of the dark earth that engenders such a wealth of gardening wisdom.

Rather than chapters of how-to’s and when’s, Edworthy’s pages are filled with bits of poems, quotations, advice, facts, proverbs, and parables. Edworthy is not a condescending gardening guru, but like so many of us, he is a man with a basic curiosity about his garden, learning literally from the ground up.

As a self-taught gardener, I giggled with recognition when he explained the most unfortunate fate of his onions: rotted to death when left out to dry… in the rain. Those of us who did not grow up with gardens typically lack the innate wisdom of how to manage a thriving garden. What Edworthy shares with us is that not only is this wisdom not lost upon us, but that we can all find a spot of green on our thumbs if we just keep shoving it into the dirt.

Creating a garden is never an instant transformation – nor should it be. In Edworthy’s introduction he confesses, “The first year in the vegetable patch was a perfect disaster—I just scattered a variety of seeds over it, expecting it to turn into the Garden of Eden by the end of summer, like it does on the TV.

Therein lies the deepest wisdom of all: gardening is never a process to be finished. It is an ongoing process of learning and growth of which we gardeners, proficient and novice, are a part. Edworthy’s book includes accessible advice on gardening in each season. I found it refreshing that he includes information both contemporary (like why you don’t need to water your lawn), and traditional (like companion planting and uses for herbs).

This book is like a happy little backyard garden: tangible, unassuming, nourishing, and meaningful. The Curious Gardener’s Almanac is not a reference book—it is a book of discovery. Flip through its pages, and what you’ll find is a chorus of shovels and rakes, plucking at the earth to see what comes up.