Slow-motion Fall

IMG_2536October 9th and no sign of frost.  We are used to fall in Alaska, an abrupt transition from summer and winter—often lasting only a week or two—that can hardly be considered a season.  In contrast, this year in our part of Maine, fall has unfolded leisurely, with lingering summer temperatures well into September.

I love milkweed

Love to see milkweed.

We have so many apples on the ground from our wild trees that it smells vaguely of apple brandy.

Roadside crabapples--a great year for apples in Maine

Roadside crabapples–a great year for apples in Maine

IMG_2548This slow fall pace has allowed our vegetable beds to continue to produce, and produce, and produce—something we had not expected this late in the season.

Still going strong

Still going strong

Our sunny hillside—near, but not too near, the ocean—apparently creates a microclimate with a longer growing season than areas around us.  It will be fun to see how far we can stretch it.

Our little cold-frame is an attempt to provide greens into the fall

Our little cold-frame is an attempt to provide greens into the fall.  So far, looking good.

Our October garden is an unexpected bounty.  We continue to harvest eggplants, tomatoes (fortunately we had no blight), tomatillos, leeks, fennel, chard, collards, peppers, and carrots from our first planting in May.

The chard has been a trooper. Always abundant and always delicious.

The chard has has been impressive. Always abundant and always delicious.

The birds started eating the sunflowers, so I hauled the enormous flower heads to the ground under the bird feeders, a feast for contentious bluejays. IMG_2429

In late July to mid-August I planted colder-weather crops, which are producing like mad now.

The russian kale, peas, and beets are thriving

The Russian kale and beets are thriving.  It’s dubious that we’ll get broccoli out of this planting, though..

IMG_2482_edited-1

October tomatoes

Peas, kale, beets, more carrots, and even corn—needless to say, we haven’t bought any vegetables in months.  In fact, I’ve had to adjust my mindset this summer so that I don’t feel guilty if we don’t eat everything produced in the garden.  If it’s not eaten, it makes great compost for next year.

The biggest surprise in our first Maine garden was the sheer plenitude.  I planted what I thought would be small islands of flowers among the vegetables.  They properly attracted bees, other beneficial insects, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

October pollen overload in this honeybee

October pollen overload in this honeybee

But they also ran rampant, rioting all over the stodgier vegetable neighbors.  IMG_2472I had to continually cut back the cosmos to give the eggplants more room and the nasturtiums would have engulfed the entire garden if I had let them. IMG_2471

But nothing compared—volume-wise—with the lone tomatillo I planted in May.  I had no idea that tomatillos would even grow in Maine and—because I ignorantly though it would be out of its element—pictured a tidy, compact plant.  Ha.  It was godzilla.  I continually cut it back and it then grew even more profusely, entwining its arms into every tomato and pepper plant in the bed.  IMG_0961A jealous monster.  It gave me two complete harvests, so I have nice jars of salsa verde and roasted tomatillos frozen for winter.

One tomatillo plant. I hated to pull it up, but wanted to give the peppers a chance to produce a little more.

One tomatillo plant. I hated to pull it up, but wanted to give the peppers a chance to produce a little more.  And, it was time to harvest.

Planting in raised beds was a first for me.  Next year, I will plant the sunflowers, pumpkins, corn and potatoes in regular beds.  But, otherwise I am a total convert to raised beds.  They allow for close-planting, with few weeds, and are easy to work.  I planted some things too close together and will adjust next year, but the happy hodge-podge of flowers and veggies, with few rows or open soil, made for a healthy, productive, and beautiful garden.

We fortunately had few garden pests.  This Japanese beetle was bonding with a wild thistle.

We fortunately had few garden pests. This Japanese beetle was bonding with a wild thistle.

If this warm weather continues, we will have to devise some new ways to cook eggplant.IMG_1708

20 thoughts on “Slow-motion Fall

    • The first year in a new house in a new region is a ongoing discovery process. We thought we bought wisely for gardening, but were surprised that we hit such a growing sweet spot. And the weather has been sublime this fall. The only downside is that we’re having a second go round with ticks.

  1. I’m very impressed by your garden! Well done on the mix of flowers and veg. How amazing is that apple crop! Autumn is not very colourful here in Brisbane unless we have a few exotic trees such as the Chinese Elm in my back yard. Anyway I am pleased that you have so much produce to eat. Here the possums, birds, fruit flies, rats and flying foxes don’t like to share! 🙂

    • Thanks Jane! We were fortunate that we didn’t have any raccoon or deer raids in the garden this year. Maybe they just haven’t discovered it yet. We fully expected to have to fence the garden. Still, I’m not sure I could deal with all of the pests you have in Brisbane. Flying foxes sound pretty formidable and fruit flies in the garden must be awful.

      We are in an area that gets really colorful fall foliage and it hasn’t reached its peak yet. I’ll post more pictures in a later post.

    • Thank you Peggy. It’s been such a pleasure tending to this garden. But the abundance took us by surprise. We could use you as a neighbor. Many folks in our neighborhood garden, so it’s hard to get rid of the extra produce. Maybe we’ll hook up with a food bank next year.

    • Thanks. It wasn’t that much effort actually–mostly plant and watch it grow! We are soaking up every bit of sunshine and staying outdoors as much as possible before the cold weather hits. You should try to work in a trip to Maine if you can. It’s a special place.

  2. I cannot believe your glorious garden! What a surprise to me that you not only have a successful (!!!) tomatillo, but also eggplants. We are suffering from lack of water in my gardens, so I really appreciate seeing your wonderful plants and flowers. I love your wild apples…wonder what they are?

    • I know!! Tomatillos gone wild … I was gobsmacked! Maybe I’ll try okra next year. Your drought just seems to keep going on and on. I hope you get some rain relief this winter.
      We have about 50 wild apple trees on our property, mostly different varieties. Because apple seeds don’t reproduce true to the tree, they may all be mutt trees, so to speak. But we have a nearby apple expert who may be able to identify some. Almost all are very tasty (tart/sweet along the lines of Gravensteins and Macouns) and next year we will be making cider (including hard cider). I already made a big batch of wild applesauce and an apple crisp. The apple trees have been a wonderful bonus to this place.

  3. Thank you for showing us your garden it is a real credit to you, such abundance and rampant growth, I can see the love (and hard work) you have put into it. Tomatillos, your Godzilla plant, I have never heard of and had to Google it. What sort of winter do you get?

    • Thank you Pauline, I’m so happy to be back to gardening. We get a real winter here with several months of snow and below freezing temperatures. Quite a contrast to your gardening conditions.
      I was surprised that tomatillos weren’t on your radar, which led me to google them to see why they aren’t more common in Australia. Oddly enough, I found multiple sites that said that tomatillos don’t self-pollinate so it’s necessary to have at least two plants for fruits to set. It’s a good thing I didn’t know that since I only had one plant and loads of fruit. Either I had neighbors growing tomatillos (which I doubt) or a freak self-pollinating plant. Clearly, I need to do some more research on the topic. In any case, tomatillos are tangy and used in Mexican cooking. The husks over the fruit are lovely while growing–like little lanterns.

  4. Wow! What a fantastic harvest. I’m waiting for the fruit on my son’s pomegranate tree to ripen. This is a first for me. I do tend to miss gardening and the bounty of fresh veggies. I know you’re enjoying 🙂

    • Thanks Ingrid. We got an amazing amount of vegetables (and flowers) out of six raised beds. It’s been years since I have been able to really garden and I have so appreciated being able to get my hands in some soil again. I missed it terribly. And nothing tastes like organic vegetables straight from your own garden. We were very fortunate to find this place and are enjoying every minute here.

  5. sure is nice to have time to garden isn’t it . color just changing here it is still hot and no rain. Just got back from a trip to Bainbridge Island and Seattle.

    Thanks for checking up on mom.

    Love DB

  6. I’m super jealous of your fall. Every place we’ve lived in the last 10 years had a 1-2 day time period where all the leaves turn brown, a breeze comes by, then they all fall off.

    • Ha! That about sums up our falls in Anchorage. This one was amazing and just keeps going. It was glorious today. We were in short sleeve shirts all afternoon out planting trees. Last year it snowed a foot here at the beginning of November. This is much nicer.

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